Small Blessings Blog

Birth: Reaping the rewards

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Sunday, May 24, 2020

In online postnatal yoga last Thursday we opened the space at the beginning of class for anyone who wanted to share about their birth experience.
What a profound event it is! No matter how it happens. To consciously celebrate it allows us to integrate and keep drawing from its lessons. Sometimes just to hear yourself say something and have it heard by others is in itself an important step in the growth process. Making things conscious and clear that were previously a little vague. 
Sometimes there is something difficult from the birth to digest and integrate. Feeling feelings, expressing reactions and responses is necessary for moving on, for learning, for forgiving.. if there is ever really anything to forgive. Writing your birth story can also be hugely valuable - for the precious record you will have years later, when you've forgotten details, and for the therapeutic value of it. I share stories on my website because they are all awesome. Here is a page that has some suggestions on how you might go about writing your story, if you feel you want some inspiration. 

Last Thursday was no different from any other sharing on birth that I have been a part of, by which I mean it was touching, humbling, a privilege. And why not revisit that magic and open the door to let the fragrance and wonder of this incredible time in to the present moment?

What struck me from the sharing of the women this time was a common theme. There was the sense that the birth left a lasting imprint of empowerment on the women who spoke. Birth was clearly felt and experienced to be an experience that permanently changed the women's perception of themselves in such a way that set them up for being mothers. Is that not nature's plan? Does it not equip us, every step of the way? 

Very clear also was that birth is empowering and strengthening to the sense of self trust regardless of how it went. One woman took it a step further and commented that, although this, her third birth, was less smooth and more challenging than the previous two, with more interventions and troubles, she felt proud and strong. She processed what was upsetting to her after the birth by letting herself feel the pain and letting herself cry.. and then it passed. She realised, actually all is ok. No need to even try to avoid the hard experiences. It's ok. That too, I can contain. That too makes me grow. How ultimately strengthening. How much wisdom is in that? 

Always bowing down to this extraordinary life. 
Are you in the first 40 days following birth? You are invited to all Small Blessings Yoga classes online, for free, as a gift of support to you in this time. 

Cycles of Life - everything in its own time

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Sunday, May 24, 2020

Kundalini Yoga teachings tell us that all humans have in fact not 1, but 10 bodies, only one of which is physical. These teachings say that the soul (1st body) comes into the womb at 120 days, in its capsule of the subtle body (9th body) and the other 8 come from the mother. For the first 3 years of life the baby shares 8 of his or her 10 spiritual bodies with the mother. Consider the implications of that kind of connection and also level of giving!
At 3 the child has their own 10 bodies and is fully separate. It takes a full 3 years for this to happen! And at this time a significant shift in the relationship can be experienced.

Life is understood backwards but is lived forwards.
First time mothers can be forgiven for thinking “Will I be in this cave forever?! Have “i” as I know myself disappeared for good? Is this it now?” 

How could you know that a new phase is coming.. and a new one .. and a new one?
So let me reassure you women in those first 6 intense and intensely self-sacrificing months: it will change, and quite soon.
At around 6 months a reorientation happens.
The first phase of firmly establishing a security and a deep bond and a sense of foundation, messy as it can get, imperfect as it may seem, is as important as it is inevitable.
You’re doing such important work there. 

And meanwhile you yourself are experiencing unprecedented growth in your humanity.
You may feel like you live in a cave or a pressure cooker. That’s necessary. It will pass.
At 6 months your eyes open wider along with your baby’s. The world opens up again with new possibilities. The father role becomes more activated as the baby has the inner security to be ready to open up into the world more.
And at 3 years this intense nurturing, nourishing, foundation-laying time will be finished. And a new cycle will begin.

So take a deep breath.
Feel accomplished. Honour yourself deeply and do and think what sustains and enriches you on the journey.
You are nursing a soul into the world as much as a body and a mind.

“In your caliber there is a consciousness. In that consciousness there is a caring being. In that caring being there is God. That's all I am saying. Look to your vastness. Look to your bigness. Look to your totality. Don't look to the little things.”
Yogi Bhajan

Nourishing Yogi Tea Recipe

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Wednesday, January 08, 2020

This is a truly yummy, warming, nurturing tea which is ideal for pregnancy and the time after birth. The spices are lightly stimulating without the negative impact of caffeine, nourishing to the nerves and strengthening to your blood. It is normally taken with milk and honey to taste. You can also use oat, rice, almond or soy milk. 

The Ayurvedic dosha of Vata (ether and air) dominates after birth and so the sweetness of the earth element and the warming, fire quality of the spices helps balance you out.  

After the birth you may like to have a thermos of this tea by your bedside (that was me after my births - such fond memories!). Every woman is unique so there is no rule as to how much you can drink each day. Be aware that too much honey or spice through the breast milk may upset your baby´s delicate digestive system so keep an eye on it and reduce your intake if in doubt.

Delivering yogi tea to a newborn family. 


1 cup water

3 cloves

4 cardamom pods

4 black peppercorns

½ stick cinnamon

1 slice fresh ginger

My special tip (not part of original recipe): a few star anise flowers for another level of subtle sweetness)

½ cup cow´s milk or alternative


Boil spices in water for 15 minutes minimum (but up to 45 minutes for a stronger tea). Add milk (about 1/3 cup) and bring just to the simmer.

Turn off heat. Add honey to taste.

To make more at a time (which makes sense) you can reduce the amount of spices. Eg. for 2 litres of water use 15 cloves, 15 cardamom pods, 20 peppercorns, 3 cinnamon sticks and 5 slices fresh ginger. Add 500mL milk and honey to taste.

With time, you might want to adjust the proportions of things, if you like it spicier, sweeter, stronger etc. For example, I reduce the cardamom and cloves and increase the peppercorns, ginger and cinnamon, because I like those flavours. 


