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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 crescence@heartofbirth.org   416.994.4566

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Every time I get off the elevator on the seventh floor of Mt. Sinai Hospital, I’m greeted by painted chipmunks and bunny rabbits frolicking on the walls. Usually I’m with a woman who is deep in labour. When we pass this Disneyesque scene, I’m always struck by the absence of imagery that is relevant to a woman’s experience. If we as a society can’t imagine giving birth, how do we expect to? 

Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst and author, speaks about the re-emergence of the Feminine in the dreams and lives of the men and women she works with. The image is the means for energy to express itself in the world. In the natural impulse for wholeness, dreaming is the first step. Receiving our dreams and nurturing them, we become what we imagine, what we move, what we speak. Marion says, “The images we assimilate…are as important to our well-being as the food we eat…” 

Hungry for visions, I made my way down to the Textile Museum one recent rainy night. I was eager to see what I witness in the ordinary course of my life be reflected in art. It was the opening of  ‘When Women Rule the World: Judy Chicago in Thread’ and ‘She Will Always Be Younger than Us’. The exhibit runs from February 11th to September 7th, 2009. Judy is an artist best known for her groundbreaking sculptural installation, ”The Dinner Party’ , a revisioning of women’s place, quite literally, in Western civilization. ‘The Birth Project’  continued her exploration of  female iconography. She used the traditionally female skills of needlecraft to create work shown within the male context of “high” art. It was these pieces which drew me. 

To be present with her work is a sensual experience. Having seen much of  it reproduced in books, I wasn’t expecting the play of texture that is absent in photographs. Hundreds of women did the stitching and crocheting of the pieces and I could feel this. The technical precision was exquisite and through it, the passion of so many women was woven. But it was the light that moved me most.

I walked into a room where ‘Earth Birth’, an enormous tapestry, hung. It was made of quilted black velvet and silk, subtly painted in shades of midnight blue. It showed a woman lying on the ground as waves of vibrations moved through her, the earth, the air and the rising or setting sun. What resonated through her was light. It shone out of her mouth and vagina and the ends of her nipples. In her flesh was light. In the earth was light. In the darkness was light.

Was this an image of Death or Life? In the Feminine, they are one. When we give birth, we pulse to the rhythms of the universe.  When we’re sitting at our laptops, we do too; it’s just not usually so obvious. Birth is Yoga and Yoga is Tantra. The root of the word means ‘to stretch’ or ‘to continue without a break’, and refers to the warp in a piece of fabric, the threads that run lengthwise through a piece of cloth. Tantra understands that the light of life runs through everything. Judy does too.

Orly Cogan  is one in the current generation of artists who merges the medium and the message. In ‘She Will Always Be Younger than Us’ , Orly uses embroidery techniques found in old nursery and household linens to portray issues in contemporary women’s intimate lives. Her work is a strong and layered statement on the power dynamics in domestic life and the infantalization of women’s sexuality.

Which brings me full circle to Bambi and birth. If you are pregnant, or hope to be some day, let the light of your imagination lead the way. To give birth is to participate in the greatest transformation of energy possible. In birth’s shadow, nuclear physics is child’s play.

img_2755How were you born? Do you know the story of your birth? Has the tale been woven repeatedly or do you live in its stark absence? In imagining our beginning, we touch both the mystery of our existence and the obvious reality that we are an integral part of life. We didn’t enter the world alone but in total fusion with another. No one exists who didn’t emerge from the warm, fluid centre of a woman.

It is a simple truth and a profoundly intimate one. I want to give voice to this intimacy and to the wisdom that nurtures it because our ability to love and be in right relationship with the world depends on it. Science supports this understanding. Research gathered by the visionary French obstetrician Michel Odent  links psychological and physical disease with our time in our mother’s womb, how we were born and how we were cared for in the first year of life.  Clear links have been made between rates of violence towards oneself and others and the circumstances of an individual’s primal period.  A mother is her child’s universe. For the first time in history, the majority of women are giving birth without releasing ‘hormones of love’. Odent asks what our future holds if the capacity to love continues to be restricted? We are part of the whole and that whole is in crisis.

To speak of birth is to speak of fear. In its grip, the Feminine voice is silenced. Quietly, one in every three birthing women in Toronto is cut open to her core. Every year, in this same silence, 24,000 women in Afghanistan die after giving birth. There the Feminine has been pushed so far underground, fear is so thick, ignorance so deep that in many places there is no one able to assist at births. Both the deadly absence of medical skills and their aggressive use point to a world devoid of wisdom.

Birth is a part of a woman’s sexual life. I believe this is why we try to control it. To give birth freely is to feel life moving through us. Birth requires our receptivity and strength, our passion and wisdom. In the process of connecting to these, we meet our restrictions and our lack of knowledge about ourselves. I read of a recent Australian study in which one out of three (that statistic again) women had never, or rarely, experienced orgasm. How easily do these women give birth and suckle their children? The full release of oxytocin, the  ‘hormone of love’ , is necessary for all events in the continuum of a woman’s sexual experience: orgasm, birth and breastfeeding. 

Birth sheds light on Yoga. The light comes from life, the flow of the Feminine force, rather than two thousand years of doctrine. The principles of Yoga are found in life and bring us back to life. Mark Whitwell’s clarity about Yoga supports my experience. Birth is Yoga, when the waving and pulsing of Shakti through a woman’s body is an utterly tangible experience for her and her child. Shakti is not a metaphor or a philosophical concept but reality.

Participating in reality is the purpose of Yoga practice. It is in everyone’s reach, of course, because we are what we seek. We are real. We are the manifestation of Life in all its mystery and power, in all our mystery and power. In the repression of the Feminine, the understanding of how to live and love has only been whispered. Listen to these tales! They are written out loud.

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