Intense labour pain hit me and I immediately tensed every muscle in my to the rescue!

I still remember the moment the first intense labour pain hit me. I had just entered that blissful feeling just before you transition to sleep stage, my dreamy relaxed state was interrupted by a sudden intense labour pain. There was no slow transition here, just full on labour from that moment till delivery.

Photo of Martine Ford of Spirit Yoga in her 2nd pregnancy in 1997

Pregnant with my 2nd son in 1997

As I had never experienced anything like this before, I immediately tensed every muscle in my body in a poor attempt to deal with the labour pain. No sooner had I tensed every muscle than a nasty spasm ran down my back and I knew instantly that this was going to be a horrific journey into motherhood if I didn't change my plan of action then and there.

Where to from here I wondered... and then my mind drifted back to my Contemporary Dance lessons at the Queensland Dance School of Excellence (QDSE) in 1985. How I loved those classes and the wonderful relaxation we were taught by our amazing teacher, Maggie Sietsma. I didn't realise back then that I was actually learning Yoga Nidra, and that it would be a practice that I would love and cherish throughout my entire life.

 I decided to use this technique and immediately felt my whole body melt and relax. I knew now, that with determined focus I could get through what still lay ahead of me. And that I did, five hours later giving birth naturally to a beautiful, (but cone-headed) healthy, little boy! By concentrating on letting my body relax with each contraction I was able to let my body open up to the birthing process and give birth with no intervention, snips, or drugs. "You're a natural," my obstetrician exclaimed with surprise.

So although I hadn't actually been practicing pregnancy yoga at this stage of my life, I had been physically active and healthy during my pregnancy and had been practicing a form of yoga (pranayama and yoga nidra) without even being aware of it.

Learning pranayama (breathing techniques) is beneficial for you while you are pregnant as well as for labour and childbirth, because it trains you to stay calm when you need it most. When stressed the body produces adrenaline and shuts down the production of oxytocin, a hormone that makes labour progress.

Yoga teaches you to relax at times of discomfort and will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel the pain, (as I did) and instead practice your breathing techniques to gain focus and a more relaxed body and mind. This in turn also helps speed up the whole birthing process. 

Pregnancy Yoga, when combined with a cardiovascular exercise such as walking, can be a great way to keep fit while you are pregnant. When you practice yoga, you are toning and stretching your muscles with hardly any impact on your joints, which is ideal for pregnant women.

Because yoga is a holistic exercise (working on your body and mind) it will reduce stress and anxiety while also toning and strengthening your body, an ideal accompaniment to pregnancy and beyond.