This taken recipe from “Foods for Health and Healing – Remedies and Recipes, based on the teachings of Yogi Bhajan”

The ingredients and that rich colour that you want. 

Let the nourishment flow... Our first wave of postnatal sevadars is here

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Tuesday, September 03, 2019

If I were into conspiracy theories I could probably find one to fit this situation. In this western culture we are so effectively hypnotised into thinking we are alone that obvious, simple and doable ways to get together and nourish each other almost don’t occur to us. 

And also new mothers sit there alone with their babies, unnourished and unsupported, at a time when actually, in a healthy society, you would think that all resources would be pooled to flow towards her in this crucial time. 

Well, we woke up.

Last Saturday was the first edition of the 40 Day Blessing Postnatal Sevadar training here in Perth. It was just 6 hours, with a lot of richness to jam in, but we did it. And had a beautiful special for the postnatal time ayurvedic 3 course meal prepared by the women as well. 


One woman told me that the next day she felt healed, calm and quiet through hearing of the teachings, learning how to serve women in this 40 day fourth trimester window. She felt the sadness and loss of her own postnatal time which was lacking in this nourishment. And in the food that we prepared and ate together was some kind of medicine that she felt healed this pain. So there is some powerful magic afoot when that happens.

Sevadar means one who serves selflessly. Frances Parkhowell of Perth Postnatal Village and Chair of Australian Doulas and I gave 11 women a training that covered the Kundalini Yoga teachings on this time – physical, emotional, spiritual; the scientific, hormonal and physiological correlates to these understandings; what a sevadar does; how to create clear documents with a check list of things you offer, from cooking, cleaning the house, taking care of older children to massage and nourishing conversation; how to create an agreement document to facilitate a clear relationship with the one receiving service; massage; belly binding; ayurvedic food as medicine .. and more. 


We have emerged with a group of women who feel nourished possibly in places they didn’t realise were malnourished, and who are ready to wisely and tenderly serve their nieces and daughters when they have their babies. But also who are ready to serve other women in Perth who need it. 

It’s just a beginning, but a beautiful and encouraging one. 

If you are in Perth reading this and will be in your own 40 day blessing soon and this strikes a chord, get in touch with me. Perhaps there is a woman in your area who is available to offer you some help. And if you would like to be involved or come to the next training, also let me know so I can keep you posted. 

It is such a small distance really to reach across to take another woman’s hand. Such a small act, and yet the ripples of healing and happiness from that act may, eventually, be enough to change the world, one woman, one baby, one family at a time. 

My 40 Day Blessing experience

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Thursday, August 22, 2019

My 40 Day Blessing experience 

3 children under 5 and more peaceful and restful than I had ever felt!

Me reading in Foods for Health and Healing, planning what I would like to ask to have cooked for me next :-)

Living in Berlin, when I got pregnant with our third child, I knew that I had to do something radical to help me through the 40 days following birth. The two older children were less than 2 and about 3.5. It had been an intense few years already!

Thank god, by that stage I was immersed in my own yoga practice and also in a community of people who also knew and understood the teachings of Kundalini Yoga on the 40 days following birth. They saw the value for themselves of that time and also the value of offering Seva - selfless service. Plus they cared.

So I put out the call to the community for sevadars to come and help us. 
It took some organising, but in the end we had 3 different women at different times come and stay in a friends' flat just down the road which just happened to be empty for that time and look after me. One of these beautiful sevadars, Petra, is in the picture below. 

It felt luxurious. It felt a touch over the top at first. They cooked for me, cleaned, did washing, delivered and picked up the other kids from their kinderladen, made me endless cups of yogi tea (caffeine-less chai) and were generally wonderful. I quickly got over that feeling of indulgence, however, and lay back and enjoyed it. It was snowing and cold outside and to be inside in this bubble, with my baby and family while I healed and rested, breastfed and ate, was incredible. It felt like what I'd needed to do for years. My whole life perhaps. 

By the time the last sevadar left, I felt so full of beans. I felt ready to be a mother of 3. I was excited for it. Not anxious or overwhelmed. I didn't feel alone. I didn't feel exhausted. I felt energetic, balanced, peaceful and joyful. When I finally ventured out into the world with my small caravan of children, people literally commented on how peaceful and calm I seemed. They couldn't understand it. I knew it was because I had been able to touch into a deep well of peace inside of me and I was just still sitting near that well. And that I was able to take the time to find that because of the service of these sevadars.

Time went on and this peacefulness became a little ruffled. Staying there is the challenge. But I will never forget that. And my daughter Sophia's nervous system - her whole being - is imprinted with this deep peace. 

I also know what it is to feel scared, depressed and disconnected as a new mother. That story goes differently. 

When we nourish mothers we are investing in a lot more than just one woman (though that in itself would be enough). Her state imprints the baby. Her sense of herself a mother is forged there. If we don't value the mothers, what kind of society are we? If we won't bring compassion and care there, where will be bring it?

One woman at a time, one baby and family at a time, we can help to bring more peace, more deep security, to our planet

Miscarriage & termination - honouring what is

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Friday, July 26, 2019
Everything that is must be honoured.

My husband is a psychologist and facilitator of systemic family constellations.

This approach works with the family (or other system) field in which any individual exists and recognises that there is a lot going on in that field that influences us, and that is often fully outside of our conscious knowledge. Stories that have been passed down, patterns in relationships, emotions we carry for other family members, mis(identifications), ideas and beliefs that inform our sense of belonging, for better and for worse.

As an assistant and sometimes translator at these workshops, as part of the process of disentangling what is entangled and restoring what we call “the orders of love”, I’ve now stood in the shoes of hundreds of humans and felt what they feel. It’s humbling, educating, healing and also very inspiring.

I’ve learned a lot too about women and their babies.

I’ve learned that there is not a single baby that does not matter to the mother. 

