The Yoga Birth Method: A Step-by-Step Guide for Natural Childbirth

The Yoga Birth Method: A Step-by-Step Guide for Natural Childbirth

by Dorothy Guerra

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Plan a childbirth that’s calm, natural, and self-empowered with The Yoga Birth Method. Applying the wisdom of yoga throughout the stages of pregnancy and labor, author Dorothy Guerra presents an eight-step pathway for connecting with your mind, body, and spirit from start to finish.

This easy-to-use guide will help you prepare for a positive and

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Plan a childbirth that’s calm, natural, and self-empowered with The Yoga Birth Method. Applying the wisdom of yoga throughout the stages of pregnancy and labor, author Dorothy Guerra presents an eight-step pathway for connecting with your mind, body, and spirit from start to finish.

This easy-to-use guide will help you prepare for a positive and joyful childbirth. Learn how to manage pain, eliminate anxiety, and encourage labor progression with breathing and meditation techniques, affirmations, and yoga poses. Couples choose an intention that becomes a focal point for embracing a calm state of mind throughout the physical and emotional challenges of labor. You’ll also find guidance in drafting a birth plan, labor-support techniques for birth partners, helpful illustrations, information on medical intervention, and a “go to” chapter with detailed advice on all stages of labor to use when the big day arrives.

“A beautiful mind-body-spirit approach to birth!”—Penny Simkin, PT, author of The Birth Partner

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Prenatal yoga teacher, doula, and childbirth educator Guerra has created a natural birthing method using the principles or “eight limbs” of yoga as its underpinnings. She explains techniques to manage attitude, pain, and physical and mental energy. Using safe asana (pose) sequences for each stage of labor, as well as breathing techniques to help manage pain and encourage progression, Guerra guides readers toward an “enlightened” birth that emphasizes connection between mother and baby. Encouraging laboring mothers to get into the “yogini groove,” the author claims her method decreases fear and anxiety, and helps women avoid pain medication by improving pain tolerance. Also included are 40 mantras (one for each week of pregnancy), appropriate asanas for each trimester, and a chapter on partner support (though a partner is not required). Readers also hear from a number of women who have used these techniques. Experienced yoginis will no doubt find Guerra’s enlightened approach easy to follow; the instructions and helpful illustrations also make the technique accessible to women who have never practiced yoga. Yoga practitioners and those seeking to avoid medical intervention and manage labor through natural methods will welcome Guerra’s gentle, natural, and mindful birthing approach. Agent: Jeff Herman, Jeff Herman Agency. (Aug.)

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Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
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the YOGA Birth Method

A Step-by-Step Guide for Natural Childbirth


Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Copyright © 2013 Dorothy Guerra
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7387-3665-5


The Yoga Birth Method (YBM) is a way to use yoga in labor to manage a natural and calm birth experience. This method is effective and powerful. It gives you motivation to stay connected to your child as you make informed decisions toward a natural birth. I will teach you how to apply yoga philosophy during your labor to remain mindful and in control of your experience, and how to incorporate the practice of postures and breathing techniques to manage progression and pain. If you have never practiced yoga, don't worry; this method is safe for everyone and can be practiced daily or as often as you wish, even before the baby arrives. The best part is that I will even teach you how to get your partner involved to encourage a daily practice and to be hands-on during the big day.

The Yoga Birth Method can be used by every woman wanting to have a positive childbirth experience no matter what her level of yoga understanding is. The techniques are simple and easy to use. If you have never taken a yoga class in your life, don't feel intimidated. Once you read through this eight-step pathway in chapter 5, you will feel comfortable using it to prepare for labor as well as using it throughout your entire labor. You may even decide to keep it up permanently after your baby is born to help you get into pre-baby shape and help you relax and enjoy your new family life.

