At the beginning— “NEW” experiences do not fit, they are uncomfortable, unexpected— so your mind wants you to quit and move away from the pain. And for sure you can lower your arms during a skill drill, any time you want, but without medical intervention you cannot “quit” having contractions.

But the thing is you can get accustomed to holding your arms out to your sides. And as you practice with this Yoga-Based Birth Skill, you become accustomed to sitting with discomfort. You learn ways to distract your thoughts and ways to ease the stress by adding comfort measures.

You find a means to cope in an uncomfortable Yoga pose rather than to just suffer through it. A prop or an adjustment. You may still feel discomfort, but you can continue, you can work with the experience at this level and continue to practice.

This logic applies whether we are talking about holding out your arms, Downward Facing Dog, an intense contraction, sore nipples, or an inexplicably crying baby.

As I was driving home the other day I saw this written of the back of a T-Shirt: “It never gets  easier.  You just get better.”

You practice, you learn and you stick with it. Mastery comes with experience. Yoga practice never gets easier. Motherhood never gets easier. You just get better.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying that one way is the better choice, that is missing the whole point. The point of Yoga is to quiet the suffering of the mind, when you have a quiet mind, the body will follow, and from there intelligent decisions can be formed.

Your birth experience may bring you to a “fork in the road” and the calm quiet mind that Yoga provides will help you determine the direction you choose. 

You cope, you find a way to keep holding up “your arms” OR you relieve your suffering by lowering them.

You gratefully take some means of external or internal “medicine”. And you move on…

For example:

I have a herniated disk in the left side of my neck, and over the years this has translated into constant shoulder and hip inflammation. A constant low nagging ache—it is rarely ever silent. I have learned to live with it’s presence.

However, when the neck injury reactivates, I feel excruciating pain—it can have me rolling on the floor in tears.

Usually my neck and shoulder handle holding out my left arm quite easily (I’ve practiced this a lot) but sometimes it does not.  Having learned the hard way to genuinely listen to my body in this regard—when it signals that it is not up for holding my arm up today I LOWER IT. 

If this means doing it as I teach a class, then so be it. I teach my students the benefits of listening to their bodies by practicing what I teach as I listen to mine.

I do not want to suffer through re-herniating my disk ever again. I listen to my neck, I know when no means just tired, and when no means NO. I have gained the wisdom to listen to that definite NO and end it there.

Everyday I cope with some level of pain on my left side, on days when it tips over the edge, I take two Aleve and call it a day.

The key is knowing the difference between the pain that simply comes from muscle fatigue and the pain that comes from nerve impingement. Muscle fatigue I handle with mind over matter, nerve impingement I gladly and swiftly accept external assistance. Healthy pain versus Sick Pain.

Yoga helps relieve the mental suffering that is triggered by pain through the application of right knowledge, appropriate action, and non-attachment.

Exactly what is needed during labor because it is exactly what is needed in life, as a whole.

During Labor Pain Management this means correctly identifying the source of your pain, deciding on the level of relief necessary to do the job, “taking the medicine”, and not attaching to negative thought patterns to your decisions.

Knowledge replaced my fear and my suffering diminished. The release of stress, anxiety, fear and tension will go a long way towards easing your path towards birth, allowing the body to do its work.

Simply put those type of emotions pull you “in and up” and your baby needs to come “down and out”! You live in the 21st century so there are fortunately many ways to “change directions”.

When circumstances during birth bring pain to the path, you need to understand the source, know all of your options and apply appropriate action for your direct experience-- be it drawing on inner wells of strength, accepting care from others, or a mix of both.

This is why many of you are in the hospital to begin with right? Help if you need it is close to hand. Optimal maternity care means that interventions are medically justified rather than routine. AND BY YOUR CHOICE.

The wisdom to know the difference is the subject of my next post.

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