More than a Doula: the Yoga of Birth.

Giving birth can be a way to come into connection with all of yourself and all of Life. In the deep physicality of the process, your feet find the ground, your voice resonates with the truth of who you are and your heart opens. You are present. You are whole. "I own this birth. It is mine," said a woman as she held her womb-wet son.

Giving birth with your autonomy intact is an act of freedom. Freedom is a state of love. They are indivisible. This understanding is embedded in the roots of our language. The Sanskrit word for "freedom" is priya, from the root pei: to love. Birthing in freedom is to love yourself, to love your child, to love Life. It is to know that you are a force of nature, as integral a part of this world as the winds and tides, sun and moon.

The challenge we face is that our health care system and the psychology and mythology of our culture as a whole are based on fear and the dissociation that results. Two pioneers in childbirth, the midwife Ina May Gaskin, and the obstetrician Michel Odent, address this with great insight and eloquence. Fear today is very strong. It presents an enormous obstruction to our freedom.

My work is to offer a way to freedom: to realize your unity with life. I do this through my work as a doula, helping women give birth, and as a yoga teacher. My work is to share what I know in friendship. The root of "friend" is the Old English word freon. Not surprisingly, it means "to love". Friendship is the only way to truly be of help to another.

In intimacy, you can let your Life flow. There is no greater union with Life than bringing it forth anew! Such love!

What is a doula?

A woman who devotes herself to the well being of a birthing woman and her baby before, during and after birth is referred to as a “doula”. She is skilled in protecting and nurturing the birth process.

A doula is not trained or responsible for any medical care. She does not work for any institution but is in direct relationship to the birthing woman and her partner/husband.  She works in the environment and amidst the health care providers they have chosen. A doula is not in competition with any healthcare provider be it nurse, obstetrician, or midwife, because her skills and role are unique.

From ancient times women all over the world have birthed in the intimacy of other women’s presence and protection.  Knowledge gained through giving birth oneself has been passed on, body to body, heart to heart.  A lineage of feminine wisdom has been  shattered in the last hundred years as women have moved from the privacy of home to the public space of the hospital. There birth is usually a controlled medical event rather than a spontaneous natural process.  In the last few decades women and their families have begun to reclaim the knowledge that is our birthright, supporting it with the medical assistance that is appropriate. Doulas are key to this reclamation.

What does current scientific research say about the effect of a doula’s presence?

In 2003 the largest review done to date on the effect of “Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth” was released.  It involved 12,791 birthing women in 11 countries. “Concerns about the… dehumanization of women’s birth experiences have led to calls for a return to continuous, one-to-one support by women for women during labour (Klaus 2002).”   And this support “reduces a woman’s likelihood of having pain medication, increases her satisfaction and chances for spontaneous birth, and has no known risks.”

Interestingly, with continuous support a woman’s experience of birth was positive even when major medical intervention was a part of the process.  Fewer women reported feeling low levels of personal control.  Research suggests, and experience confirms, this feeling of autonomy and positivity lays the foundation for a calm and confident time in the early months of being a mother and is accompanied by greater breastfeeding success. 

The Review’s conclusion is powerful in its simplicity:All women should have support throughout labour and birth.

What do you and your baby need in order to give birth?

The life that expresses itself through you and that will move so powerfully during the birth of your child is unique in form.  Yet there are universal conditions that nurture this Life. 

What is unique about Crescence’s work?

What distinguishes my work as a doula is my understanding that birth is yoga.  I weave the practical, simple, yet powerful tools of yoga into the process.  I used my connection to my breath, my voice and my body in giving birth myself, so I have a visceral knowledge of how birth works.

Study with Mark Whitwell, an internationally renowned Yoga teacher, has refined my understanding and deepened my ability to participate in the Creative force.  Yoga is the knowledge of how life in its most primal and profound expression works.  I am in the rare position to be able to pass this on with “clarity and compassion.”

One of the keystones of Mark’s teaching is the understanding that only equal and ordinary relationship transmits yoga.  “Relationship moves the life force, nothing else.” 

When I heard this, I thought of how essential intimacy is in my birth work.  His statement confirmed from a technical yogic perspective the validity of my intuition.  And I gained a better intellectual understanding of why my work gives birthing women such power and grace.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is your simple and direct participation in the nurturing force of Life.  As such, it is a way to participate fully in Birth!  In your receptivity to Life, the strength of Life can move through you in its vast peace and power.

This intimacy with all experience is called the Natural State.  It is the unbounded state of heart and mind that allows spirit to take form in you.  It is pure love.