If you have a regular practice already, this method will deepen your understanding of prenatal yoga's safe poses for pregnancy and encourage you to practice poses that are beneficial to labor. Ultimately, you will bring your practice into your labor as a way to manage your attitude, pain, and energy physically and mentally. As you read, you will notice labor is not black and white; there is no textbook description of how your labor will unfold for sure. Labor is described in a grey scale and is mostly dictated by the choices you make and the needs of your baby. All you can do for sure is be informed of all the grey matter and have an action plan to manage your mind, body, and spirit on the big day.

I assume you are reading this book because you want to birth naturally. You might even be wondering, "What is the difference between natural and medicated births?" Natural birth is when a woman goes through the entire labor without any medication administered to her body. She relies on breathing and her own birth strategy to fully complete the labor to delivery. A medicated birth is when the labor needs to be intervened by using medications to either start the labor, progress the labor, assist in pain management, or ensure the safety of mom and baby.

There are many types of medications used to help certain situations (I explain these situations in chapter 7), but it's important to know that using medication for pain does not always mean a pain-free labor. One of the main reasons women opt to avoid medications is because there are side effects, and most often these medications pass through mom's bloodstream and into the baby's. If baby does not react well to the medication, their heart rate can take a sudden turn to slower or quicker that could lead to emergency delivery. Baby also may come into this world groggy, which can affect their reaction to breastfeeding, or mom might not react well to the medication.

In any case, anytime medical drugs are introduced, there are always risks that need to be evaluated. However, my goal is to help you work through these situations and make the best decisions for you and your baby, whether you move through a fully natural birth or choose to incorporate modern medicine. In chapter 7 I describe many situations of medical intervention and teach you how to manage your choices and use the Yoga Birth Method as an alternative to immediate intervention.

If this is your first baby, you may have no idea what to expect and may already have convinced yourself you won't be able to go through it without pain medication—or, alternatively, you may be adamant that natural is how you plan to go. Making the choice to birth naturally has many benefits for you and your baby, such as the ability to move during contractions, being able to feel yourself pushing, and being able to get up and walk after birth; also, your baby will be more alert at birth and will be more likely to breastfeed easier; the list can go on and on. However, in order to truly birth naturally, you have to be prepared with a technique that will help you manage the difficulties of pain, exhaustion, and frustration. Once your labor begins, staying committed to a natural choice becomes your challenge. The practice of the Yoga Birth Method will give you the motivation and tools you need to make it possible. In chapter 5 you will be given an eight-step pathway to follow that will help you control how you move through contractions, breathe through intense pain, manage negative emotions, and ultimately control your labor from start to finish. This is your step-by-step guide for natural childbirth.

As a registered yoga teacher, registered prenatal yoga teacher, doula, and childbirth educator, I have all the tools to support your childbirth experience. Through my work as a yoga studio owner and birth coach, I was inspired to create the Yoga Birth Method. I came to realize that my prenatal teaching and childbirth work fit together perfectly. I began to incorporate the classic yoga principles with my clients to help them manage their attitude toward labor. I realized that labor can be amazing—and should be amazing. The only thing women needed was a way to make that possible, to be guided through movement and breathing and be able to increase pain tolerance as pain increased. My work with prenatal yoga helped fit this missing piece of the puzzle, and I began to give women poses and breathing techniques that matched the emotional and physiological stages of labor. Naturally, the Yoga Birth Method was born! My goal is to teach women that childbirth is their journey and their right and privilege as women, and it should be respected as such, even within the medical community. Women can have beautiful births that are not medical processes, and they can be in full control of their birth. You can feel like you own the choices that unfold in your labor. Regardless of whether your birth is natural or medicated, it is your labor, and throughout this book I will empower and support you to make the right decisions for you and your baby along the way.

This is a wonderful time in your life, filled with physical changes as your body nourishes your growing baby. We will cover yoga for pregnancy in chapter 2, which will address some of these changes. The information in this book is your reliable resource for how to make it through your labor with as much ease and fearlessness as possible. I say fearlessness because I know that over the nine months of your pregnancy, you inevitably will have worries and anxiety over what labor will be like. This is normal. This book will empower you to work through anxiety and provide you the support you need to feel confident about the birthing process. I plan to demystify any negative views about the birth process you might have and help you prepare for a calm and peaceful experience based on fact, knowledge, and self-empowerment.

