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More and more mothers-to-be are turning to Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa's gentle asana practice to prepare emotionally and physically for labor.

By Samantha Dunn

The Pain & Glory of Labor

"Mothers first need to explore how their minds relate to challenge. Do they run away? Cry? Get angry? Because labor magnifies that," says Davi. And that's where meditation comes in. Meditation as taught by the Khalsa Way focuses the attention at the third eye point, which relates to the pituitary gland and has a direct connection to the function of the uterus. "You focus there and then allow the body to do what it knows how to do," says Davi. "In other words, you get out of your own way and let the body do what it has known how to do for thousands of years."

The ability to focus through the pain of labor is the goal of meditation—not to obliterate the pain, but to be fully aware during the birthing experience. "Either you're a prisoner of your mind and your fears, or you're the ruler of your mind. That is the glory and the victory of labor," says Gurmukh. Adds Davi, "You get into a place in your meditative mind where you can find the spaces between pain. Think of yourself out on a diving board. It's the space between the diving board and the water in the moment you jump."

But more than that, "Meditation opens up your connection with the soul that is coming through you," Gurmukh believes. "We don't have a window or a zipper to see our babies inside of us. Since we can't see them, yoga gives us the chance to connect with them on another level. As a result you and your baby do the work together. Your birth is a partnership."

asanas to open the hips and strengthen the back are certainly a part of the Khalsa Way prenatal yoga system, but the real lesson of every class returns to the issue of mental strength. Holding a certain position might be uncomfortable, but by releasing the tension in your body and focusing toward the Infinite some inner strength is gained that is not otherwise measurable.

"Birth is physically challenging, of course," says Davi. "But you have to be like a marathon runner, calling on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strength. A lot of [pregnant] women come to yoga thinking, 'I'm going to swim and pump weights and walk, etc.' What they end up doing is constricting their bodies. But a relaxed body is a strong body." Relaxing into the pose thus becomes the perfect metaphor for childbirth.

The issue is not about being comfortable during labor. The Khalsa Way says that's impossible—labor wasn't meant to be comfortable. It's an issue of where you focus—learning to not be distracted by everything going on around you in order to focus on the inner process. "There is no magic position to get through labor. The magic is in the woman's mind and how she focuses," says Davi, who recommends walking in addition to yoga as the ideal exercise combination during pregnancy.

"I'll tell you a little story," Gurmukh says with a smile. "Once we were sitting around swapping birth experiences, and somebody asked me about my home birth at the age of 41. It was beautiful. They asked me, 'But did you make any noise while you were giving birth?' and I said, 'No, I was quiet.' Well, my husband happened to be there, and he looked at me like I was nuts and said, 'Gurmukh, you screamed your brains out.' To this day I can't even remember, I was so inside myself. Whatever was going on out there, including my own voice, was just not part of the reality of the moment."

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