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I came home from a birth early morning yesterday. Two hours from the first contraction to the last, its speed required me to be extraordinarily receptive to what was happening moment by moment. Timing was everything. The trust my client and I had in each other made it work. I had been with her for the births of her first two children and I truly knew her. I’ve been connected with hundreds of women in this way now. Invisible threads link us together in a fantastic web. Two nights ago, the thread with this client was taut and glistening; I had packed my bag, laid out clean clothes, done my yoga and gone to bed early. I was ready for her. Two hours later, her husband woke me. From my place to theirs, to the hospital parking lot, triage and finally the labour room, we moved with focus and calm. In a birth so fast, the intensity of what’s moving is immense and we had the strength to receive it.
Grace poured down. I did very little. My client didn’t need my touch or voice. We barely spoke. She already knew how to give birth. And yet she wanted me with her. So did her husband. Why? My feeling is that it was for the connection we have. She trusted it with her life. In the web of it, she was free. Real intimacy is generally absent in ordinary society and yet it’s essential for birthing and dying and any other time of healing. As a culture, we don’t understand this and so we set up barriers to it with the expectation that then we can’t hurt each other. In the “health care” system, the idea of “professional distance” only keeps us aloof from understanding and the compassion that comes from it. A similar situation exists in the yoga world. In flight from the authoritarian or manipulative guru, students still practice these same gurus’ techniques. Throwing away the relationship but keeping its dysfunctional container makes no sense. The abusive teacher is not a random accident but the product of the broken masculine paradigm s/he was created in. The paradigm is the root of the problem. Denial of life is in everyone’s background, so we all walk with wounds. Whether they bring us deeper into our humanity or send us further away from it, depends on our relationship with ourselves. When the feminine principle of receptivity is brought in, we have a complete container. Our integrity is guaranteed because we are whole.
Autonomy is the natural response to intimacy. At the most primal level of existence, this is true. Only after nine months in complete union with our mother, can we penetrate the world. Two nights ago, my client stood alone while we stood beside her. In her solitude, she did the most intimate thing possible.
My mother’s first memory of me was the sound of my voice. She said I screamed so loudly as I was carried away from her and down a hallway that a nurse remarked she had never heard a newborn cry with such strength. We need our mothers and our mothers need us. I was trying to make that clear but to no avail! In Toronto hospitals in the 1960’s, all babies were immediately separated from their mothers and kept in nurseries. Figuring out when to use my voice has been the focus of my life ever since. My writing is the result. Like my first howl, it comes from love.
To give birth is to be at the heart of life where the distinction between inner and outer dissolves and what was hidden comes to light. Unbounded, every cell pulses to the thrum of the world and a woman knows who she is because she is in touch with every part of herself. Yet fear of birth is everywhere, in our families, our popular culture and in the very “health care” systems we rely on. It shrouds our collective mind so that what is meant to bring us into wisdom, thrusts us instead into shame.
Women have shared their birth stories with me ever since I gave birth almost twenty-two years ago now and the crazy thing is that it’s the women who have had births that deepened and enlarged their sense of self who are usually the ones most hesitant to tell their stories in public. I know the feeling. After a woman has told of being induced, for example, and she describes the pain she felt from it and the relief the epidural gave her and the hours and hours she lay numb on her back and how she waited to be fully dilated as her blood pressure and contractions and her baby’s heart tones were constantly monitored and a catheter was inserted into her and she wasn’t allowed to eat and she was filled with I.V. fluid and then her baby went into distress and was born through a caesarean section, it feels like the wrong time to share how I went through none of that and felt the strongest and most beautiful I ever had after I gave birth.
Women’s stories of the suffering they have endured in birth need to be told and heard. It is vital to them and vital to us as a society. They are stories that demand healing and action! Along with these though, we need to hear of women’s joy. We need to share how our bodies can bring us into pleasure and strength and faith in ourselves and our world. I think these are actually the more dangerous stories. They challenge. They challenge our mothers and perhaps even our grandmothers. They challenge the idea that our bodies are a source of an inherent weakness. They challenge our collective idea of women. There is camaraderie in suffering. To declare that you live outside it is to stand alone.