The reality is that giving birth to your child is as natural as grass growing on your front lawn or trees growing in a forest. Birth is a way of existence. Animals on this planet do it without ob-gyn appointments and hospitals. Women in impoverished countries do it without luxury or medical support. I am not suggesting that natural childbirth means to go it alone, without help or luxury—by all means, enjoy a wonderful environment at home or in the hospital and rely on your medical support team to assist you in a positive and resourceful way. Natural childbirth means to experience labor and birth in the most enjoyable, mindful, and unmedicated way possible, because that is how Mother Nature intended it to be.

Why would you want to experience birth naturally and feel all the pain that comes with it as opposed to being medicated and pain free?

Well, the answer is different for every woman. But for the purpose of choosing a natural birth, the answer is that it is the best way for you to be connected to your baby and in control of your body while you and your baby work together throughout the birthing process.

Using medication is a coping strategy that allows women to handle and practically eliminate the intensity of pain; however, keep in mind that using medications does not always mean pain free. When you use medication, you separate yourself from the work. You "check out" and let your baby go at it solo. Your baby must go through a series of movements that will be explained later in this book. These movements require your child to tuck and turn and fit through the birth canal. In addition, your baby undergoes a temporary change in bone structure to be able to fit their head comfortably through your pelvis. Through the entire length of your labor, your baby depends on good, strong contractions to make this process easier. When you use medication, the quality of your contractions are put at risk and your baby has a harder time working their way to birth.

Let me clarify that sometimes medication is necessary; if the laboring woman is experiencing major fears inhibiting labor to progress or if her panic is causing the baby to show signs of dystocia (difficulty during the birthing process), then medication may be the best option to help restore her to a calm state and get things back on track. (I discuss dystocia further in chapter 3.) The concept of the Yoga Birth Method is to prepare you for a calm state prior to labor and encourage you to start labor with mindfulness and inner peace in order to avoid possible complications for maternal and fetal distress. If you practice the techniques outlined in the eight-step pathway, you will eliminate fear and anxiety from your birth experience.

The tools in the Yoga Birth Method are designed to tackle signs of distress and empower you to embrace a connection to your child through the entire labor so that medication can be avoided. The key to choosing natural labor is to know what to expect and eliminate the fear factor. Being informed and aware of the physiological and emotional stages of labor prepares you with a coping strategy. Childbirth is considered labor because in many ways it is work; with this method, I will guide you through that work and make it efficient. Labor does not have to be painful and exhausting. The tools in this book will guide you through a process to help manage your perception of labor. It will also help you understand your baby's role in labor and give you the ability to work together as a team. Together you allow the experience of pain to be something you are working with and not against. These tools are specific and don't require you to figure out what option works best. It is a disciplined approach to how to move, breathe, and think in each stage of labor. All you have to do is follow the pathway in chapter 5.

This book will help you:

• understand what yoga is and how the eight-step pathway unfolds in labor

• feel comfortable using yoga during your pregnancy and in labor with or without prior yoga experience

• understand what happens in labor physically and emotionally

• understand how to use the eight-step pathway in each stage of labor

• understand the medical aspect of birthing so that you can make informed choices

• understand how yoga in pregnancy can be more meaningful than just a physical practice: it is a journey to birth

• include your partner with hands-on techniques for labor support

• understand how to explain the Yoga Birth Method so that others are equipped with the tools to have a mindfully natural birth experience

Here is a list of questions most frequently asked about the Yoga Birth Method.

What is the Yoga Birth Method?

The Yoga Birth Method is an eight-step birthing pathway that empowers women through a natural and mindful childbirth experience. YBM's philosophy is for the mother to connect with her baby during childbirth and to engage in her labor as an experience of enlightenment. A very specific sequence of breathing and postures adapted to the physical and emotional changes in the stages of labor enables women to manage contractions from a calm, meditative, and controlled perspective.

What is the purpose of the Yoga Birth Method?

