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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: email@example.com; 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/
As doulas, we have an intimate experience of love in the purest sense of the word. Love as the force that brings us here and binds us as one. We bear witness to this force and to the obstacles that are put in her way. Our way. Life’s way.
Fellow doulas Lisa Doran and Lisa Caron edited and authored and nurtured this work. More details to follow!
In an American study that midwife and filmmaker Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova told me about, 95% of women felt that giving birth had been a traumatic experience for them. Their babies experienced that trauma too since a baby receives its mother’s flow of hormones and the emotions that go with them. So most Americans born today experience their entry into the world as a very frightening thing. The flow of Life is associated with terror. It makes sense then, that contemporary culture is so resourceful at keeping us disassociated from ourselves.
The thing is, terror and trauma is not what nature intends for us. When a woman feels safe and her process is not interfered with, she and her baby meet each other in a state of ecstasy. They are filled with the hormones of love. Peace and joy are an integral part of birth and all of life. Peace and joy are our natural state.
Yoga, in its original expression, understands this. Yoga connects us to the essence of what we are: the joyous movement of Life. Two mornings ago, I witnessed this movement in a dramatic way in the 2 hour birth of a 9 1/2 pound baby boy. It was the mother’s third child and the third time I was with her and her husband. As with her second, she had dilated quite effortlessly to 4cm the week before. We knew that when strong contractions came, the birth would happen quickly. The memory of her amniotic waters gushing from her is clear in my mind. And the open armed gesture of her son as he lay between her thighs in the moment before she gathered him to her, umbilical cord still attached.
I got an email from a pregnant friend yesterday, thanking me for the birth preparation session I had done with her. She wrote: “I feel calmer than I have in quite a while. It was important to look at birth from a normal, natural, healthy, joyous perspective rather than discussing all the things that could go wrong.” We’re here in order to feel joy. We’re here to pass it on.
Yoga is your direct immersion and integration with Life. Since we are Life, Yoga isn’t about achieving anything but about participating completely in what already is. Thousands of years ago, people took the principles evident in the creation and sustaining of Life and applied them to simple practices of breath, movement and sound. In this way, they deepened their intimacy with themselves and each other. We will do the same.
These principles got left by the wayside as Yoga became something that womenless men did in their attempt to transcend the world. Intimate relationship, sex, birth and caring for children were avoided in the quest for enlightenment. The irony is that rather than being at odds with our spiritual life, these ordinary aspects of life are precisely the means to realize it.
Krishnamacharya, the teacher of many of the most influential teachers who brought Yoga to the west, spent seven and a half years in Tibet studying with his teacher, a Yogi with a wife and children. Krishnamacharya promised his teacher that in payment for what he had been given, he would raise a family of his own and bring Yoga out into the wider world. He did this within the confines of a rigidly patriarchial society, however. Today we can go further. Today we can practice in a way that expresses the Feminine and brings it into union with the Masculine. The integration that happens is immensely healing.
There will be ample time to address your understanding and experience of Yoga, to talk about teaching and how we can transmit a real understanding of Yoga to each other and to explore how sex and birth can bring us into deep intimacy with Life and its renewal. We’ll then put this into our body and breath and move with it, making our practice accurate and powerful, practical and relevant.
Yoga with Crescence Krueger: An Ontario Yoga Association Workshop
Sunday, October 18th, 9:00am to 4:00pm at Pegasus Studios, 361 Glebeholme Blvd.(Danforth and Coxwell)
I want to write my poems on the sky so everyone can read them…I like to recite my poems in a big voice, and I like to whisper and sometimes I like to use silence. Silence in Eastern philosophy is a bigger voice- just one that’s not audible…My poems are about the life process on this planet because the life process never stops. Like wind and the clouds…
Huang Xiang (see previous post)
A blizzard was turning all of Toronto white as I sat beside her. It had taken me two hours by TTC to reach her. She was coming out of a Demerol haze, the result of the nursing staff’s inability to cope with her. She was 17 and in labour. Her blood pressure was extraordinarily high. She was over two hundred pounds. Arrested for assaulting her baby’s father the week before, a court date had been set. She didn’t want me to touch her.
