How the Path of Pregnancy Echoes the 8 Limbs of Yoga - Part 1

Pregnancy: Preparing for Motherhood 

Pregnancy, a sacred time of change, is an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically for birth and motherhood. How you perceive and move through your pregnancy impacts your birth experience, for you and your child. Take time to cultivate self-awareness, address fears and anxieties, assess and reconcile your own birth experience and childhood. Consider how you will parent. Through introspection, you can make mindful choices, appropriate for you and your family.  The practice of yoga helps ground you as you gain confidence to gracefully assert yourself while taking good care of your health. With yoga, uncover your essence.  Recognize you are a beautiful, empowered birthing goddess. 

Shiva surrounded by softness signifies the union between feminine and masculine. 

Shiva surrounded by softness signifies the union between feminine and masculine. 

Like pregnancy, yoga signifies the union of female and male energy, a merging in mutuality and reciprocity.  Female energy, often referred to as Shakti, is soft, tender and receptive and is signified by the back body.  Male energy, personified by Shiva, is strong and assertive and is represented by the front body.   To find and maintain balance, both energies need to harmoniously co-exist.  In our western, achievement-oriented culture, the feminine principle has historically been compromised or ignored.  Pregnancy is a time to honor and revere the sacred power of individual and collective feminine energy.   By harnessing this power, discover and maintain balance during a time of radical transformation.   

The Parallel Paths of Yoga and Pregnancy

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras establishes the philosophical foundation of yoga.  This ancient text provides an ideal framework from which to explore and inspire pregnancy, birth and motherhood. The path of yoga mirrors the steps a woman often undergo throughout the process.  The parallels are quite astonishing. 

In 2.29 of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali delineates the eight limbs of yoga which form the foundation of the practice.  The tenets include:

  1.     yama: restraints            
  2.     niyama: observances
  3.     asana: posture or pose 
  4.     pranayama: breathwork
  5.     pratyahara: sense withdrawal
  6.     dharana: concentration
  7.     dhyana: meditation
  8.     samadhi: serenity; perfection; supreme devotion; profound meditation

The Yamas and Niyamas

First, consider the yamas and niyamas, moral and ethical precepts by which to live.  These include non-violence, truth, non-stealing, continence, non-greed, cleanliness, contentment, fervor, study and surrender.  Yoga supports non- judgmental inquiry. Pregnancy is an ideal opportunity to observe and assess your thought patterns, behavior and environment to determine if any adjustments are needed. While change can be unnerving, scary and destabilizing, trust your ability to make healthy choices.  establish a healthy foundation on which to build your family.

Examine your thoughts, particularly how you view yourself.  Notice your words.  Observe reoccurring patterns and stories as you begin to recognize your mind’s nature.   Shift to the kindest and most loving thoughts whenever possible.  Also, observe how you move and treat your body.   Tune more intimately into your emotional responses as well.  Adopt the yamas and niyamas.  Establish a healthy foundation on which to build your family.  As your child’s primary teacher, you can pass along lessons of self-love and self-acceptance, the foundation for developing high-self-esteem. 

Yoga helps a woman steady her mind and cultivate confidence while surrendering to nature. 

Yoga helps a woman steady her mind and cultivate confidence while surrendering to nature. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the additional six limbs of yoga and observe how they correspond to the path of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. 

Sutra 2.29  "yama niyama asana pranayama pratyahar dharana dhyana samadhayah astau angani" Iyengar, BKS,  Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1993, p.134).

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