Did you know that meditation can help provide the strength and courage necessary for an empowering labour? Better yet, it can have a profound impact on your growing baby’s consciousness. Read on to learn how to meditate and the benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
First let’s talk about what meditation isn’t. Meditation isn’t about dressing in the latest
yoga fashion and sitting on a mountaintop while birds chirp melodically and whales call out your name. It’s not about locking yourself away from the world (although sometimes moms need that) or being an ascetic in a cave. It isn’t even about stopping yourself from thinking. In my prenatal yoga and meditation classes my students often tell me, “I can’t meditate! I sit down to try but I can’t stop thinking.” And I say, “Wonderful! Noticing that is the first step.”
Meditation simply means becoming aware of the thoughts racing through your mind. And let’s face it – if most people’s thoughts are racing, a pregnant woman’s thoughts are doing a never-ending triathlon. From baby’s health to baby’s gender to how a sibling is going to react, it’s no wonder the term “baby brain” exists. Meditation is about observing these racing thoughts instead of entertaining them.
When you meditate, it’s as if you are sitting on a riverbank watching your thoughts float by on the water. You don’t attach anything to them, you just let them flow and go. If you do this regularly enough you start to see your thought patterns. You can identify the quality of your thoughts at any moment, and you have a reserve of clarity and calmness inside yourself that you can draw upon when you’re stuck in a negative pattern (like in the middle of a rather long labor, or when the kids are extra whiny….not referring to personal experience or anything).
The benefits of meditation fill pages. In addition to a clear mind, self-awareness and the ability to be present, meditation promotes a sense of well-being and stability. When mama feels stable and calm, baby feels stable and calm. Yogis believe that by meditating a mother can have a profound impact on baby’s consciousness.
Meditation can be as straightforward as becoming fully aware of your breath moving in and out of your body, or of your baby’s movements. The hard part is being fully aware. There are specific meditations to help with this. They work on everything, from overcoming fear to building patience to connecting with your partner. However you meditate, it’s important for pregnant women to sit in a comfortable position (break out the pillows!) and to not suspend the breath for too long. It’s also important to meditate regularly. It can help if you meditate at the same time everyday.
Here is a specific meditation for conquering pain – great for preparing for labor or any challenge in life. It was originally taught by Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan was dad to 3 children and endeavored to make the deeper experiences of yoga available to busy householders and not just to those who had time to meditate all day long. As a result, his style of yoga is powerful, efficient and unique.
MEDITATION FOR CONQUERING PAIN
1. Sit cross-legged. If this isn’t comfortable try kneeling or sit in a chair with a straight spine.
2. Extend your arms out to the sides and parallel to the ground. Keep the arms at shoulder level. Separate the fingers of both hands so the index and middle fingers are together and the ring and pinkie fingers are together (Mork style. Nanu nanu). Thumbs are relaxed. The left palm faces downward and the right palm faces upward.
3. Close your eyes and inhale long and deep through your mouth. Exhale powerfully through the nose. Start out with one minute – about the length of a contraction. Yes, your arms are going to get sore. You can see why this is good practice for labor! Try to be curious about the discomfort instead of resisting it. Where does it stop and start? Completely relax all the parts of the body you aren’t using, especially your jaw. Observe what your mind is telling you (“This is weird,” “This hurts,” “Where are the whales?”) but don’t entertain any particular thought. Just let them go. When you want to give up, go back to your breath: notice it moving in and out. See if you can deepen it. Don’t put your arms down unless you feel like you’re hurting yourself. If you’re just tired, keep up! Yogi Bhajan said, “There will be a war between you and your mind and you have to win it.”
4. To end, inhale deeply, stretch your arms out further to the sides and stretch your spine upward. Exhale. Repeat this step two more times.
5. Start practicing this meditation for one minute, then work your way up to three minutes, five minutes and finally, eleven minutes.
Meditation can show you that you have everything you need right now to make it through labor, and benefit from the experience. It can connect you with your growing baby after a busy day and is of great benefit to baby’s developing mind. It helps you to harness your own inner power and realize that you have everything within you. If you have any questions, please post them below, visit a Kundalini Yoga teacher near you, or pick up Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa’s useful pregnancy book, Bountiful, Beautiful and Blissful. Happy birthing!
About Kelley Powell
Kelley Powell has a Master’s degree in international development and has worked at a home for impoverished women and children in India, on a domestic violence research project in Laos and with the Canadian government’s family violence prevention unit. She met and married her husband, Imran, in Laos and is now happily at home with their 3 children, aged 7, 4 and 2. She teaches yoga and meditation in Ottawa and specializes in teaching parents, pregnant women, children and teens. When her children are napping or at school, she leaves the dishes in the sink and the toys on the floor and she writes. Her publishing credits include The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and New Moon Girls magazine. She is currently seeking a publisher for her young adult novel. Kelley is a partner in Satya Communications, a freelance writing company that creates compelling articles, reports and communication for a variety of clients.