I asked her to imagine she was a cloud and the contractions were the wind. When the wind blows, clouds shift their shape. She should do the same. I would make the sound of the wind and she could join me. This would help with the pain. Over the next five hours our voices merged. I will never forget the image of her standing with her eyes closed, undulating her arms as we filled the room with sound and silence. This is how she gave birth, a sky dancer of infinite grace.
In the early hours of yesterday morning I got home from a birth, peeled off my clothes as soon as I shut the front door, listened for the sound of my sleeping daughter’s breath (almost eighteen years after I had heard her first exhale and then the unexpected quiet of her peacefulness), shut her bedroom door, showered away the blood and amniotic fluid of a new life, ate a bowl of rice with peanut sauce, drank a cup of chamomile tea and slid into the clean sheets of my bed. I had done my Yoga.
Today my mind is still in the open and alert place it goes to in the wake of a birth. Carrying groceries home, the shadows of bare branches stripe the sidewalk. A small, black bird with slashes of red and white on its wings stands in my path and sings. Its presence is as bold and wonderous as that of the little boy who entered the world yesterday and spontaneously latched himself to his mother’s breast. The sun shines down on me. I am content. This is the gift of this work.
To really be with someone is to be with life. To be with a birthing woman, undistracted, to breathe every breath with her, to merge my sound with hers, to have my hands on her skin and my mind in her mind, is to link to the unqualified force and intelligence of life that pours through her with extraordinary power. It pours through me too. It belongs to both of us and neither of us. Yoga calls this power Shakti. She is the source and the movement of life. She is Reality. She is the woman giving birth. She is me.
Patanjali wrote that Yoga is a merging with the chosen direction or experience (1.2). “A person of extraordinary clarity” is someone who has stopped searching, someone “who is free from the desire to know the perceiver.” [S]he has felt h[er] own nature. (4.25)¹ There is no better way to feel what you are than by giving birth! No rules apply. Life itself provides the structure. To surrender to life, Isvarapranidhana, is to let life move you. Your body moves in the way it needs to. Your breath moves in the way it needs to. Sound and silence come and go. This is the Natural State, sahaj samadhi. This is freedom, vairagya. Mark says Krishnamacharya defined vairagya as “freedom relative to all experience”. It doesn’t mean to remove yourself from experience. To be free with experience, merge with experience.
I spent nine hours at the hospital with my client and her family. In our intimacy love and peace unfolded and a new life was born. “The sun shines. All is evident…”(4.31)²
¹Mark Whitwell, Yoga of Heart (New York: Lantern Books, 2004) p.140
²T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga (Rochester:Inner Traditions International, 1999) p.213
Isabel Perez has been my friend over the last fifteen years. Her life encompasses the ancient and modern, the rural and urban, South and North America. Birth has always been at the centre of Isabel’s life. She lives within an effortless recognition that the seen is evidence of the unseen, that heaven and earth are one condition.
Isabel was born in Guatemala to Mayan parents. Her great-grandmother was a nodrisa, a traditional midwife. Her father was a shaman. After the devastating earthquake in 1976, Isabel, her husband and children were brought to the U.S. by Ina May Gaskin, a pioneering midwife, now world renowned. Isabel trained and worked with Ina May for four years on The Farm in Tennessee. She contributed to a community whose way of handling birth resulted in a caesarean rate of only 1.4% amongst 2,028 women from 1970 to 2000. Home was the environment for 95.1% of the births. Isabel then moved to Toronto where she practiced midwifery until it was integrated into the Ontario health care system in 1993. Subsequently, Isabel has worked as a doula.
What follows is some of the conversation we had in her kitchen this past May. The sounds of living accompanied our talk: splashing water running from the kitchen sink, rice being washed, boiled and stirred; tea being poured; spoons touching bowls; our swallows. Isabel cooked and shared a breakfast of rice pudding while she carried the thread of her narrative. These sounds place her story in the current of daily life. Hear them as you read!
Crescence Krueger What is the most powerful thing that you bring to a birth?
Isabel Perez Confidence. Peace. Love. And trust. Those are the words my clients use, eh? So I’m just repeating them. I have a very simple personality. And that works for me almost everywhere. It’s very simple, the way that I work. Very simple. You have seen.
CK That’s what I love. Read the rest of this entry »