It is such a profound thing, to carry a life inside of you, and the love is so great and involuntary that it changes the course of your life forever. 

Currently many are reeling from the ban on abortion in some states of America. The teachings of Kundalini Yoga are clear on this matter: the one who should decide what is to happen with a pregnancy is always the woman herself. Also, we say that the soul only comes in to the body at 120 days into pregnancy, so that has an influence. 

That women should decide over their own lives, hearts and bodies is not up for discussion. But it is so important, as I have learned standing in all those shoes, to see things as they are, to stand in and see and feel what is and to honour what is. There can be no peace without that.

A woman who has miscarried (though the amount of miscarriages that went by unnoticed is probably huge, and this is not what I am referring to here, but rather the miscarriages that felt significant and were very much noticed) carries that baby forever more, nonetheless. The grief and loss are huge, so that carrying that with us makes our hearts bigger out of necessity, to hold all that. Other, perhaps less progressed miscarriages aren't always acknowledged for the impact they have. They aren't considered significant enough. But, the truth is, in many cases the baby remains as a presence carried in the woman's heart forever, whether acknowledged or not. And that matters. 

 Honouring what is is all that humans can do. And it is a lot. Taking the time and space to fully honour and acknowledge that baby opens the door to a peace that perhaps sometimes we didn't know was missing until we felt it. And, a lesser thought of but hugely influential fact, this honouring also has a significant relieving effect on children who were born after the miscarriage, as these ones often feel not quite right, or even guilty of being alive, until this child who passed is fully honoured and given a good place in the family system. This we clearly see in family constellation work. 

Let's also think about terminations of pregnancy. There is not a rule to say how significant this is for a woman. But what we can see is that here too, women carry all their babies with them emotionally and spiritually, regardless. That a life did not come into being because of her (and the father’s) decision is something that too needs to be acknowledged. There are many good, responsible and valid reasons why a woman might terminate a pregnancy. It is never here about morals. Natural laws are just that: natural. Morality and judgement is man-made – projected on top of what just is. 

 To live with the full significance and consequence of our actions and to be with what is, to embrace what is and give the unborn baby a good place in your heart, all that is dignifying, strengthening and healing. It makes you grow as a person. And then life can go on with a deeper grace, a deeper reality and a freedom to live a future that is not hampered negatively by the past. Rather the past enriches the present and blesses the future.  Everything that is must be honoured.

If you feel stirred or triggered by this post because of experiences of your own, you may wish to get in touch with me for a private session. There are simple and quite light though deep ways to move through this process which have a significantly positive ripple-on effects in your life in unexpected and surprising ways. More info here. 

Also, if you feel called to know more about systemic family constellations, check out Beant’s website. We offer regular workshops in the Fremantle area. 
photo by Korrakit Pinsrisook

Motherhood - it hurts

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Monday, December 18, 2017

Motherhood is a place in which apparently opposite things live. You love your child so much you would die for them. And, as pointed out by one of the wise women at Mama Baba Yoga today, at other times you are so at the end of your wits you would like to kill them. It’s shocking, right?
Motherhood is the definition of bittersweet. The sweetness you see in your child is always passing. To be replaced by the next stage of life. You can’t hold on to anything.
It hurts. It breaks your heart open. .
It’s not true that you should love every moment. Beware of shoulds. It’s in the tension between opposites - the bitter and the sweet - the wonderful and the so so testing, trying moments - that the greatest challenge and therefore growth occurs. So don’t even try to get rid of the tension by pretending to yourself or others. Wisdom comes through recognising that all the rich contradictory nature of the experience can only be held in one place: in the heart.
Tears crack you open. You are rendered defenseless. Again and again. By love. And all it makes you do.
This crazy, challenging, awesome, wonderful, heartbreaking, heart-opening life of motherhood.

Senses and Sensitivity of a New Mother

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Saturday, August 02, 2014


When you get pregnant, what happens to your senses? What have you noticed?


Most women report that their senses seem amplified in pregnancy. Your sense of smell: stronger. You become pickier about what tastes good and what not. You can become sensitive to sound in a new way and sometimes have the feeling of wanting to hold something over your belly to protect your baby from harsh sounds. Some women report that how they see seems to change. What other sense haven't we touched on? Touch! Sense of touch is often increased – wanting to be touched more (or less). Needing physical reassurance.


What does all this point to? We could well ask, what is the innate intelligence of life up to with these changes? Are they just random? Kundalini Yoga humanology holds that women are 16 times more sensitive than men. Yes, 16 times. This may have something to do with the 16 petals of the lotus of the throat chakra and its connection to the thyroid and parathyroid glands with their function of regulating metabolism and energy balance. A woman, with her capacity to grow a new life in her own body, has to be a sophisticated being, to be able to regulate and balance 2 (and more) bodies at the same time. She is also more fluid than a man. She has a cycle which like the moon cycle is 28 days long and so she waxes and wanes, moves and changes, physically and mentally/emotionally. Without this ever-changing nature of woman, like nature is ever-changing, how boring would life be? How static and fixed.


When a woman becomes pregnant she enters into the field of nature in a whole new way. She becomes part of the cycle of nature itself. A young woman flowers into womanhood and then when her beauty attracts and she opens to let herself be pollinated (so to speak!) she begins to bear the fruit. Inside the fruit (the baby) is the seed of new life, which will in time take root, grow and spread out into the world, flower, attract and so on.

So it is common and also desirable to want to be in nature and feel it as a part of you and that you are a part of it. This can be a very connecting and nourishing thing for a pregnant woman especially.


