Pregnancy and childbirth is a beautiful experience for many but, for some mothers, it can also be a period of intense personal and emotional discomfort. Yoga and Yoga Therapy are often used to ease the anxiety and physical complications surrounding pregnancy and childbirth; but there is also an important place for Yoga Therapy in the treatment of mental health and wellbeing problems arising in the perinatal period (from conception to 1 year after childbirth).

The Minded Institute’s 3-day Yoga Therapy for Perinatal Mental Health course, led by Shweta Panchal, runs in November of this year. The course is designed for qualified pregnancy yoga teachers, and combines a range of activities aimed at using Yoga Therapy to support the psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing of women in the perinatal period.

Pregnancy and childbirth is a period of significant transition, and there are many changes and challenges for all mothers. Some of these are physical and psychological responses to pregnancy and childbirth, but the majority of mothers must also adjust to permanent changes in their identity, social role and lifestyle. If unprepared for, unacknowledged, or unattended these can cause distress and contribute to mental health problems during pregnancy, or in the months following childbirth.

Alarmingly, around 1 in 5 women experience mental health problems during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth. Depression and anxiety are most common, but affected people can experience a wide range of problems relating to self-esteem, identity, relationships and socio-economic factors. Many problems are identified post-natal, but this may be because variations in wellbeing and mental health are taken less seriously during pregnancy.

Yoga that is focused only on pregnancy and childbirth typically concentrates on physiological and psychological preparation for labour and childbirth; centring on relaxation, strength and flexibility. However, this does not address the emotional and psychological transitions in the mother’s life, as well as her body.

Shweta specialises in Yoga and Mindfulness Therapy which encourages a specific type of personal inquiry, allowing for an unfolding of emerging thoughts and feelings around pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.

Shweta has tailored her approach, incorporating the philosophical yogic framework with evidence-based techniques, to support mothers in recognising and celebrating their life transitions and to acknowledge and prepare for the changes that come alongside.

In addition to encouraging a state of relaxation and stability, this approach asks mothers to ask direct questions about their thoughts and feelings and helps mothers to look objectively at inevitable changes in their body, identity and social role, in order to actively embrace this change and reduce the risk of perinatal mental health problems.

The 3-day course combines lecture, group and individual activities with experiential yoga and mindfulness practice, reflection, enquiry, and discussion. Shweta’s programme is designed to aid practitioners in understanding the normal changes occurring in the perinatal period, their importance and impact on mental health, and how to help optimise mental health and wellbeing during this transition.

There will be discussion concerning the influence of identity and expectations in motherhood and how this may impact emotional wellbeing. Additional information will be given about the 3-component model of Yoga Therapy in perinatal mental health, as well as guidance for working with sensitivity and with mothers who have experience of miscarriage, still birth, or traumatic labour.

Shweta Panchal is an accredited Yoga Therapist, an Active Birth Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, an Ambassador for the Pre- and Postnatal Depression and Anxiety charity PANDAS, and a Supervisor and Lecturer here at The Minded Institute.

The Yoga Therapy for Perinatal Mental Health course will run over 3 days from 9th to 11th November 2018 in Central London. Spaces will fill fast, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

by Tom Cardigan

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