Antenatal sadhana

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Today I want to write about my sadhana – that is, my daily practice. Because at 38 and living in India, I want to do absolutely everything I can to insure that my pregnancy, and especially my labour go as smoothly as possible – and I know how much yoga and meditation can help me towards this goal…

Vipassana meditation

As soon as I knew I was pregnant, the first thing I started doing every morning was meditation. I have practised various kinds of meditation over the past 10 years, and although I was no longer doing it, the two 10-day silent Vipassana retreats I did in 2005 and 2006 had a immense impact in my life. I had stopped practising it for various reasons, but I always remembered that pregnant woman sitting so peacefully during one of my retreats, and how inspiring I had found her… So about three months ago I sat for Vipassana for the first time in seven years, and wow, straight away the experience was pretty deep! And so I have been keeping it up everyday for an hour – or at least five times a week. I am also thinking of going for a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat again around December in Sarnath (near Varanasi) – but let’s see how it goes…

Reiki

I have now been practising Reiki for seven years. I took my first degree in 2008 and my second degree in 2012, and all the people I have given Reiki to have told me how much it soothed them. I give Reiki to myself from time to time as well, and I had always thought if one day I get pregnant I will give Reiki to my tummy! I’m certain that it calms the baby and it gives him/her energy to grow healthily. Whenever I do, it feels very warm, pleasant and comforting, and it is deeply relaxing. So when I don’t have time to do my hour of Vipassana meditation, I give myself a little Reiki session instead…

Yoga, obviously!

I’ve been practising Iyengar Yoga for 14 years now, and although I was a little less regular in the last couple of years, pregnancy has completely renewed my practice. When I was in Scotland in August I met my yoga teacher Elaine from the wonderful Edinburgh Iyengar Yoga Centre which I attended every week from 2001 to 2007, and where, really, I learnt everything I know about Yoga. I told Elaine I wanted to practise yoga during pregnancy but in Khajuraho I have no teacher, and although I know how to practise yoga on my own in normal times, I needed some guidance during pregnancy! Straight away she recommended to me the wonderful Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood by B.K.S. Iyengar’s daughter Geeta, and I couldn’t wait to order it as soon as I’d get back to India. I received it a few weeks ago now, and I’ve been practising yoga everyday ever since. This 450-page bible has yoga sequences for all stages of pregnancy, postures for problems and ailments, yoga to prepare for and after delivery, ayurvedic nutrition tips to make healthy milk, etc. etc.! And I have to say, I feel absolutely wonderful after each yoga session.


Elaine also told me about another book: Inner Beauty, Inner Light: Yoga for Pregnant Women by Frederick Leboyer, with a preface written by B.K.S. Iyengar! Now I was deeply amazed, because the very first book about birth I had been recommended before I even got pregnant, and which I ordered straight away, was Birth without Violence, by the same Frederick Leboyer!!! What had made me jump on that book were the words ‘without violence’, and indeed I was absolutely amazed by what I read. Now the fact that this wonderful author and obstetrician was not only related to yoga, but also to the B.K.S. Iyengar family, my yoga gurus, that was absolutely amazing! Definitely the right thing for me!

For Leboyer, life is breath, and so breathing is the most important thing during labour – as it gives life! Isn’t that just obvious? He makes birth sound so natural (and it is!), so beautiful, and so simple – a woman undergoes a tremendous energy, thunder, all she has to do is to be able to breathe through it and to stay tension free. Basically she has nothing to do; she has to let Nature do the work through herself. This is so compatible with yoga; this is Yoga, and that will make it worth it to practise yoga diligently everyday for 7 months of my life – just for this major, unique, powerful event in my life! For me, and for my baby…

Violin practice

And of course, let’s not forget the violin practice. I have to say with so much yoga and meditation I play less violin than I normally do. But this in itself has become a practice for me. I don’t force it. I do it only with love. I focus on meditation, based on spontaneity and intuition. I do exactly what I feel, and it is a great practice for me precisely for this reason – I feel I am more myself when I play. I especially want to listen to myself (in all areas of my life) during those special nine months, and so I want to allow myself to be more myself on the violin, too. To listen to myself and to feel, to let go of that pressure I always have to try and sound as Indian classical as I can, giving myself space to simply be! And in the process, exposing this little creature inside myself to the beauty of music, as early as I can!

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All this in the wonderful context of our Khajuraho house and the Indian countryside – the perfect environment for a meditation retreat really. I guess at this time of my life, I am grateful for the fact that my life here is akin to an ashram life – I don’t go out much from the house (I work from home with the homestay and the English & violin classes), I have few friends and other sources of distraction, which helps me to be diligent to my dear sadhana! Oh, and how I look forward to the amazingly relaxing supported shoulderstand on a chair, on the terrace in the evening, looking at the stars…

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