A baby's senses also develop in the womb, starting with the sense of hearing, and so your voice and its vibrations, other outside sounds, including the voices of the father, other family members, friends, and all sounds around you as well as all your inner physical processes – gurglings, beating, and the sound of your breath – are the soundtrack of your baby's early life. Your voice is the sweetest thing to your child and it becomes the first link to the world and then back to you after birth. Your voice for the newborn is the sound of home and safety. But a lot less muffled once they are out of course, so this might be a clue as to how being quiet around a newborn could be wise. Anyway, we tend to naturally, intuitively do this around newborns.

You might want to think about your baby's soundscapes in the womb. How about playing beautiful music at home, at work, in the car? What about being selective about the kinds of movies and TV shows you watch? You will if you allow and tune into your increased sensitivity naturally know which sounds are wholesome and which aren't. It is just whether you choose to accept these messages and act on them or not.


Touch: touching your belly you send little ripples through the waters of your womb. Moving rhythmically with conscious breathing, like we do in yoga class, massages your baby's skin, which as she gets bigger stimulates all the body systems in their development. The baby as it is squeezed by contraction-expansions or surges is massaged. As it passes through the birth canal and out into the world it is squeezed thoroughly and its lungs stimulated into action. There have been many studies about children born by caesarian which suggest a link between a sense of personal boundaries and physical and emotional security and this pressing during vaginal birth. I have one child born by caesarian and the second two vaginally and I can testify to the difference in terms of the first having wanted to be physically squeezed as a little child, to get a sense of where his own body stops and the outside world begins, and to feel safe so he can relax. Vaginal birth seems to provide an important experience for babies, which if they don't get it it creates a need which seeks to be filled in other ways. And of course touch releases oxytocin in humans – the hormone of love and calm and belonging. Humans need to be touched. Babies that are fed but not held do not thrive. Adults who are not hugged and touched are also likely to feel less connected and loved and therefore so not thrive as they might – not hard to understand! So being touched, having massage, being intimate in ways you enjoy in pregnancy... All helping develop your baby's touch sense in the womb.


Sight: the baby begins to see in the womb – diffused of course through the waters of the womb and through the limited light let in through the skin of your belly. But seeing none the less. Think of it that what your eyes see translates into sense impressions, moods, physiological states, thoughts, feelings, states of consciousness .. and these are passed on invisibly to the baby. So be aware of the sights you are seeing, as you are seeing for two. Nature would have to be the most healing thing to see. Consciously see it daily if you can if you want your baby to grow into a sensitive, awake person.


Taste: baby starts to sip your waters and taste them. The second taste is you. Your colostrum, the first yellowy think precursor to milk. Your skin. Sense of belonging is also sealed through this tasting. What you taste and HOW you taste it in the pregnancy will also invite an aliveness to the wide world of taste. Your sense of taste is also finely tuned to show you which foods are good for you and which not in pregnancy. So you can trust that.


Smell: Smell comes last, as it needs air and there is only air when your baby comes “Earthside” or hits the atmosphere. From inner space to Earth space. Although when you look at a new born sometimes they seem to come from outer space, or look ageless, timeless. Your baby navigates their way to your breast and nipple not through sight of course, but through smell, the deepest, oldest sense. If you put your newborn to your breast they will probably snuffle around like a little animal with eyes closed to find the nipple. These are survival instincts but also an essential part of emotional bonding, deep security of attachment, sense of belonging and of being welcome and loved. Also if you bring your baby to the breast very soon after birth it increases the likelihood that breastfeeding will flow easily for you both. I will always be grateful to the midwife who got me to bring my first newborn (by emergency caesarian) to my breast after the birth. Those moments of him suckling and connecting so readily with me made everything seem ok.


Just an aside, the order in which the senses depart as death approaches is exactly the reverse of the above...


So the upshot of all this? You are sensitive! Yes! That's because you're a sophisticated being who brings new life into the world! If you weren't sensitive we would have a lot of damaged babies .. and seeing women who have clouded that sensitivity through alcohol or drug use or through an excess of trauma leading to shut down of sensitivity is the exception that proves the rule. On a gross physical level your sensitivity ensures the safety of your baby's health. On a more subtle level your sensitivity means your baby is nourished on an emotional and spiritual level, starting in the womb, as it means you will want to change certain moods, behaviours and environments to feel better, meaning your baby feels better. We also say in these teachings that your baby's mind (negative, positive and neutral minds) are shaped in the womb, through your own equivalent minds. So the whole timbre, atmosphere and vibration of your thoughts, not the content, because the baby is in a non-conceptual, pre-verbal state, is transferred to them and actually SHAPES them. So all your courage, openness and love is transferred. Troubles and challenges may well arise, and often do!! So its not to say wrap yourself in cotton wool for nine months. That's not possible for one, and it's also not life! So not that. But rising to meet the challenges presented with all your inner resources is what your baby will learn. They too will face challenges in their life, you betcha! So how will they face them? What model is laid deep in the dark pre-verbal time of the womb?


Don't be scared by this! I know some might be! Breathe. Trillions of babies have been born and there will be trillions more. Being kind with yourself, knowing you're ok and are the perfect one for your baby already, is a good place to start feeling good and ok. Life is not a pony yard (a translation of a German saying.. life is not a field of daisies?). Human dignity also comes from facing hard things and growing through them. So we're not talking polyanna here. So embrace your sensitivity! The dark with the light. The sunshine with the rain. The pleasure with the pain. You, after all, are a divine and noble woman, an intimate part of nature, and nature is happening inside you right now, initiating you into its secrets. You are your baby's first and most important teacher. You don't have to try. You just are. And you are up to the challenge and you will grow into it. Nature gives you 9 months and then the rest of your life to learn. It's kind like that.

The only thing about birth you can really control - your inner atttitude

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Wednesday, July 16, 2014


The previous post I wrote on this blog was about choosing your care provider for birth. There's much that can be done to create an EXTERNAL context which is as supportive as possible to you during pregnancy, birth and beyond. In fact, in life in general, right? Genuine, caring relationships in life, an occupation that is meaningful, a physical environment that lets you relax and feel secure on a material level. All these and more are factors which are supportive to happiness and contentment.


