Women that inspire us

Women that inspire us

Women that inspire us

By YogaBirth members

For International Women’s Day this year we wanted to shine a light on some of the incredible women in the birthing world that inspired us to embark on the wonderful work that we do. We asked some of our members and YogaBirth teachers…who inspires you and why?.

Liliana Lammers

“Liliana Lammers…because when it comes to birth, she is the good witch of the north. In Hampstead to be exact but you get what I mean. She is the godmother doula. She presides!  She can be accompanying someone in labour – she could just be sitting at home. It doesn’t matter. Somehow she silently and continually transmits the message mothers everywhere need to hear and feel – ‘You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.’  She waves the wand and you go, ah, of course!  I know how to do this.” 

By Natalie Meddings

Liliana Lammers

Vanda Scaravelli

“I would like to honour Vanda Scaravelli on International Women’s Day, as her yoga is the basis of our YogaBirth teachings. The way we help women through pregnancy, birth & beyond is to give them an understanding of movement, gravity & breath….how to let go and feel the wonderful wave of the breath, the release of the spine on the exhalation, & how to ride the intense waves of contractions”


“To follow the way the spine functions during this process of breathing is of the greatest interest. The wave of expansion while exhaling, originating from the spine, is the basis of our teaching…..”   Vanda Scaravelli

By Claire Whitman

Vanda Scaravelli

Janet Balaskas

“I have been inspired by Janet Balaskas who I met 40 years ago and her passion and bravery in speaking out about Active Birth made a deep impression on me. “


Binnie Dansby

“Binnie Dansby whose work with the breath and how it helps us to release fears and traumas can be key in our own birthing and living our fullest lives.”


Sheila Kitzinger

“Sheila Kitzinger who spoke about women’s experiences in birth, breastfeeding and much more.”

By Julie Krausz

Janet Balaskas

Ina May Gaskin

Ina May has been an inspiration to me because  her seminal book Spiritual Midwifery (1977) presented pregnancy and birth in a wholesome and natural light.

Natural human qualities of love, touch, intimacy, giving the birthing mother space and privacy and the role of her partner were all given importance.

She also introduced the concept that birth was a spiritual and sexual event.

She has been an advocate for safe, woman-centred childbirth that promotes the physical and mental health of mother and child.

She voiced what I instinctively knew what birth could be and her unwavering belief has been an anchor for me.

Aligning the word spiritual with birth is an important one for me, as it defines birth as a creative process rather than a medical event. 

By Amanda Edwards

Ina May Gaskin
Choosing to be positive

Choosing to be positive

Choosing to be positive: a lesson in being kind to yourself

By Lolly Stirk

Be prepared and open-minded

It’s clear that preparation and open mindedness are key factors when it comes to a positive outcome when giving birth. This was obvious when Valeria, Francesco and baby L came to tell their birth story at my class on Wednesday evening. Valeria came regularly to my yoga classes and she and her husband Francesco both came to my Active Birth/Hypnobreathing workshop. They were interested, asked questions, read about birth, hired a doula and felt ready and calm as the time came closer.

Her labour began, and confusing the mucous plug for waters breaking, they went into hospital nearby to be checked. Intact membranes were discovered, but so was very high blood pressure. They were sent home as surges were regular and strong and it was thought they would be back at hospital soon.

Early labour in control

A chilled afternoon was spent eating, watching movies and resting in between surges with Francesco massaging her lower back. During surges Valeria felt compelled to walk and breathe through the waves. ‘I felt as if I was in control. I know I wasn’t, but it felt that way when I was going with it through walking and breathing.’

Back at the hospital it was found that Valeria’s blood pressure was still very high so she had to be put on medication and was told she could no longer opt for the Birth Centre. To their delight the midwife had read her Birth Requests and prepared the labour ward with twinkley low lighting and the room was warm and spacious. Constantly monitored with wireless monitors Valeria continued to walk and breathe listening to her music.