Yoga is not the suppression of women and the power of life that we embody.  The obvious fact that Birth is an expression of Life’s, and therefore woman’s, sexual and spiritual nature is unrecognized in our culture.  Recognizing that sex and spirit are one, that divinity is nowhere, if not in your own flesh and bones, brings great integration. In the context of Birth, you now have a complete container for your experience.

The Yoga of Birth: Love

Birth is love made tangible.  Man and woman come together and spirit takes form.   Boundaries dissolve: between heaven and earth, between past and future, between darkness and light.  Between all that opens and all that closes.  Between the world and us.

To give birth is to open.  We open so completely that what is inside of us comes out. Most obviously we open our bodies, but the greatest opening actually happens in our minds and hearts. We make space for our baby to move through us and in so doing, make space for all experience.  In merging with our experience, we realize we are not separate from Life!  We are Life!  Birth becomes an expression of our own aliveness, our own passion.

How do we open to birth?  How do we love?


Yoga is the technology of love and breath is its fundamental instrument.  In receiving an inhalation, we receive Life.  In releasing an exhalation, we release Life.  When we do this in labour, simply and effortlessly, when we become utterly receptive to what is moving through us and then release what we feel out into the world, we become a beautiful container for the energy of Birth.  Simultaneously, we become the energy of Birth!  In this way we embody the union of the Masculine and Feminine principles of Life: consciousness and energy, bliss and power.  We are Shiva and Shakti in union at the heart.


Breath released on the vibration of sound focuses and refines the energy of Birth.  This is so easy and natural to do in labour!  Sound is the resonation of Life.  It is embodied in the mantra Om, the sound of creation!  You can let your and your baby’s body resonate with the waves of contractions.  In this way you release what you are feeling, the pain and the pleasure, thereby freeing, organizing and harmonizing your systems.  Your birth will be as efficient and integrated as it can be.


In the ebb and flow of breath and sound, naturally you will move in whatever way feels good.  What will feel good is movement that allows you to breathe and allows your baby to spiral through your flesh and bones.  Gravity is immensely helpful to the mechanics of birth, but it is also reassuring to your mind.  As you open into the universe a tethering to the earth is a great comfort!

Spontaneous Meditation

In yoga practice asana, movement, gives the technical means to experience receptivity.  It is not there for its own sake; we move in order to breathe.  Pranayama, breathing, is not there for its own sake; we breathe in order to come into meditation.  Meditation is not there for its own sake; we meditate in order to be in direct intimacy with ourselves, and all of Life. 

These principles of yoga let your birth be a moving meditation. It just happens! Yoga practice is called sadhana,” that which can be done”.  Breathing, sounding and moving can be done by all of us. The gift of these simple actions is to enter a state of meditation in which the force of Life can move through you, bringing your child into your arms.

What stops us from opening, from loving?

Every woman has some degree of fear in giving birth because she is stepping into the unknown in the deepest way possible.  We touch life at its source; in fact we are the Source!  If we allow the entire process of birth to be enveloped in fear, however, we will have a scary, painful time.   Adrenalin floods our systems and our hearts race, our blood pressures rise, our bodies tighten, and our minds close. In this state it is impossible to give birth!  Labour does not progress or it never begins! 

Yoga calls this state duhkha, a feeling of darkness and restriction around the heart. One definition of yoga is that it is a means to reduce duhkha, or suffering.  Part of the experience of giving birth is the experience of pain, no matter how you do it! Rather than trying to avoid pain, you can soften to its force.  You can receive it.  You do this with your breath, your sound and your movement.  Being with your experience rather than reacting to it is yoga.  When you use your strength to receive, Life flows.  The result is sukha, lightness and comfort, happiness. In the integration of pain and pleasure is peace.

How can your partner’s presence facilitate your birth?

Your partner can receive you and respond to you.  This will allow your strength to flow.  It will also magnify your own receptivity and responsiveness.  In the mutuality of your relationship, the power of Life will move!  You will feel nurtured and safe, free to do what can be done.

There is great power in the sexual energy that moves between you.  Passion given and received transforms into com-passion.  You will give birth in love.  You will begin your life as parents with a deeper understanding of each other.  You will be joined at the root.

How does yoga continue after the birth?

During pregnancy your relationship with your child is established.  The two of you are in total unity, total intimacy.  This intimacy can be maintained once your child is born!  Breastfeeding makes this effortless.  It is a reunion.  But essentially, by remaining in skin- to- skin contact, spontaneously receiving and responding to your child, you will know your child and your child will know you.  This knowledge flows into all your interactions as s/he grows.  Family life becomes an experience of receiving each other rather than an exercise in mutual manipulation! 

