January 3, 2012

Integrating Yoga & Lamaze Part 4, Brahmacharya.

How the Ethical Practice of the Yamas and Niyamas Relate to Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Brahmacharya – Restraint or Self Control

Traditionally Brahmacharya is defined as chastity or sexual restraint.  Although that may be applicable during certain aspects of pregnancy, such as the first six weeks postpartum, it is not practical, realistic or helpful to your relationship to take Brahmacharya to its strict definition.  So, for our purposes, we’ll use the broader definition of restraint and self control.

For the pregnant mother this means everything from only buying and registering for those baby items you actually need (not just because you want it) to watching your diet.  It means not over-indulging simply because you are pregnant and “eating for two”.  It means not using your hormones as an excuse for behaving badly.  It means respecting your body’s limitations and knowing when it’s time to rest and when it is time to be active.  After birth, it means following your baby’s cues for feeding and holding them, rather than following a set schedule.

"Peace on Earth" by Amy Swagman

For those who interact with a pregnant mother it means not offering your opinion on her state of being, her birthing or parenting choices unless your opinion was requested.  It means holding back on telling the awful birth story of your cousin’s friend (or your own birth story).  It means sharing in her joy of her pregnancy, even if you don’t feel she should be pregnant.  It means allowing her to vent about her aches, pains and emotional state without judging her.  It means not assuming she is an invalid because she is pregnant.

For the care provider (OB, midwife, nurse, etc.) Brahmacharya means offering factual information to the pregnant mother, and refraining from offering opinion.  It means trusting in the mother’s ability to know her body and listening to her when she tells you she thinks something may be wrong.  On the flip side, it means trusting the pregnant mother when she tells you her instincts reveal that the baby is just fine.  It means placing your own ego and rules aside to support the pregnant mother in her choices.

It means not rushing mom through labor, allowing labor to take its own course.  It means not interfering with labor unless there is a true medical need.  It means not commenting when mom is LOUD during labor.  It means that the surprise gender of the baby should be gently discovered by the parents, rather than announced to the whole room.  It means that, barring medical emergency, all newborn tests and procedures should wait till after bonding and breastfeeding have been established.

By practicing Brahmacharya, we use our self-control to work within our limitations.  We use our self-control to practice Ahimsa so we can treat ourselves and others kindly and respectfully.  By practicing restraint we allow ourselves to live fuller lives.

Sat Nam.

Previously in the series: Ahimsa, Satya,  and Asteya

Up Next:  Aparigraha – Absence of Avarice

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