C-section can be a positive experience

Later when her waters broke, meconium was found and it was discovered that baby L was back to back and that Valeria’s cervix was swollen. ‘When the doctor and midwife suggested a c-section, at first I was surprised and disappointed. But we had prepared for all options and a c-section was one of them. In no way did we feel pressurised and after discussion between me Francesco and my doula, we decided to go with the c-section. Baby L was born 15 minutes later and we were elated!

Valeria has noticed people feeling sorry for her or say how traumatic it must’ve been when she tells them she had a c-section. ‘I don’t feel that way. I’m really happy and proud of my birth journey, and I felt a deep connection with my baby: we were in it together and it was so deeply powerful and beautiful – I’m glad I was able to ride the waves with walking and breathing, I always felt present and calm.’

Valeria makes a great point here. Although she had prepared for a ‘natural birth’, she had also prepared for other eventualities, knowing that things can sometimes happen that aren’t part of ‘the plan’ and due to this, she was able to accept and stay positive despite things changing course during her labour. She now looks back fondly on her journey.

Home Birth Story

Home Birth Story

My Home Birth experience

By Louisa Aldridge

Our focus this month is on home birth and Louisa Aldridge, one of our wonderful teachers has sent to us the stories of her births. Grab a cuppa and settle down to read a beautiful tale of trust, strength and new life.

My first baby was born in a hospital birth centre, and at the time I considered myself extremely lucky to have what was, compared with most births I was hearing about, a straightforward experience. Nevertheless, it was a painful and intense 24 hours which mostly felt anything but straightforward.

Having been ‘overdue’, I had consented to several sweeps in an effort to get things moving, and my reluctant baby eventually obliged; the only problem being that one of his hands was up next to his ear rather than on his chest. This meant that his already large body became wider than it needed to be.

The pushing stage alone took 3 and a half hours. It was only thanks to the luck of having an experienced and confident midwife that I was trusted to get on with the pushing stage without interference, and later that day we left the hospital with our chubby baby nestled in my arms and my head held high, feeling like I’d scaled a mountain.

A deeper understanding

During my second pregnancy I was studying to become a YogaBirth teacher and began to gain a much deeper understanding of my body and the way that birth unfolds in different contexts and environments. I immersed myself in the research.

Home birth was already on my radar, and I knew that it was a safe option for women who have uncomplicated pregnancies. I spoke with one of YogaBirth’s founders, Yvonne Moore, and she gave me the confidence I needed to explore my choices. I knew, for example, that had I been with a less experienced midwife during my first birth I would very likely have ended up with an episiotomy and ventouse, as rarely are you ‘allowed’ to push for longer than 2 hours in a hospital setting.

I also learned that all those sweeps which had (eventually) made my contractions start had got things going before my baby was ready, which might have explained his awkward position. On top of this, the sweeps and induction chats had put me in a frame of mind of obsessing about going into labour, and I felt that this focus on potential problems rather than my evidently healthy body contributed to the intensity of the experience.

And the frequent small disturbances in the birth room had made it difficult to enjoy a sense of peace in the lulls between contractions. Instead, I was watching the rather large clock on the wall, and counting the minutes until the next one.

Home Birth Louisa Aldridge and hubby

Antenatal appointments at home

I soon learned that the home birth midwifery model was refreshingly different. The antenatal appointments took place at home, and my amazing midwife Kemi Johnson gave me all the time I needed to ask questions.

I came to understand my birth preparation as having three components: brain-learning, body-learning and birth stories.

For the brain-learning, Kemi was a walking encyclopaedia of stats, studies and Cochrane reviews, and I drank it all in. This type of top-down learning went a long way towards answering the ‘what if’s, and I became confident that there was a plan for every eventuality.

For the body-learning I had my yoga, and I found a renewed trust in the practice.

I gathered birth stories with enthusiasm: from books, videos, documentaries, and chats with other women who’d had home births. These stories fed my daydreams and occupied much of the space that had previously been given over to worrying.