But are they the CAUSE of happiness and contentment? Is it also possible to feel happy when the outer circumstances are not ideal? I certainly hope so, since how often do we experience “perfection” in our life circumstances? How much is life rather more a coming and going, in a state of perpetual change and flux? Whether it's things like losing a job, a friend, moving house or challenges in relationships or as a woman the effects of the continual cycling of the moon and your menstrual cycle, or during pregnancy the wilder flux of emotions.... change is the only constant. And yet, don't we invest energy into trying to make things stable? Trying to bring about more of what we like and less of what we don't like? How successful are we ultimately in this? Is there another way?


There's a great saying: “Relax. Nothing's under control.” This suggests a paradigm shift. And this is what I want to write about today.


How liberating! Many women when I ask them in Mama Baba Yoga, when they come back to yoga after the birth, about what their journey of becoming a mother has revealed or taught them so far, say a similar thing: becoming a mother is showing me that I am not in control. And imagine! Almost all women say that this understanding comes as a relief, a source of relaxation and pleasure.


So while you can have a great deal of influence on the outer circumstances of the birth – where it is , with whom, under which conditions and in which atmosphere – you will never be able to control it completely. The person you were counting on to be there can't be there. Something comes up during the birth that means an intervention becomes necessary, you are held up in traffic, someone in the room is in a bad mood.. Uncountable factors subject to variation. What is the ONLY thing you can control?


Your mind.


Do you have control of your mind?


If the answer to this question is anything but an emphatic yes you belong to the vast majority of humanity. Your mind is the fastest thing on earth. Yogis say a thousand impulses are released from your mind per second, some of which become thoughts. Your mind is super active, a measuring, analysing, comparing, assessing tool, without which we couldn't exist in this world. But are you your mind? Are you these thoughts? Or are you something beyond your mind, bigger than these thoughts, or a context for these thoughts? Thoughts are constantly changing and moving. Is there anything that is still?


In yoga we say the mind is there to SERVE the soul, so we cultivate mastery of the mind and recognise its limitations. We practice quietening the mind so that in the stillness the truth that is always there beneath the movements of the thoughts can be revealed. Thoughts produce a lot of turbulence, like choppy water, stirring up sand or mud, making the water cloudy. It is then not possible to see through to the bottom of the water. By stilling the mind the waves subside, the water becomes still, and the treasures always lying there on the bed of the sea, waiting to be discovered, reveal themselves. So in meditation, having done the work of quieting your mind, what may well reveal itself is a quiet inner joy. How amazing. Under all the commotion, a quiet inner joy. A spaciousness that you crave.


This is what is meant by happiness that is not dependant on outer circumstances. And cultivating your access to this inner calm and contentment is in my opinion the BEST THING YOU CAN DO to prepare for the birth, but also to prepare for the challenges and joys of being a parent.


How? Let me highlight a contrast in 2 ways of being. In one way of being it is rather a way of doing. Our nervous systems are in a constant process of balance and adjustment. The sympathetic nervous system reacts to stress. Stress in itself is a non-emotional, neutral things. There are stressors in life – things that call for a response on our part. In ancient times the stressors were threats to our existence – wild animals, enemy tribes, threatening imbalances in the elements. These days they are traffic, job stress, unrealistic expectations, financial issues, overstimulation etc etc. Our stressors are further removed from the basics of survival. They are mostly not existential threats. And yet, we get very stressed. How is that?


This is not the place for a deep look at modern life, but the mechanism and message is the same: it is not the stressors themselves that matter, it is our REACTION to them that matters. And those reactions happen in our minds. Is it traffic that is stressful? Or is it the thoughts that follow that create the stress? Here I am wasting my time! How many years of my life will I spend sitting at red lights? I'm going to be late. What will happen when I'm late? I've been late 3 times this week! Maybe I'll lose my job if I keep being late! Etc etc etc. And what is happening in your body while these thoughts are coursing through your mind? A tightening in your chest? A closing in your throat? A hunching in your shoulders? Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises. You feel stressed, like there's not enough time or space and the pressure is mounting.


In short, your sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, leaps into action, to get ready to attack or defend. And yet, where is the enemy? Your mind has created this reaction out of the situation and is engaged in shadow boxing. It may or may not be true that your being late will have consequences, but certainly the WAY you RESPOND if this happens will be influenced by how stressed or not stressed you are about it. In other words, your experience of reality is totally subject to your reactions to it. Others also respond to us by taking in the state we are in and in turn reacting, so it creates a chain of events which then take on a certain reality in appearance.


In default drive, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. We get stressed. We know this. At least if it's not pleasant, it's known to us, and in this way, paradoxically, somehow a “safe” situation. What is less known to most of us is the alternative.


What IS the alternative to letting the mind react and run riot, creating a physiological reaction of stress and even fear? The alternative is to RESPOND. Respond is very different to react. The main ingredient that makes the difference is....... AWARENESS.


This is what all yoga is about. Awareness. Slowing things down so that we have a CHOICE. We can't control outer events, but we CAN choose our RESPONSE to them. When we respond rather than react, we create an opening in our EXPERIENCE of the rush of events, a pause, and then... we have a choice.

How to get to this more spacious space, where there is choice? The easiest way, the common way as a golden thread through all practices, whether ancient, spiritual, modern, scientific: the breath.


The breath.


On the inhale when you are aware of inhaling you balance your sympathetic nervous system.

On the exhale when you are conscious of exhaling you balance your parasympathetic nervous system.

In stead of fighting events and the stress that reaction in default drive, the absence of awareness, brings, we simply BE WITH what is happening. And we stay with what is happening, in awareness, by staying with the breath. Consciously inhaling, consciously exhaling.


