Holistic care for mums, mums to be, babies & children

Terms March 11, 2010

Ahimsa: This ancient Sanskrit word-concept is frequently translated as “nonkilling,” but this fails to convey the
term’s full meaning.  Ahimsa, in fact, is nonviolence in both thought and action – and the root of all other virtues
(Georg Feurstein).  In the Yoga tradition, the most fundamental of all moral injunctions is about nonharming.
Ahimsa also seems to be an organic quality of the prenatal human, sustained through conscious birth and joyful
parenting.  As pertains to fertility and birthing, Ahimsa invites us to completely change our approach to our
bodies, bodily functions, and cultural practices upon the gestating & newly born child, as the French obstetrician
Frederick LeBoyer so eloquently put forth in his classic “Birth Without Violence” and as described in the many
stories and essays in “Lotus Birth” by Shivam Rachana.

Ananda: Sanskrit for “ecstasy,”  “blissfulness,” and the essence of “complete fulfillment,” this principle holds
that innate joy is our birthright.  Facilitating a return to joyfulness is also about uniting with one’s highest self,
one’s intuition – and the combined practices of yoga asanas, conscious breathing, eye focus, and deep
listening meditation, are powerful tools.  These practices also apply to welcoming Ananda within sexual
partnership practices, labor & birth, and family life.

Asana: (Sanskrit आसन sitting down < आस to sit down[1]) is a body position,  intended primarily to restore and maintain a practitioner’s well-being, improve the body’s flexibility and vitality, and promote the ability to remain in seated meditation for extended periods.[2] These are widely known as Yoga postures or Yoga positions, which is currently practiced for exercise and as alternate medicine.

Ayurveda: Ayurveda is an Indian holistic system of health dating back 5000 years. The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit
words for ‘knowledge’ (veda) and ‘life’ (ayur). It takes a holistic approach, seeing mind, senses, body and soul as a
single entity. Its wisdom is as relevant today as it was 5000 years ago, offering us a ‘Users Manual’ for how to stay
balanced and healthy.

Cesarean Birth: Surgical extraction of a baby via an abdominal incision of the womb which involves cutting
through 7 layers of skin, faschia, and muscle, and temporarily dislocating the bladder.  This procedure
introduces a 12 times greater risk of death, with anesthesia and surgical complication factors – an important
informed choice risk.  Scheduled cesareans, becoming increasingly popular, completely circumvent the body’s
hormonal orchestration of labor – neither the baby nor the mother experience the transitions of the labor process
–  and induce a state of shock/trauma into the glandular system of both mother and baby which would ideally be
addressed with specialized counseling support and hormonal balancing practices such as Kundalini Yoga and
nutritional medicine.

The medical literature has shown a high correlation between cesarean surgery and lifelong sexual dysfunction
(for most but not all women), a little known fact to most pregnant women, and an apparently taboo subject in
current culture.  Unexpected Cesareans are a marvellous surgical art that are thankfully welcomed in organic
life-threatening scenarios.  However, they are most often associated with the use of electronic fetal monitoring
and its subsequent interventions, meaning that many healthy women who become hospital patients for
medically-managed labor have a built-in higher risk for Ceasarean surgery.  Postpartum Cesarean recovery
entails extreme discomfort and use of strong pain medication, great difficulty walking, reduced nursing
pleasure, a weak immune system, a much higher threat of significant Postpartum depression, and a negative
long-term effect on libido and orgasmic capacity can result.   Postpartum Doula home-care can help a woman’s
self-healing recovery by integrating her experience through feeling emotionally supported, through nursing her
baby and deeply bonding with her baby, as well as ease the mind of the new father, and ensure that healthy
food shopping and cooking are ongoing and that the home environment is cosy.

Conscious Conception: The art of incorporating full-spectrum Fertility Awareness techniques into one’s
personal lifestyle and thus consciously structuring one’s sexual behavior to enhance or avoid conception and
encourage general creative awareness as well as expand perceptions of erotic connection.

