Yoga-Based Birth Skill #1- Movement (Asana) - Using Movement to Mediate Birth Hormones

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 The human physiological birth process hasn’t changed since the Stone Age, this process is still under the control of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland which are archaic brain structures located in the brain stem.  Birth is an innate hormonally mediated physiological process.

There are four hormonal processes of physiologic childbearing that both anticipate and prepare the body for upcoming processes and biological needs of Birth. This processstarts with pregnancy, it ramps up during labor and birth, and continues through breastfeeding, and is essential for maintaining maternal-infant attachment.

While hormones direct the birth process, it is a delicately balanced system—one that is extremely vulnerable to interference.

A person cannot initiate or stop an involuntary process, for example you can’t stop or start your heart, the fact that it beats is out of your control.  But you certainly can do things that speed it up or slow it down, that is in your control.

During Birth you cannot stop or start the contractions of your uterus—sure there are technologies that “help” with those processes but you cannot “think” contractions into being and you cannot “think” them out of happening.

But you sure can use your mind and your body to do and think things that hinder the process.

Stress, fear, pain, anxiety, and tension can all act to slow the birth process by switching the gears of the Autonomic Nervous System from the parasympathetic mode to the sympathetic mode.

When the body senses a threat (real or imagined) it activates the acute stress response or the Fight, Flight, Freeze response which activates the sympathetic nervous system as if you were pressing down on a gas pedal. This immediate response system makes sure that your body is ready to defend itself —preferably using one of its preferred actions.

This reaction is out of your control, it is simply what your body is programmed to do, you can’t keep it from happening but you can control how you respond.

If you do not respond appropriately—it sends more signals—making you press harder on the gas pedal.

You can learn effective methods to keep your ANS running on the parasympathetic side of the equation, and maintaining homeostasis is what The Whole Way is all about.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System, PNS, is the brake pedal, it calms things down, slow and easy, restful—it restores the body to homeostasis. Exactly where your mind and body want to be during labor and delivery.

Hormones, Nervous Systems, Homeostasis, and Maladaptive Responses are all very worthy, fascinating topics, they have (or will have) their own articles—this article is all about how utilizing movement can help keep you in control and unnecessary suffering at bay.

A degree of stress can be useful in labor, in fact you will receive a stress signal at the start of each contraction-a shot of adrenaline. This is okay, it is part of the physiological process, and if the signal is responded to correctly and swiftly— it is easy to manage.

It is when these stressors begin to overwhelm you that you might react by freezing. When you freeze up in the midst of an acute stress response, you become worried, fearful, anxious and even more stressed.

 You will continue to receive jolts of hormones until you do something that convinces the ANS that you are taking this threat seriously.

If Adrenaline had a voice it would say get moving and if you would listen closely to anxiety it is telling you to make a decision.

So FROZEN compounds the problem-it creates more panic, more fear and more stress and ultimately more pain. It slows down labor and endorphin production.

SO MAKE THE DECISION TO MOVE. Relief is as simple as that.

In order to master responding to stress signals—you need to move quickly from a state of fear, misconception and anxiety (negative painful VRTTIS) towards focusing on conscious activities to apply to contractions.

It is not enough to simply apply “pain-less” pain relieving activities towards contractions you will also need to CONCENTRATE on them. You consciously determine your focus by consciously directing your movement and your breath.

Asana (physical yoga practice) is about utilizing movement and breath control to fix the mind, shutting off the mind stuff and bringing it into a quiet space of stillness.

Your choice: Do you allow your mind to become agitated by the body’s primitive reaction to the stress signal it just received from your uterus or do you rise above—up to the ledge—and control your reaction to this bodily sensation-choosing an appropriate response?

Your job is to match your level of movement with your stress level.

  • Minimal Stress=Minimal Movement like breath work and shifting positions.
  • Small Stress = Small Movement like a gentle walk or sway. Distracting activities.
  • Big Stress= Big Movement like marching, using longer strides, half lunges.

Move instinctively and match the level of intensity that you feel in your uterus.

The key to making this work is to move your concentration to your legs, arms and breath—focus on what they are doing.  Shifting your focus from your contraction and the stress signals it is sending to your brain. Focus on the movement not the stress and wait until your body actually sends signals to move.

Your body is going to birth your baby regardless of how you react to the sensations of birth.

Doesn’t it make better sense to learn how correctly deal with these stress signals during birth?

Accepting these signals for what they truly are and working with and not against them are skills that The Whole Way can teach you.

It is important to realize that just through fighting against these sensations, you give pain more meaning, it becomes more important—it receives more priority. It can invoke an Acute Stress Response or Fight, Flight, or Freeze.