This, friends, is the most direct way to influence your mind. Use the breath, slow it down, make it conscious and deep, and within seconds the chop caused by turbulent thoughts in the ocean of self begins to calm. After a few minutes, miracle of miracles, you may even find that underneath the chop and turbulence was always a feeling of calm and okayness. From this perspective, in this psycho-physiological state, things look very different. Much more manageable. New and creative solutions may even rise up out of the depths. Solutions the mind could never arrive at with its thinking. Which happens first: the mind slowing which then creates more balance in the nervous system, or the nervous system balancing, which creates more calm in the mind? Who knows? Does it matter if it works?


These days this practice of BEING rather than DOING, of slowing down and being aware of your breath, of noticing all the sensations of your body and seeing thoughts arise and letting them pass away without attaching to them or feeding them, is called Mindfulness. However, humans have always had minds and this is really just a packaging of truths that are eternal, not specific to any one time or space. In essence, instead of running and chasing and doing and trying to solve, you STOP, BREATHE, FEEL and BE. That's meditation. And meditative mind is by nature intuitive.


This brings us to the how of being with birth. Being with birth.

Birth is a process which we can't control. Birth happens not in the modern neo-cortex of the brain, but in the limbic part of the brain, which is much older. It is emotional and instinctive, not rational and logical. You don't DO birth. In birth, all you have to do is stay connected to that older part of your brain. Everything will happen then. And you do this through your breath.


No doubt, birth involves very strong sensations. Intense contracting and expanding of uterus and cervix in a wave like pattern. The best analogy for birth I have found is that it is like surfing. Each surge or rush comes (aka contraction) and it is your choice as to whether you will ride the waves, fight them or try to get away from them. I can tell you, as you instantly know yourself, that the first option is the only one that really works!


So how? One thing is, and this is a thing you can practice to great effect all through pregnancy, to learn to not fight the sensations. What you resist persists is the eternal truth to look at here. As I said above, our minds tell us we should avoid all discomfort if possible, and yet the more we fight against things we don't like, the stronger they seem to become. We turn our experiences into the enemy and then we fight. This is just an assessment of the mind. How could sensations that are part of getting your baby out into the world be the enemy? They are the friend!! Just turning your perception around in this way will make a HUGE difference to how you EXPERIENCE them. YOU CAN CHOOSE.


So this is why in pregnancy class we practice the birth preparation exercise. It is a challenging arm exercise in which strong physical sensations come up and you learn how to BE with these sensations, without avoiding them. What you are invited to learn, is that when you open yourself to and accept ALL the sensations – and feelings – that you have, they can be revealed as not the enemy at all. A sensation that you welcome, allow and embrace will transform. Consciousness, then, your conscious choosing of your RESPONSE, creates transformation. By staying open and curious (states which the hormone responsible for the rushes, oxytocin, naturally brings about), the sensations can be integrated into your overall experience in a whole new way. You RESPOND with awareness to your experience, you BE with it, just as it is. More than REACTING to or trying to DO something to get away from the sensations of birth, experiencing yourself as being reluctantly dragged through it, you become an active, willing participant.

Luckily, you have a load of help for this, coming from your own internal hormone cocktail. I have written other posts about this cocktail. Oxytocin is the hormone of love and connection. It makes you open, curious and empathetic. You can be empathetic with your self! Kind and compassionate with yourself. The more kindness and compassion you can bring the more beautifully you will sail through it. Kindness and compassion create an oozing of oxytocin, therefore stronger, more effective surges of waves. Oxytocin is also combined with vasopressin in the birth, which makes you courageous. You will need courage to rise up to meet the strong sensations of birth and not run away, to stay breathing and present throughout. BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT.


Added to this you have during birth endorphins – nature's pain killer. Each rush comes like a wave (a SIMULTANEOUS contraction of the uterus and expansion in the cervix) AND BETWEEN THE RUSHES ARE PERIODS OF REST! Capitals because we normally emphasise the rushes, whereas you spend MUCH more time during birth between waves than actually riding them. MUCH more. Anyone who has really surfed knows this. And so what is happening then? Well, in reactive, fight/flight, fear mode, in between you will be suffering from the last wave, anticipating the next painful one, contracting in your mind and body rather than opening and expanding, feeling overwhelmed and stressed, even panicking and trying to get away from the experience. Is the next rush going to feel more or less painful? Right, more. Alot more.

OR, you are resting. Recovering. Opening. And enjoying! Yes, enjoying. It is a high, a good, happy feeling, with those endorphins and that oxytocin running through you. So you can relax and savour it. Enjoy the peace. Really drop into the peace. Be with your breath, your true friend and golden thread throughout. Consciously inhaling and exhaling, balancing your nervous system, calming your mind, bringing loving kindness to every cell and to your baby's every cell. Maybe even going to sleep for a few minutes, later in the birth when you may be tiring. And when the first signs of the next rush come, welcoming them, allowing them, saying yes to them. Breathing consciously to stay present, riding to the peak of the wave and then gently surfing back down the other side. The actual peak will only last a few seconds. Most of it is building and subsiding. And then resting at the bottom of the wave, basking in the peace until the next one.


That's all you have to do. Sounds easy right? Actually, if you stay in the moment it may not be easy exactly, but it certainly is a challenge you are up to. Certainly. The problems only come when you start listening to your mind and fearful or resistant thoughts, which creates an imbalance in the sympathetic nervous system and a physiological state of fear in reaction to danger.


So while nothing is under control, THIS IS TOTALLY UNDER YOUR CONTROL. It's the only thing that is under your control, but it is also the most significant thing in determining HOW you will experience the birth subjectively. Wow. That's pretty cool.