Not to be confused with the “Rhythm Method,”  Fertility Awareness involves a multi-faceted practice of 3 or
more of the following:  Daily cervix tone changes &  secretions observation, daily saliva “ferning” status via the
Lens, daily basal temperature charting, natal lunar phase adjustments, and dreams/energies.  It involves getting
to know one’s fertile windows of the month (5-7 days) and adapting one’s sexual behavior according to desired
outcome of conception or no conception.  Because of the self-discipline involved in making sexual behavior
changes during a woman’s most aroused and creative time of the month, Fertility Awareness requires
committed partners with a certain amount of maturity and imagination.  Additional Conscious Conception
practices for welcoming a conception are plentiful in the ancient cultures and Yoga traditions, such as specific
dietary, sexual, and spiritual practices to align with the Highest Good for a harmonious conception.

Doula: This word is taken from old Greek and describes a “Woman of Service” who provides personalized
nurturing care and spiritual support for a childbearing woman and her family.

The legacy of traditional birth attendants is long, yet the modern North American- based use of the term “Doula”
is very recent, encouraged by the hospital birth reform movement along with the advent of a medically licensed
midwifery which has taken the general term “midwifery” (meaning ‘the with-woman skills’) to define a primary
medical care provider for birth, often without homebased prenatal relationship, continuous labor support, or
domestic postpartum care   –   thus creating a bit of a language gap in describing various traditional healers,
faith-based midwives, and labor companions who work with women to support their health & healing. Some of
today’s birthworkers called “Doulas” are specializing in Labor & hospital and home Birth support, while others
may do primarily Prenatal Education, Postpartum care or a combination.  Each Doula is unique according to
her life path, experiential learning, and apprenticeship/training.  Some Doulas are also Nurses, Yoga Teachers,
Energy Healers, or Massage Therapists.

Drug-free Vaginal Birth: A low-intervention hospital birth, often with the active support and facilitation of
a Doula, and her role-modeling for the birth partner, as well as her respect of the couple’s privacy whenever
suitable.  Active support is often related to full mobility  (non-confinement to a bed, and minimal EFM) and/or
the laboring woman’s access to a warm water birthing tub.   Within the parameters of the institutional
environment, the fully aware mother-baby physiology and skin-to-skin reunion are made possible, with much
effort on the part of the Doula and laboring woman/couple to create a sacred space and protect a primal
integrity in spite of the necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) interruptions and many new faces and
communications that go along with the institutional environment.

Episiotomy: Cutting of the skin at the birth opening (perineal tissue) with surgical scissors, considered
genital mutilation by some.  90% of first-time  birthing women in U.S. hospitals in the 1990s had their genitals
cut, as a consequence of immobilized labor and anesthetized genitals combined with the obstetrical objective
to get the baby out as fast as possible, particularly with the typical concerns that arise about the baby’s
well-being after the impact of anesthetized labor and immobility on the part of the laboring woman.  Licensed
midwives carry the same scissors and have trained in the practice of cutting genitals, their episiotomy rate
being typically only 3-5%.  Non-medical midwives of yesteryear as well as today do not practice genital cutting
in their repertoire.   Though episiotomy is considered a necessary follow-on after medication during birth and
immobility of the birthing woman,  and in scenarios of shoulder dystocia, it introduces the likelihood of a first
degree tear over the entire perineum, started by the cut (the reason for the vast majority of first degree tears to
begin with).  It also involves a 2 week recovery of very painful urination, uncomfortable warmth around the
sutures,  and a scar for life.  Preventing episiotomy is a whole realm of birth preparation work and midwifery
techniques worth investigating even before conception and includes pelvic floor strengthening exercises,
perineal self-massage, the use of warm water immersion during labor, lateral hip joint lift and/or pelvic double
helix movement during second stage, and clitoral massage/climaxes during labor – thus the benefits of the
non-institutional environment.

