• My Birthlight story

    "I'm here because some of my students are pregnant and they have asked me to start a pregnancy yoga class for them." That was my answer to fellow students on the first day of the Birthlight perinatal course I enrolled on in April 2014. I had made what I thought to be a business decision; expanding my skills set to meet my market. Yes, I was pregnant for the second time but I just thought it would be interesting to do this training whilst going through pregnancy in my own body. I would be able to fully experience the techniques that would give me more insight for my teaching. It soon became clear to me that there was a far deeper reason for me being there.

    Eighteen months earlier I had given birth to my first son, Morgan, by emergency caesarean. After 30 hours of labour I ended up on the operating table and it was not the birth I had hoped for. With my participation in hypno-birthing classes and my years of yoga experience I was convinced I could have a calm, natural birth. There is no doubt that my yoga practice supported me in remaining calm throughout the birth and I was convinced that I had made peace with the way in which Morgan arrived in the world but there was clearly some unfinished business. I began to feel deeply emotional as we explored pregnancy yoga techniques and learnt about childbirth. I found myself in floods of tears when I got home each evening. I began to question whether I was really studying the Birthlight system for my students or whether I was searching for some answers for myself.

    As I led the final relaxation in the first prenatal class with my case study pregnancy group I experienced a real sense of connection to both the women and the practice. Over the next few weeks my own practice became my class preparation as I familiarised myself with the funny walks and Birthlight techniques. I spent a lot of time on all fours! We all grew our babies together in a group infused with warmth, strong female energy and laughter. Every teaching point I made to the group I took on board for myself. And as I guided these women to a place of relaxation and restoration I gave myself permission to do the same. In my first pregnancy I had continued a slightly modified version of a strong vinyasa practice. I saw it as a badge of honour that I was still strong and flexible even as my body changed shape. I thought I was being strong to prepare for motherhood. But motherhood requires a different type of strength. The strength to let go.

    When I felt my first contractions I knew this second birth would be different. Morgan and I danced together; a medley of silly walks and pelvic movements. I squatted hanging off the upstairs banisters. I shifted, waddled, softened and rested. I wallowed in the glorious spaces between the contractions. When we travelled into the hospital I didn't sit in the front seat, eyes wide open as I had with Morgan's birth. Instead I continued on all fours in the back seat, circling the pelvis, resting in child's pose. In the hospital I barely opened my eyes, I just calmly continued with my movements and my rest. The midwives tried to get the required monitors around me but they soon realised this birth had its own rhythm and gently stepped aside. My second son, Evan, was in my arms within the hour. From start to finish my VBAC had taken under 5 hours.

    So was my second birth "better" than my first? The simple answer is no. I am grateful to Morgan for giving me the complex and challenging experience of his birth. Without that experience I wouldn't have discovered the rich and rewarding aspect of my yoga teaching that is Birthlight yoga. More importantly, Morgan's birth had prepared me beautifully for Evan's birth. As they entered the world in their different ways, both my sons have taught me valuable lessons and they continue to be my best yoga teachers.

    Nicola Gibbons

    www.yogawithnicola.co.uk

    A deeply moving and so well written testimony, truly in the spirit of yoga and with a perfect conclusion. Thanks Kirsteen for your teaching and thanks to Nicola for this personal tribute that encapsulates how birthlight yoga goes beyond being supple and strong for birth but supports the 'birth of mothers’ irrespective of mode of delivery.

    Françoise

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  • Yoga practice as a new Mum

    It has been six months since the arrival of our little boy, Morgan James Watkins and my thoughts drift to how his arrival has changed me, challenged me and shifted my yoga practice. Gone are the long practice sessions on the mat, quiet moments of meditation and even attendance at a regular weekly class. Gone is the time and space to look inward, forgetting the clock, silencing the chattering mind and finding that serene spot of peace. So how is it that since giving birth I feel my yoga practice has stepped up a notch?

    Perhaps I have lost some of my core strength; chataranga is more of a challenge than it used to be and finding the energy for any major inversion such as adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) is almost impossible. Instead of rushing to regain that old strength I am learning to celebrate the different strength of this new body – the strength that carried my little boy for 9 months, birthed him and now feeds him, comforts him and copes with an alarmingly small amount of sleep! It is not the strength of body that I found on the mat that I nurture now but the inner strength to care 24 hours a day, fuelled by a deep love.

    To be honest before becoming pregnant I was always a little sloppy about my home practice. I had regular classes to go to and inspiring teachers to challenge me and lead me to new places. I struggled to motivate myself to practice postures I didn’t like and tended to opt for a familiar practice of my old favourites. I enjoy practicing in the company of others. Since Morgan arrived my mat is out daily. Yes there is a drive to “get back into shape”, shift some of the post pregnancy weight and reacquaint myself with my abdominals but this is not the reason I have returned to the mat day in day out for the last 6 months. I need my practice now more than I have ever needed it and this time I have one of the best teachers I have found yet.

    A baby is the most perfect yogi. Continually in the present, there is no memory of or holding onto the last spurt of tears. When any baby gazes into your eyes there is nothing more present and alive. When I practice with Morgan on my mat I am able to spontaneously and intuitively practice, switching between postures for him and postures for me. I am finding ways to practice vrksasana with him balanced on my knee, downward dog with a kiss to his forehead and there is nothing that spurs you on to a deeper paschimottanasana than a giggling baby lying on your legs just waiting for a kiss. His natural lotus is inspirational and when I practice the, previously avoided, pose of ananda balasana (happy baby) I have a great example of the perfect posture right there in front of me.

    This quote sums it up perfectly, “My Guru told me; that child, which is you even now, is your real self. Go back to that state of pure being, where the ‘I am’ is still in its purity before it got contaminated with “this I am” or “that I am”. Ramana Maharshi

    Finally Morgan is teaching me how to become more open and available to the moment. Following my intuition I respond to his needs during our practice on the mat and in our life off the mat. Unhappiness follows for both of us if I attach too securely to what I want from our day. If he doesn’t sleep at exactly the time I want him to sleep I practice ‘letting it go’. If he doesn’t eat the fresh food I have prepared for him I practice ‘letting it go’. It’s not that I let go of trying to help him find structure in his day it is that I ‘let go’ of the anxiety when my attempts fail. It is a great yoga lesson.

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“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”

― Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

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