Active birth is normal birth – in other words, the way a woman would behave if she was able to follow her own instincts, if she could simply trust the physiological logic of her body and act on it.
In normal birth, a woman will want to be upright, probably moving and always responding to the pain of contractions. She will naturally seek out privacy, recoil from interruption, and set herself up in such a way that she can completely retreat. If undisturbed, she would feel all of this as one would a compulsion – as a series of physical, utterly unthinking urges.
Of course, some births are difficult and prolonged and in these instances, obstretric back-up is invaluable. The birth process is necessarily interrupted. But for the overwhelming majority of women, these urges are key. A woman’s instinctive ability to cope with and manage labour needs protecting, given the space and the quiet and the calm to strengthen and build. Only then will a baby be easily born.
Though much of the way modern birth is managed derails these instincts, yoga, long acknowledged for its positive effects on the body, can be a powerful support for any woman who wants to keep her instincts intact and on track.
Regular yoga practice through pregnancy, will bring well-being, increased strength and flexibility and stronger awareness of the very many physiological changes affecting the body, emotions and mind at this time. It will help her move down out of her busy workaday head and into the calm of her baby-carrying body.
But more than that, active birth yoga, provides a powerful and valuable preparation for labour itself. The week on week ‘rehearsal’ of postures, breathing and relaxation establishes a template so that when labour starts for real, all is in place. A woman in labour knows what feels good, can find what feels right. The yoga has shown her what she needs.
It is now thirty years since Janet Balaskas first pioneered the notion of active birth, providing women with a route to more rewarding birth experiences, and it is by her own admission, nothing new, only what she calls ‘the grandmother wisdom’. In a world where that wisdom is wanting, active birth is needed. Active birth can help normal birth to happen.