Freebirth: A term brought to our language by Jeannine Parvati, Freebirth is an attempt to describe the
innate intactness of mammals born free in the wild rather than in captivity.  As pertains to human beings,
Freebirth is a positive frame for what is otherwise called Do-It-Yourself-Birth or Unassisted Childbirth, where
the woman chooses to labor and give birth in her home habitat unto herself, or with her love partner.  Many
hundreds of modern women in North America and Australia (including many with advanced degrees) have
consciously chosen this approach to the rite of passage known as childbirth, and their experiences and
discoveries are a fascinating resource for those interested in evolutionary psychology and optimal self-healing.

Intuitive Doula:
This title denotes the orientation of independent, intuitive training, and reflects a repertoire
of skills that are non-quantifiable, incorporating an approach more akin to non-medical midwifery along with a
diversely modern range of experiences in prenatal, birth, and postpartum care.  The Intuitive Doula, not to be
confused with a Certified Doula who is intuitive, sources her professional validation within the lineage of
traditional  birth attendants,  vocational gifts, apprenticeship, and the clients who ask her to work with them.
Certified Birth Doula for example, reflects a general title that conveys attendance of several weekend trainings,
and  base number of supervised birth attendance, often within a short period of time, regardless of the actual
life experience and higher education of the Doula.  Thus, some Certified Doulas may actually have less diverse
experience and education than some independent or Intuitive Doulas and vice versa.   Intuitive Doulas value the
birthright and historical legacy of intuitive service and are not inclined to obstetrically-supervised criterion or
legislation (similar to traditional Midwives), while also valuing community and collaboration with all Doulas.

Lotus Birth: This approach combines the modern values of natural birth with a mind towards facilitating a
paradigm of peace and unity for the baby, mother & father, and world family upon birth.  Viewing birth as the
entry of a holy child into the world, Lotus Birth honors the Yogic value of Ahimsa (non-violence) and throughout
labor and birth welcomes the baby as perfect as a full bloom Lotus, coming directly from the divine and borne
through the heart of the mother/couple down to earth.  Lotus Birth incorporates the values of dignity, ecstatic
physiology/drug-free laboring, sexual integrity, and respectful, gentle receiving of the baby to the mother’s
bosom upon birth.

In this context, the original integrity of the amazing newborn to its wombside companion – the umbilical cord –
and its “grandmother” – the placenta, is honored without thought of cutting.  Along with the benefits of
extended-delayed cord cutting, the energetic body of the baby is intimately connected to the “power-pack” of
the placenta and the familiarity of the cord at the belly.   The art of preparing and wrapping the baby’s placenta
and cord on preservative herbs, caretaking, and handling the lotus-baby and its attached “lilypad,” can be
easily learned.

Several days pass, from 4-8 depending on climate conditions, and one day the dried cord dissolves itself from
the baby’s belly.  Lotus Birth offers a restoration of full respect and attunement to the baby, and thus to everyone

Lotus Birth is a vehicle for women/couples to make a major leap towards restoring full awareness of the
awesome newborn and offering the holy babe a royal welcome into a peaceful world.  Present hospital practice
is to dispose of the baby’s placenta and cord as “medical waste” – but some midwifery-run birth centers are
able and willing to facilitate Lotus Birth.  There are not many visual resources to date of the beautiful and artistic
Lotus Birth experience… the most beautiful ones are often not photographed.  Much of the photography that can
be found today does not do justice to potential for Lotus Birth to be exquisitely beautiful.

Lotus Fertility: Approaching fertility as the adept approaches Yoga postures, the Lotus is seen as a
metaphor for the self-healing practices of all the body’s different energy centers/chakras, from deep within.
From that inner place of released tension/fear, and restored joy and pleasure, the movement of new aliveness
radiates out and causes healing shifts in attitude, vitality, vocation, and relationships to occur.   The Lotus
Fertility approach is particularly well-suited to Yoga practitioners, however anyone who appreciates the
approach can benefit from it because we are all born to bloom.

