I wanted to have a natural birth for as long as I’ve thought about having children. My mother birthed me and my three siblings without any pain medication or induction. Her retelling of those stories has always left me in awe and wondering if I was capable of the same. I had her as inspiration, and the support of those I surrounded myself with, but ultimately, it was Pranakriya yoga that gave me the tools to have the natural birth I envisioned.  

During the hours I was laboring with my daughter, I continually brought myself back to cultivating “watching mind.” I tried to observe myself experiencing the contractions, watching them start, increase in intensity and eventually subside. I imagined them passing over and through me like waves. This gave me enough pause to not immediately tense up or fight what my body was trying to do. I tried to let go of tension in my body where it wasn’t needed: relaxing my jaw, dropping my shoulders, and softening my hands. I did this in the same way that I’d scan my body for unnecessary stress during a challenging pose. I worked to let go of the story of “pain” and tried to observe the contractions as surges of energy or prana to which I didn’t have to attach any label at all. Rather than running from or pushing away the discomfort, I did my best to be present to it and to allow myself to fully experience it without judgement or story.

I’m not sure it looked like I was doing any of this from an observer’s perspective. And, there were definitely moments when I thought I was in the middle of an impossible task. But, the internal work made all the difference for me. It allowed my body to do what it was fully capable of without me and the stories I’ve been told standing in the way. Ultimately, I was blessed with the completely natural birth I had hoped for with no outside interventions. I had incredible support through 26 hours of back labor from a doula and my husband, but I truly believe that without everything I learned from my teacher Jacci and from her teacher Yoganand, and without my own practice at honing these skills, Madeline’s birth would have looked much different. 

My experience of Pranakriya yoga has been life changing in so many ways and in this particular instance it helped me bring a new life into the world. For that, I am forever grateful.  

Catherine currently teaches at Victory Power Yoga in Clayton, NC. You can find out more about her practice and teaching at www.catherinestriegel.com.