Big news: This is also a NO MATTER WHAT scenario. It is not true only under certain conditions, but UNDER ALL CONDITIONS. So if something should happen before or during the birth that you hadn't planned for and thought you didn't want even, you can STILL choose what happens next on an internal level. Will you react, letting your mind add all sorts of layers to the facts of reality, jumping fearfully into what ifs in the future or replaying unhappy scenarios from the past to prove its point, or will you simply stay present? If you can stay present in this present moment and breathe consciously, I promise you your perspective will change. There may well still be emotions of disappointment, fear, anger, sadness, and they are all welcome and have their place. So allow them to be there, be kind and compassionate to all that arises, breathe, create an opening in the rush of events.. and from here take your time to respond. You will never regret a response, because in responding you are really giving yourself a chance to draw on all your inner and outer resources accessible in that particular moment to respond to the situation. In reacting you are not giving yourself time to consider deeply. Your deeper resources are not available – your creativity, true intelligence, wisdom, compassion and strength – and nor are you likely to investigate and possibilities and consult about alternatives on the outer level and so you make a choice that is not really a choice. THAT, you may later regret.


So this is in no way suggesting there is a perfect birth to aim for and anything else is a failure. Not at all. This idea is, when you think about it, also a construct of the mind that wants to control things, which as we have seen is a flawed premise for living. We say in Kundalini Yoga humanology that the soul of the baby chooses you, in full beyond time and space knowledge of all that you are, so from this perspective there is a level that is entirely out of our control and even comprehension and yet perfect just as it is. Reactive mind cannot understand this, but responsive awareness can certainly apprehend and touch it, and FEEL a sense of understanding and acceptance. Which brings peace. Even leaving soul out of it, the choice as to how to respond is still always there.


So let all this encourage you deeply. You will be getting the sense that developing a conscious habit that breaks the habit of default drive could bring a great deal of richness to not only birth but also to the life you already live, and to the life that lies before you as a parent. For what do our children need from us more than anything, more than any special pram, carrier, bed or toy? US. Our presence. Our awareness. Our loving, open attention and kindness. Pregnancy and birth are the training ground – a blessing and an opportunity, NO MATTER WHAT.

The Process of Choosing a Health Care Provider

Jai Ram Kaur Hergo - Friday, July 11, 2014


Very likely you are reading this because you are pregnant. And perhaps you are thinking of joining pregnancy yoga classes with me. Have you already thought about who will be your care providers for your pregnancy and birth? Or are they already chosen?


In this post I would like to share some things with you that may help you a.) in choosing where and with whom you would like to give birth or b.) in building a relationship of trust with the care providers you have already chosen.


But first, why is this important? If this is your first pregnancy, where everything is new and you have no measure from past experience, even the context that gives rise to this question might not be clear. So here I will try to help you into a place from where you are more aware of what is informing your choices and how you may be able to influence outer circumstances to make them most conducive to what you want, which is a healthy, happy baby and a healthy, happy you.


Many of you reading this will I suppose also be intending to have a birth with minimum to no medical intervention, so I would like to support you in this. There is much that can be done from WITHIN yourself, to help create the context where this becomes more possible, and this is what we practice in my pregnancy yoga classes. Ultimately, so much is OUT of our control, so the best thing you can do is to prepare for the unexpected and develop attitudes and skills that will help you, NO MATTER WHAT. AND there is also a lot that can be done on an external level to help create an environment where a birth in which you are aware and present and peaceful becomes simply more likely.


By the time women come to my classes they have most often already chosen a health care provider and where they will birth (waiting lists are often long and you have to move fast!). So hopefully here I will catch some women who have not yet chosen.. as well as, as I said before, giving some tips as to how to maximise the good in the relationships if there are no other alternatives.


For many women, birth will happen in a hospital. It's a good idea to visit the hospital and take the tour. Get a feeling for the place and the staff. You can then ask your questions. In general, hospitals are systems which operate according to procedures and schedules. This by nature puts the hospital as institution at cross purposes with the process of birth. In her great book, Mindful Birthing – Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, Nancy Bardacke highlights the difference between Institutional Time, which hospitals follow, and Horticultural Time, the time inhabited by a pregnant woman and her baby. Horticultural Time has its own inner logic. It is nature-driven. A seed is planted and if the ground is fertile and the conditions are right it will grow. 9 months that seed is nourished into a plant in your womb. Nature ripens in its own time and eventually when the fruit is ready it will drop from the tree. This is not a process that can be manipulated or pushed, any more than nature can be pushed. We are learning on a global level what happens when nature is pushed.


In the process of pregnancy and birth we are asked to approach the experience in a certain way – to be patient, humble and allowing. Each fruit (baby) has its own time, a result of a multitude of visible and invisible factors. (In this analogy the sunshine comes from the love from your heart and the other hearts that shine on this baby.. a topic for another day!).


The hospital system will try to influence nature with various interventions. This is not to say that medically trained people do not have the well being of you and your baby at heart. They do. But just as we are likely to go into auto pilot mode and do things just because we haven't considered alternatives or whether that thing is really the right thing at the time, so do they tend to go on auto pilot. An intervention applied just because it is procedure can have negative effects on the process. Just as an intervention applied as a result of a mindful and considered choice, that is applied with wisdom, has the potential to very positively influence the process. It is never the case of one thing is good and another bad. There is no substitute for mindfulness in each moment, as each moment has never happened before. This is what systems and institutions by their nature do not have programmed into them.


So when you go on your hospital tour, you will want to find out how much you can influence the process.


  • For example, asking what the caesarian rate is in the hospital is important. The World Health Organisation says 15% of births as caesarian is reasonable. In many hospitals in Australia, one third and sometimes higher is more likely.


  • Ask about induction and when the policy is to induce. These days women are increasingly being induced before term. Studies clearly show that babies born when they are ready to do so suffer from many less problems, particularly respiratory, during and after birth. Also, induced labours are twice as likely to end in caesarian.