Malala Yousafzai, the fourteen year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is finding her voice again. The world watches. It was her strength that made her a target, not her victimhood. A spokesman for the Taliban explained that Malala’s writing was “obscene” and needed to be stopped. To claim that feminine intelligence is dirty has been the way of the patriarchy for thousands of years. The Taliban’s tactics are brutal, and proudly public, but the same impulse is expressed in more subtle but no less destructive ways in how birthing women are treated in much of the world. Most women either give birth without the medical safety net they need, or they suffer obstetrics’ assault. Either way, we are hurt. So are our babies. Some of us die. My midwife, Mary Sharpe, who is now the director of the midwifery education programme at Ryerson University, calls the situation a “global crisis”. She writes,
The incidence of medical and surgical interventions for birth is increasing at an alarming rate. In many settings, induction of labour and epidurals are the norm and caesarean birth rates range from 30% to 70% with a corresponding rise in maternal morbidity. In under-resourced areas of the world, equitable access to midwifery and obstetrical care is still not possible, and the United Nations’ Fifth Millennium Goal to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters has not yet reached its target…efforts to improve infant and maternal mortality by moving births to institutionalized settings are in fact replicating the worst in Western maternity care; women give birth in crowded facilities, are separated from their family and loved ones and birth alone in a dehumanized, assembly-line fashion.
This is taken from Joyful Birth, a book I contributed to that was put together by Lisa Doran and Lisa Caron.
While much of the world looks in reverence to the United States’ high tech medical system, it is not serving birthing women well. The U.S. is one of four countries in the world where the maternal death rate is rising. Perhaps obscene is a good word for this. Ina May Gaskin, a world renowned American midwife and author, has created The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project to bring women’s unnecessary deaths into public awareness. She said in a television interview recently that, “We let so many maternal deaths go invisible in these United States and a half to two thirds of the maternal deaths that take place aren’t reported to the CDC. That’s very shocking because in most industrialized countries there’s a huge effort to identify every single death so that you can say, “OK, how do we reduce it next year?” According to the number of maternal deaths that have actually been documented, the U.S. ranks somewhere between 40th and 50th in the world. The highly medicalized approach to birth by American obstetricians is not working. Out of fear of life and the intimate human connections that are a natural part of it, medicine tries to control birth and many women feel safe in its tight hand. Salman Rushdie wrote, “Repression is a seamless garment” * Despite feminism and the sexual revolution, we wear our constriction so comfortably in the West, we barely notice it.
So my words are for you, to speak to the fear you can’t help but absorb and to feed the faith that is your birthright. We are the knowledge and strength we look for outside ourselves. Denial of life’s power, its unfathomable intelligence to bring us into being and sustain us, has been acted out on our bodies and minds, and those of our children, over many, many generations now. Unspeakable violence is our legacy and the impulse to heal it demands that words be found. A coherent story must be told, not just of the suffering, but of the rightness in embracing all that we are. All our lives depend on it.
* Salman Rushdie, Shame (1983) from the first, unnumbered page of Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.
Heart of Birth presents a
Rebozo Workshop with Isabel Perez
Learn how to use a rebozo, a Guatemalan/Mexican shawl, to support a woman during labour. It’s like having another set of hands! The rebozo can be used in any birthing environment to relax the mother, ease her pain and help with the positioning of her baby. This will be an interactive workshop with plenty of time to practice techniques, ask questions and get an introduction to the skills and understanding of traditional midwifery.
Sunday, October 14th, 2012
10:00am to 3:00pm
Eka Yoga Centre, 473A Church Street, Toronto, ON M4Y 2C5
(south of Wellesley Street)
Please bring a flat bed sheet to practice with!
Some beautiful woolen rebozos from Guatemala will be available for sale; they can also be ordered through Isabel.