The purpose of the Yoga Birth Method is to give women a greater opportunity to embrace childbirth as a natural and joyful experience. How a woman gives birth becomes her birth story, and that birth story is shared each time she reflects on the birth of her child. I founded YBM as a way to give women the best birth story possible. Yoga is an ancient practice of breathing, movement, and concentration that invokes personal well-being and stress-free living. This method applied to childbirth gives women the exact same experience during the challenges of labor.

How does it work?

There are eight steps for a woman to use. By following the eight steps, she does not need to try to manage contractions. The pathway is a natural progression of mindful awareness of birth intentions, movement that aligns the mother's pelvis to the baby's cardinal birthing movements, and breathing strategies that manage the physical exertion in the first stage of labor. When she uses the sequence in labor, it becomes a natural and effortless embodiment of meditation.

Why does it work?

It works because the mother chooses two intentions (from a list of ten) that are based on the mother's personal behavior characteristics, and these become her point of focus during birth. Her goal is to be mindful of her actions and to be consistent in managing her birth story throughout labor. The YBM sequence of postures and breathing helps her manage the challenge of contractions, and as they intensify over the stages, the sequence changes to adapt to these changing intensities. She is fully present to what is happening to her body as her baby works to be born. When she is present, she is better equipped to make the right decisions during labor and utilize her right of choice.

I have never done yoga; will this method still work for me?

Yes, because you follow a specific pathway that is simple and yet very profound in action. It does not require yoga experience, just a willingness to use the method and a determination to have a positive birth story.

What if I don't understand yoga terms?

The pathway is described in layman's terms and can be used interchangeably for those who would like to embrace the Sanskrit philosophy and for those who want the English words.

Do I need to have a partner?

The YBM can be used with or without a partner. The techniques are ultimately used by the birthing woman, and a partner can support the process.

What are the benefits of doing this method?

The benefits are:

• faster labor progression, as the postures encourage the baby's movement into the birth canal with quicker dilation and effacement

• a better chance at natural labor, as the meditative aspect allows a woman to remain focused and in control of her birth experience in a positive manner

• a deeper connection to the baby's efforts during birth

• less likelihood of medications and interventions, as the tools are specific for the mother's physical and emotional needs during each phase of labor

• the mother is present and fully aware at the moment of birth because she was able to manage a natural pathway

• the baby is fully awake and aware at birth, which may not be the case if medications are used

How does this method compare to others?

Most birthing techniques use breathing and meditation techniques. However, this method is unique because it is based on a deep connection between mother and child during birth. The mother is necessarily fully present to her experience of pain during birth—as opposed to pain happening to her—to help her baby be born into the world. There is no reference to external distraction. The meditations, or birth intentions, are directly related to her personal behavioral characteristics, and the tools to manage pain are specific and outlined.

Do I need any special training to do the method?

No. If you would like to be prepared and educated before labor begins, become acquainted with the intention selection (see chapter 1) and familiarize yourself with the sequence. However, if you would like to take a course or workshop on YBM, that is available to you, and you also have the opportunity to use a YBM-trained doula. See for more information.

Is this method safe?

Yes, this method is safe and effective for the baby and for the mother. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or have been diagnosed with Strep B, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placental dystocia, a breech baby, or any other risk factors, it is important you speak to your doctor about natural childbirth options no matter what birthing method you use. Here I will uncover ways in which you can still incorporate the Yoga Birth Method to help you work through these concerns.

Excerpted from the YOGA Birth Method by DOROTHY GUERRA. Copyright © 2013 Dorothy Guerra. Excerpted by permission of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Dorothy Guerra (Toronto, Canada) is a registered prenatal yoga teacher and a registered birth coach (doula). She owns two yoga studios, teaches the Yoga Birth Method to couples, and trains instructors and hospital staff in prenatal yoga across North America. She is also the director of the Yoga Network of Canada. In addition to hosting the Canadian television program Yoga Life, she frequently speaks at conferences organized by the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA), Lamaze International, and the International Childbirth Association.

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