Yogic Pregnancy: Self-study or Surrender?

On Saturday mornings I teach prenatal yoga. Many women discover yoga when pregnant because their obstetrician or friends recommend it. It’s a great time to start because the woman’s body is transforming daily and yoga helps her embrace the changes and get to know her body intimately.

I’m a passionate advocate for conscious birth practices and recently trained with Janice Clarfield from urbanyoga in Canada. So each week I take the women through a sequence designed to strengthen the pelvic floor, open the hips and pelvis, soothe joints and muscles and prepare the mind. There’s also lots of breath work, mother/baby connection and deep relaxation of course.

Last week I mentioned to my students that I had finished my full-time job and now I felt like I could start preparing for the birth. After class one woman (due to have her baby in just over two weeks) said to me, “You got me thinking; I haven’t really done much preparation for the birth either.”

She left saying that she enjoyed the vocal toning we were doing and would try to remember to keep her jaw relaxed during the birth. I was slightly alarmed that this woman (a professional woman in her late 30s) would approach the birth of her first baby with such nonchalance.

I soon realised that my surprise came from my deep commitment to the yogic concept of svadhyaya or self-study. Svadhyaya is both the study of scriptures and the study of oneself, including a deep understanding of our bodies, within and without. My first serious enquiry into my body began at 21 when I was pregnant the first time and has obviously evolved since starting yoga.

I kept thinking about my student and how little time she had to understand her body better before it performed this miracle and then I remembered that other yogic concept: Isvara pranidhana. This is complete faith in and surrender to God.

Maybe my student has such faith in the god/goddess within her that she will simply surrender to that during the birth?  Maybe that will be enough for her and maybe women like me can become so fixated on deep understanding that we forget the huge element of surrender involved in birthing a baby?

What are your thoughts? Self-study, surrender or a bit of both?

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Wii will get there

Today I filled in for a Year 1 teacher. Because she was also absent yesterday her students had not yet gone over their new weekly spelling words. There were 12 words; six belonging to the ‘ig’ family word group (pig, dig, fig, etc) and six frequently used words like have, went, play.

When introducing new spelling words, teachers like to ask their students if they are able to verbalise a sentence using the word. So today it went a little something like this (keep in mind the children are about six years old):

Me: “Can somebody give me a sentence using the word dog?”

Student: “I.have.a.dog!”

Me: “Can somebody give me a sentence using the word went?”

Student: “The.dog.went.to.the.park!”

Me: “Can somebody give me a sentence using the word play?”

Student: “I.play.with.my.dog!”

And then there was the word we and I saw one little boy’s eyes light up. Up until now he had seemed distracted so I was keen to hear what he had to say. “Yes, Adam*? Go ahead.”

“I.play.the.Wii.at.home.”

At first I didn’t register because I don’t own a Wii but his mates were right onto him, explaining the difference between the two words.

How is a six-year old boy whose first language isn’t even English able to use the word Wii in context but not the word we? Is it a cause for concern or just funny? And I wonder how confused he’ll be when he discovers you can use the word wee for pee?

*Names have been changed.

Out of the playground, into the world

Yesterday I read about two Sydney high school girls who recently experienced two vastly different cultures as part of their study programs. Katie Summers from Kincoppal-Rose Bay traveled to Queens, New York for four weeks and Meriden’s Melinda Heinrich spent 11 days in the Tanami Desert, Alice Springs.

While Katie studied in an old mansion, visited UN Headquarters and climbed the statue of liberty, Melinda slept in a tent, hunted goanna and assisted a vision-impaired boy at school. Both girls go to private single-sex schools. Katie wants to pursue international studies and Melinda wants to work closely with small communities.

As a public school teacher, I am envious of the opportunities these girls have that the kids I teach probably won’t ever have. As a mother of daughters (one on the way!) I hope that some day my girls will grow up to have the same attitudes and independence that these two young girls have. And as a woman I am inspired by all that they will become in the future.

Which trip would you have preferred as a student: a winter in NYC or the rocky terrain of the Australian outback?