To register contact Crescence: firstname.lastname@example.org; 416.994.4566
Isabel Perez has helped women give birth over the last 33 years. She trained as a midwife with the renowned Ina May Gaskin, author of Spiritual Midwifery and recipient of ‘The Right Livelihood Award’ in 2011, known as the ‘Alternate Nobel Prize’. Isabel worked with Ina May for four years on The Farm in Tennessee before moving to Toronto, where she continued to practice midwifery for eleven years, until 1993. Since then, she has served women as a doula. Isabel grew up in Guatemala, where the seed of her spiritual understanding was planted by her great-grandmother, a Mayan midwife, and her father, a shaman. It flowers now in her birth work and teaching. For more of Isabel’s story: https://heartofbirth.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/isabel-perez-a-life-in-birth/
Understand birth, and you understand yoga, the fact that you are the source and force of life. Direct access to your power, what yoga calls shakti, is the gift. It’s your connection to this power that gives you a real ability to mother, heal and teach.
In learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, a woman has the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from an ancient knowledge of life that Krishnamacharya was blessed to learn but that has yet to become a part of our collective understanding. Simple and safe, these principles lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth. Birth IS yoga.
An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community. The feminine force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor; she is you and me.
Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound Yoga that she has received from Mark Whitwell. Her direct experience of Yoga began when she gave birth to her daughter and it has continued through eighteen years work as a Doula, helping other women give birth. Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into current birthing environments has been supported by a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Crescence teaches and mentors Yoga teachers and Doulas. Real relationship is at the heart of life and she is committed to working in a way that makes it possible.
BIRTH: THE HEART OF YOGA
with Crescence Krueger
An Immersion and Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training
June 4/5, 11/12, 25/26; Saturdays 2:30pm-6:30pm, Sundays 1:30pm-5:30pm;
and two private meetings with Crescence
at LiV Yoga Studio, 155 Liberty St. (King and Dufferin), Toronto.
Appropriate for anyone who is interested: teachers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives…the yoga will be adapted to you.
$645.00 + HST Yoga Alliance credits; certificate given.
contact: email@example.com 416.994.4566
Twenty-two years ago, I bought a copy of Spiritual Midwifery at the original Big Carrot, a small wooden floored health food store on the south side of the Danforth. The book was filled with pictures of long haired hippies and accounts of their birth stories. It blew my mind. When I finished it, I knew that someday I wanted to give birth at home with midwives. Two years later, I did. Ina May’s presence in my life has continued. My midwife, Mary Sharpe, is friends with her, and Isabel Perez, my back-up over the last eighteen years, trained as a midwife with her and worked with her for four years before coming to Toronto. When I was just beginning to attend births, Isabel and I drove down to Tennessee in a van filled with midwives and midwifery students to take part in a conference that was hosted by Ina May and the Farm. I learned a ton and felt like I had had a little taste of living American history.
A Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training and Immersion: April 2/3 and 9/10, plus two private meetings
Understand birth, and you understand the very heart of Yoga, the fact that you are Mother, the source and force of Life. Direct access to your power, what Yoga calls Shakti, is the gift.
By learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, you’ll have the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from Krishnamacharya; in the deep denial of the Feminine that still defines our world, they have yet to become a part of our collective understanding. They are simple and safe and lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth.
An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community. The Feminine Force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor. She is you and me.
This experience has meant more than words can say. I am leaving today with a full heart, deep inspiration and an overwhelming feminine connection. Jessica Liebgott, Yoga practitioner and aspiring midwife
I don’t know if I can begin to express my gratitude for the love, incredible insight and passion you have shared with me and ignited in me! It is with a sense of connecting with something much bigger with myself that I walk out into the world with after this weekend. Amanda Montgomery, Yoga teacher and mother
Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound yoga she has received from Mark Whitwell. Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into our current teaching and birthing environments is rooted in eighteen years’ work as a doula, helping women give birth, and a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Real relationship is at the heart of both yoga and birth and Crescence is committed to teaching in a way that makes it possible. She was on the faculty of the Yoga Festival of Toronto in 2010 and has played a variety of leading roles in the community over the past two decades.