In receiving someone, they affect us. This is true affection: love expressed not as sentimentality or conventional role-playing but as the empathy that flowers in relationship.  This is the source of mother-love.  Connected to this source, social definitions of  “good” mothering lose their persuasiveness as we trust in the wisdom of our own heart. In this there is great peace and pleasure.

The Doula Relationship

I bring the understanding of Life that authentic yoga gives us to the understanding of how Birth works. In doing so, I offer you and your family a complete container for receiving Life and giving Birth in wholeness, presence and grace.

The openness and intimacy of the birth process requires honesty from everyone involved. I am able to receive all of who you are, your truth. In our inhalation and exhalation, our silence and sound, we come into yoga, union, where you will know without a doubt what needs to be done. And you will be free to do it.

Dads, Partners, Grandmothers, Friends

I do not replace the father or anyone you are close to. Instead, I take away fear and enable them to help you in simple, practical ways. They can breathe and sound with you. Take turns massaging you and applying counter-pressure to relieve pain. Draw you a bath. Play music you like. Bring food and drink. Fear and anxiety melt and your family can participate in the birth in a deep, nurturing way. A doula is not just a gift to the birthing woman and her child but is a gift to all who love her.

 I’ve never taken a yoga class and am not particularly interested in studying yoga at this point. Could we still work together comfortably?

Yes. Birth is a human experience and what is needed is simple: to be in deep connection to your self. You do not need to be particularly flexible, fit or “spiritual” in order to give birth. I have worked with many women who have no background or interest in yoga. I gave birth to my daughter before I had ever set foot in a yoga class!

When I met Mark Whitwell, I realized that authentic yoga provided a complete paradigm for what happens during birth. The language of yoga is a way for me to speak about birth in a more accurate way than the mechanical view of conventional obstetrics. Giving birth however, does not require language or your intellect! I will not be discussing philosophy with you during labour!

Instead we will be participating in philosophy in what Mark says is the truest meaning of the word, “to love wisdom”, the wisdom of Life. All you need is your body, your breath, your sound and the freedom to use them. My presence can strengthen your ability to access this freedom.

I’m quite sure I would like an epidural at some point in my birth. Will you still work with me?

Yes!  I work with anyone who wants me to be with them, irrespective of how they anticipate giving birth.  I do not have an ideal that I am hoping you will realize so I am not sitting in judgement.  Every birth is different; every woman is different; every baby is different.  What is required at a birth is always unique.  Neither you nor I have any idea before hand what will be needed.  Birth is truly a step into the unknown.

I do know the principles involved in how birth works and how an epidural can affect the process. An epidural is often seen initially as the only way to give birth without suffering and this is not so.   An epidural is a powerful medical intervention that can do great good and great harm. I can be of help in your making a decision whether, when and how to use it.

I have been labelled “high risk”. I will have lots of necessary medical intervention at my birth.  Would you still be of help to me?

Yes, no matter what the conditions! Whether a “high risk” hospital birth, an uncomplicated home birth, or something in between!

The technology of yoga weaves its way through medical technology.  It is doubly helpful when the fear surrounding a birth is particularly high, whether that fear is coming from you, family or medical staff. Healing is non-linear. It can sometimes take quite unexpected form.  The heart of birth can be felt irrespective of the situation.

I am planning a home birth attended by midwives. Would you provide anything that the midwives don’t already?

My experience is that whether I am in the hospital or at the birthing woman’s home, what I provide is unique and greatly appreciated by my clients and the healthcare providers around us.

I bring a depth and breadth of skills and understanding to your pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of mothering that complement the skills and philosophy of your midwives beautifully. I make their job easier by being completely focused on you and your baby and they make my job easier by giving us all the trust, security and space needed to let the intelligence of Birth flow!

While my partner wants to support me, he is feeling squeamish about the intensity of the birthing process, on both the physical and emotional levels.  Are you comfortable with him taking a back seat or perhaps not being there at all?

Of course!  In many traditional societies, men are not present at Birth.  It is not a requirement for being a loving father.  And certainly if he is anxious, his presence will not be helpful!

That being said, it is common to find fear dissolves in the reality of the situation. I’ve seen many a worried father participate with calm wonder in the birth of his child.  I am there to help him receive and respond to you.  This will unfold according to the dynamics of your relationship. Men are socialized to take action in all situations.  Given permission to be still and simply take in can affect your relationship in beautiful ways!

If you have more questions, please call me. I can’t answer long lists of questions by email but I am very happy to speak with you. We can then set up a time to meet in person. I usually spend 45 min. to an hour with prospective clients.

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