Moksha: The Sanskrit word for “liberation regardless of conditions” also “emotions without commotion.”
The tendency towards emotional liberation and more neutrality towards the world at large is an obvious change
that is written about in the yogic tradition as coming from sadhana, daily practice with a devoted heart.  Daily
centering of awareness in the body, in a harmoniously arranged  indoors or outdoors setting, is a great relief for
the emotional weight of being a natural woman, and a vehicle for Moksha.  It is said that the earliest adult yoga
practitioners were women, yoginis,  who gathered together in the forest before proceeding with gathering of the
day’s fruits for meals to practice yoga & meditation as a coping mechanism for the demands of village life.

Natural Birth: Birth of a child without medical interventions or drugs (from doctors or medical midwives).
From an anthropological perspective (see the work of Robbie Davis-Floyd Ph.D), though some hospitals and
birth centers may offer low-intervention approaches, planned out-of-home birth triggers different neurological
factors, creates different coping behaviors for environmental triggers and thus is, in this framework, unnatural.

Natural Fertility:
This approach celebrates Fertility Awareness practices and focuses on the creative
self-healing journey of the Bodymind.  Fertility is defined as “that which creates”, be that a baby, book,
business, or art projec, and particularly within the hormonal (cyclical) and biological (natal lunar) fertile times.
Within the natural fertility paradigm, no one is truly “infertile,” and the ability to respond to Life in general is the
key focus.  Not surprisingly, in this mode, many previously “barren” women and men end up with more
aliveness, a fresh perspective, pregnancies, as well as a true heart for adoption.

Rasayana: An ancient ayurvedic and yogic concept, the Sanskrit word “rasayana” has to do with “vitality
enhancement” on a food-medicine  level and “juiciness” on a personal, glandular level in terms of brightness of
eyes, health & flow of bodily fluids, and flexibility of joints.  Orgasm as well as birthing can be an expression of
one’s Rasayana, and Rasayana helps sexual response and birthing.

Vaginal Birth:
Delivery of a baby through the genitals via medical inducement and/or anesthesia.   Can
often involve  the domino effect of interventions:  IV (fluids and doses of hormones), confinement to a bed, EFM
monitoring, fetal scalp monitor, cutting of the woman’s genitals,  and assisted extraction (vacuum or forceps).
Cutting of the vulva, episiotomy, entails a significant time of postpartum sutures recovery pain upon walking and
urinating.  The successful epidural administration of anesthesia in particular creates a mind-body dissociation
as the vehicle for delivery, which can actually be a humane and welcome path for a dysfunctional labor
pattern/heart-womb complications.  Research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in the late 1990s definitively showed
that bipovocaine, the drug commonly used in epidurals, affects the postpartum baby in many significant ways
and is measurable in the baby’s blood, most particularly when administered for 6 hours or longer.  The typical
epidural is 6 hours or longer.

Yoga: “Every person, whether Westerner or Easterner, has done the 84 postures of Yoga in the womb of the
mother.  So you are yogis already.”  – Yogi Bhajan

Yoga aspires towards restoring remembrance of an original unity consciousness, facilitated through a variety of
practices:  asana (body postures), pranayama (breathwork), mantra (focusing the mind with sound-current
singing of key words), meditation, and ethical intentions to name a few.  Yoga was originally practiced by
women 5000 years ago – the word “Yogini” in old Sanskrit was associated with wise-women of the old witchy
kind, probably due to the fact that women gathering together for mutual support and the development of wisdom
eventually was seen as a threat to patriarchal heirarchies which eventually arose. Primary reasons for yogini
daily practice those thousands of years ago had to do with creating a coping mechanism for the many
emotional stressors and physical demands of village and family life – today’s Yoga practitioners often cite
stress-reduction and self-healing as their main attraction to Yoga.  There are different forms of Yoga routines
and postures, brought by different teachers  to the West, for example Ashtanga, Hatha, and Kundalini.