Included are two private meetings, one before and one after our group gatherings on April 2/3 and 9/10, Saturdays 9:30am to 6:00pm, Sundays, 11:30am to 6:00pm. The one-on-one time is an opportunity to talk and to receive an appropriate personal practice in preparation for, and integration of, the training. Your own practice is the source of your effectiveness as a teacher and your power as an individual. Everyone, including pregnant women, is welcome.
Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre, 358 Dupont Street (west of Spadina) Toronto, ON, Canada
Fee $645.00; Certificate; Yoga Alliance CEU’s.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 416.994.4566
Yoga understands that you are Mother, the source and force of LIfe. Connected to your power, you will know in your very bones how to give birth. Learn the principles of breath and movement that forge this connection. In the deep denial of the Feminine that still defines our world, this knowledge is missing from much of our current Yoga education. Like a wave in rhythmic flow, breathing, moving, meditation and life are a seamless process. Through it, you develop the strength to receive life and give birth… in peace and love.
A full understanding of Yoga gives you not just a way to feel good in your body, not just a way to relax your mind, but a way to participate wholly in the birth process. You are Mother, the very source and force of Life. Connected to your fundamental power, you will know in your very bones how to give birth.
The yoga technology that gives you this connection is not widely available. I have gotten it from Mark Whitwell, one of the world’s “teachers of the teachers”. Curiously, Mark says, knowledge of the Feminine has been left out of western yoga education. In integrating her principles back into how we practice, we remarry Yoga to its non-dual Tantric origins and in the process, bring the fragmented aspects of ourselves together again. We move easily and efficiently into the freedom of our natural state.
In our practice, breath initiates, guides and completes our movement. We are soft and strong. We are like a wave in rhythmic flow where breathing, moving, meditation and life are a seamless process. We have the strength to receive Life and give birth. We are in true relationship to ourselves and our babies. We are love.
Beginning Sunday, November 7th, from 11:30am to 1:00pm and running for six weeks until December 19th (no class on Nov.21st)
at Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre (formerly Kokoro Dojo)
358 Dupont Avenue (just west of Dupont subway)
$20.00 to drop-in; $108.00 for the session of six.
Beginning November 7th, I will be teaching two yoga classes on Sunday mornings. What I offer is not widely available. I pass on the yoga technology that moves you easily and efficiently into the heart of yoga, into a clear feeling of your natural state. I have gotten this technology from Mark Whitwell, one of the world’s “teachers of the teachers”. This is a technology that links you to the life energy that got you born and that keeps you alive. It is thought of as feminine; she is the source of everything and curiously, Mark says, she has been left out of western yoga education. In reintegrating the feminine principle back into how we practice, we remarry Yoga to its non-dual Tantric origins and in the process, bring the fragmented aspects of ourselves back together again.
The result is a feeling of wholeness and a way of moving and breathing where breath initiates, guides and completes our movement. We are soft and strong. We are like a wave in rhythmic flow where asana, pranayama, bandha, meditation and life are a seamless process. We have the strength to receive ourselves and the ability to really be in relationship with one another.
358 Dupont Avenue (just west of Dupont and Spadina) $20.00 to drop-in; $108.00 for the session of six.
Having the strength to receive life is the point of yoga practice and the challenge inherent in giving birth. The means to this strength has been missing from contemporary culture and yoga teaching. It is the Feminine.
An exploration of the physiology and neural hormonal flow of love in a pregnant, birthing and breastfeeding woman will give our work a good foundation and point to her practical needs during the childbearing year. You’ll be able to teach pregnant and new mothers safely and effectively and know the feminine force not as a concept, myth or metaphor but as the real life that moves through us all.
I teach in the lineage of Krishnamacharya through the beautifully simple and profound yoga I’ve received from Mark Whitwell. My knowledge of traditional midwifery is from Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. The union of these two understandings creates a body of wisdom that is both whole and relevant.
Friday through Monday, 10:00am to 6:00pm
To register, please email email@example.com or call 416.994.4566