I am so honored to be writing for La Bella Birth and Baby about my experience with yoga, pregnancy and the "full moon" phase of being a woman. My name is Dawn Leonard and I am owner of Sacred Rhythms where I offer birth and fertility doula, yoga and reiki. Last month I completed my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training to receive my RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) certificate. It is just another step in this journey of yoga, self exploration, birth, self-expression and service.
For me, yoga has been an integral tool for all stages of motherhood including conscious conception when we tried for about a year and a half to get pregnant, through my quite comfortable pregnancy, especially in labor and birth, and is an ever-evolving tool as a mother. While conception was not my first encounter with the power of intuition, it was were I began my journey back home, exploring all the power that I have access to with that wisdom. I will write more in Part II of this post about the healing and Reiki that are also available to us through motherhood.
Last week in Prenatal Yoga class, a student gave me the exact prompt that I needed for this post: what is the purpose of prenatal yoga? So here are MY goals as I facilitate yoga classes.
My first goal in Prenatal Yoga in to encourage a woman to listen to her body. That means if the only reason you came to class today was to commiserate with the other women about pregnancy and spend the rest of the time in Savasana (relaxation), you are more than welcome! That means not comparing what you are doing with what your neighbor is doing, or what you were able to do on a different day. It can mean learning how to not judge yourself for any part of your practice (and therefore life). Pregnant women do often give themselves more permission than at other times, but in a society where what you DO is what gives you value, learning to BE where ever you are takes practice.
My second goal in Prenatal Yoga is an extension of listening to your body. As you begin to decipher messages from your muscles or joints or organs, you can begin to hear more clearly the messages from your intuition or Higher Self. It is from this place that we know what to do or how to be in any situation. Our intuition tells us if this is not the right time or if now is the right time; it helps us to understand what wounds we may be carrying; it helps us to navigate difficult times or situations; it gives us direction in creating the life we set out to live; it allows us to communicate with baby (as in my vision during labor which you'll read about in Part II).
Finally, for Prenatal Yoga, I offer tidbits of childbirth education from my experience as a doula, and we practice postures, breathing, movements and meditations for labor. The resident model skeleton of the pelvis is my new best friend! As you can see, there is nothing in Prenatal Yoga that is about actually mastering a posture (ok, maybe mastering Savasana). The postures, as they were originally intended by the ancient masters, are simply the method through which we train the mind for meditation. Likewise, prenatal yoga creates a container for you to practice accessing your inner wisdom to guide you through labor, birth and ultimately the long journey of motherhood.
My goal with yoga during Conscious Conception is the same as in Prenatal Yoga of listening to your body intuition as the means to becoming pregnant or learning what motherhood looks like for you. The difference is in the methods of getting to the intuition. In Conscious Conception I use either much longer holds or repetitive "moving meditations," in addition to drumming or specific guided meditations, which quickly connect us with our intuition or Higher Self. We may practice more "advanced" or physically challenging postures that a pregnant person may not care to do. We may also spend more time processing with each other, journaling or doing energy work. You can read more about my own fertility story and how I used my yoga practice to listen and learn. Currently, Conscious Conception with Yoga is a 4-week series that will be offered a few times per year, and students commit to the full session. This creates a protected and safe space for working on a very intimate subject.
If you can decipher the pattern here of what I offer in yoga for motherhood, you won't be surprised when I say that my goal for Postnatal Yoga is to give new mothers (or women who have been mothers for years) an opportunity to REconnect within. Motherhood, especially in the first year, can be overwhelming and exhausting. You may have experienced a birth that left you with physical or emotional scars. In the Postnatal Yoga Reset, this time is for you alone to nourish yourself, to process the events of your birth, and to reconnect with your body and Self. Ultimately we are better caretakers when we take care of ourselves! (Read my post about mothering and intuition.)
You may think that all this emphasis on intuition means that I've got some mastery of the practice. But I am no psychic, no medium or trained mind-reader. I have what every one of us humans has which is a direct line of communication with our inner and Higher Selves. It does take practice, and we all experience intuition and messages in our own language. But there is no one in this world who knows what is best for you in any moment, than you do, and that is priceless. It means that YOU have ALL of the answers!
In Part II of this post I will share more about the work I do with the energies of motherhood and how I integrate Reiki (energy healing) into yoga, fertility and mothering. You'll also learn about the unique and sacred work that I do with ceremonies for motherhood.