  • Also ask about the use of sintocinon, the synthetic oxytocin used to “speed up” labour.
  • I have written another post on the relationship between sintocinon and epidural and the natural hormone cocktail in birth. Some hospitals use sintocinon as a procedure. Used wisely, it can help speed up a stuck or slow labour. It can also cause stress for mother and baby, bringing sharper contractions and therefore increasing the likelihood of the need for epidural. So it is good to ask how the hospital views the use of it.

  • Also ask about foetal monitoring. If you are permanently hooked up to a machine this will limit your mobility, and in labour being upright and able to move is working with gravity and ensures a rich blood and oxytocin supply to your baby and womb. It can also be distressing to feel stuck. Can you be monitored intermittently, using a Doppler? This is a hand held device for hearing a baby's heartbeat as it responds to contractions or rushes or surges.

  • How about vaginal examinations? Having someone roughly investigate how dilated you are can actually cause your cervix to contract as a reaction, so enquire how often they are deemed necessary. Experienced midwives can tell how dilated a woman is by other signs. If the hospital will not err from policy on this, you (your partner or assistant) can ask the examiner during the birth to be very gentle and breathe expanding breaths during the exam, visualising an opening and softening happening at the same time.

  • What is the policy on eating and drinking in labour? Sometimes a hospital will forbid it, so that you will have an empty stomach in case you need to have a caesarian. However, being able to eat if you're hungry – something light and easy to digest like fruit or light soup – will keep your strength up. And drinking liquids is also very important. Having fluids through a drip will also limit your mobility.

  • How about after the birth? These days it is more widely understood, as it was in the further back past, that waiting for the cord to stop pulsating before cutting it delivers precious blood, nutrients and antibodies to the baby. What is the policy on this and if it differs to your own view, is there flexibility? How about skin to skin contact? The sense of touch being the first language of a baby, how precious it is for your baby to feel on its skin your skin, feel your warmth, hear your familiar heartbeat. Putting your baby to the breast for the first time within the hour after birth significantly increases the chances of you having no problems with breastfeeding and is a strong factor in that first bonding between you. Is the hospital prepared to wait before doing tests, giving injections etc. Also, find out what exactly the procedure is here, so you can research what these things are, in order to ask yourself if they are really necessary or if there are alternatives.

It must seem like a lot! And a lot of work. It is certainly possible to have a wonderful birth with minimum to no intervention in a hospital, with good relationships with staff, but to look at it very honestly: this is work you will need to do, energy you will need to expend, to make it possible. There are many factors and evidence to strongly suggest that it will not happen by default. That's just the reality. This is nobody's fault, and no need to get angry or upset about it. We are all humans in this together, each on our own particular journey. AND there is also no need to give over the power of choice. There are other possibilities.


You may as a result of a visit to the hospital (or conversation with your obstetrician) find that there is too much of a mismatch for your satisfaction. Pay attention to your feelings during these conversations. If you feel comfortable in asking the questions, if you feel heard and welcome, this is a good sign for you. If you feel concerned or anxious that your views will not have a place in this setting, or that there may be no room for negotiation, go home and take time to consider whether there are alternatives. There is no right or wrong. Only by listening to yourself will you find the right way FOR YOU.


If you do feel that there is too much of a mismatch between you and the hospital, there are alternatives. There is in Perth the Family Birthing Centre, which provides midwife led care. If you are not in Perth find out if there are birthing centres in your area. In general the midwifery model of care is more Horticultural. It sees the woman in the centre of the process and is THERE for her, in her process. It emphasises the BEING over DOING way. BEING there for the process and giving it the TIME it needs, rather than thinking what needs to be DONE to move it along to fit into the procedural framework.

Here in Perth there is also Community Midwifery Centre, which provides midwife support for home birth and also a Domino programme, where your midwife accompanies you to the hospital.


Or there is the option of having a Doula – a trained birth assistant (not medically trained as a midwife, but aux fait with hospital procedures). She will be with you all through the birth and serve as an advocate for you in interface with medical staff, so you don't have to worry about this. She can also keep a close eye on you so that if an intervention might be wisely applied at any given time, she is in a position to recognise this and pose it to you so that you can decide together. In a hospital you will likely not have this kind of continuous care, as shift midwives will come and go. Evidence shows that women who have one person continuously there to support them (aside from the partner, who is mostly not trained) are much more likely to come through the birth without intervention.


A Doula can also be there for you after the birth, visiting you in hospital and at home and supporting you with breastfeeding. Simply knowing someone is at your side can be immensely helpful. She is definitely someone who follows the Horticultural Time way of thinking and is probably a strong advocate for this, since she has chosen this path for herself.


On a last note, my wish is that all this empowers you. I have come to see the whole process of preparing for birth as a kind of a modern rite of passage. Collectively, historically, we humans have come away from the view and experience of womanhood and motherhood as something natural, wholesome, divine and powerful. We women have contributed to this too. So going through this process CONSCIOUSLY and choosing consciously can for some women be a kind of reawakening to their own sensitivity, intuition, inner strength and capability to influence events. Not control events, but influence them. In fact, a huge lesson seems to be to learn that we are not in control. So much can happen in birth that is out of our control. So it is about creating as much of a conducive environment as possible, without it needing to be perfect.. and then letting go.


And this is where your own inner experience comes in. This is perhaps THE most valuable lesson of all: when you learn that no matter what, you can choose where and how to focus, when you learn that through your breath you influence your body and your mind, that you can find peace and calm in the midst of a storm, that happiness is your natural condition, no matter what... you have conquered your mind. And when you conquer your mind, you conquer the world. Not in a dominating way, but in the way of mastery. And this, dear women, is the highest skill you can take into life in general, and into parenting in particular, where emotions will run high, things WILL get irrational, and you will be challenged. To be able to breathe, find your centre, be strong and at the same time let go. In this way, birth is a training for life.

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