One snowy morning my labour started, and the preparation paid off by doing what good preparation does and quietly receding into the background. I found that I was so calm about the fact that I was in labour that it didn’t occur to me to change my plans for the day. I told my husband to go to work. I’d arranged to go to a playgroup with my toddler to meet a friend, so off we went.

Every now and then I would lean against a pillar in the church and breathe through a contraction before going back to our chat. Then we got the bus back to my friend’s flat where our toddlers watched a film while I paced around her bedroom, hips swaying.

I didn’t want to move from that cosy room into the cold air, but my friend (soon to be my baby’s godmother) heroically coaxed me into her car and drove us all back to mine. The snowmen we passed along the way seemed to be sparkling with a sharpness I hadn’t noticed earlier in the day. The light was extraordinarily beautiful.

Louisa Aldridge first Home Birth

Filling the birth pool

My midwives arrived and busied themselves filling the pool in our kitchen while I leaned on the bed, feeling the waves build. My husband came home and my mum arrived to be with our toddler.

At one point I felt backache and worried that this baby was in a funny position like my first had been, but Kemi took one look at my lower back and smiled, telling me that my sacrum had moved because the baby was very low. It was all so respectful and positive.

There was no need for any vaginal examinations, and at no point did anyone tell me what to do. Regular checks on the baby’s heartbeat were done with minimal disturbance. They had complete faith that, if given the necessary time and quiet, and surrounded by their loving support, I would listen to my body and move in ways that would help my baby to be born.

The pool was filled, and stepping into it felt like merging with the warm water. I started making ‘pushy’ noises. I leaned back against my husband, my leg gave an involuntary shudder as I felt my baby rotating, and before long I could feel him actually kicking up towards the top of my womb. I remember thinking “wow, this baby really wants to be born!”

There was nothing to do but surrender to the process. He swam into the pool and I scooped him up. It had all been so easy. The pain had been totally manageable, and my toddler didn’t even pause from his play. The power I felt in that moment settled somewhere deep within me.

Another home birth

Three years later I was pregnant again, and this time there was no doubt – it would be a home birth. Again I went ‘overdue’, again I fielded endless questions from well-meaning people about when I would be induced, but I had the quiet confidence of knowing that home was my place of safety, and that my choices were evidenced-based and sensible.

For the last two weeks of my pregnancy I had been feeling around my belly, acquainting myself with my baby’s position. One day I felt a little hand, fingers splayed, right down low next to the head. My midwife Annabel Bryant checked it out. Sure enough, this baby had its hand covering its ear just like its big brother had.

Louisa Aldridge Home Water Birth

I was determined not to repeat the pain of my first birth so I tried gently pushing the hand towards my baby’s chest to get that arm in a better position. It worked, but by morning the hand had crept back up to the ear. This happened night after night – I would nudge the tiny hand away from the head, but overnight it would find its way back to the same position. Until one night when I went to bed, ready for the familiar ritual of moving the baby’s hand – and found that it had moved already! That was the night I went into labour.

A peaceful labour

Things progressed rapidly as I walked from room to room in the early morning light. The only sounds were the birds waking up and the waves of my breath, and at some point my logical brain had to take over to make me call the midwife. I was so content being the only person awake, and the only person in the world who knew I was in labour, that I was reluctant to break the spell even by speaking. Part of me wanted to do this entirely by myself.

Annabel arrived quietly, woke my husband, and together they filled the pool. I couldn’t wait to get in and watched the level rise centimetre by centimetre until finally it was deep enough. The relief of the warm water was, once again, truly wonderful. Our two boys woke up and came downstairs, curious but relaxed. They watched, fascinated, as their little sister swam to the surface of the water in the half-light, a torch illuminating her path. She was squashy and pink, my biggest baby yet (4.2kg) and a delight. Afterwards we rolled into bed and stayed there for a long time.

Louisa Aldridge's third baby born at Home

In recent years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of women in my YogaBirth classes who are considering a home birth. Often they come to the idea via a friend or sister who had her baby at home – and in turn her experience opens up the idea to another friend, and so on. In this way the ripples spread. For many other pregnant women, either through choice or as a result of health complications, a hospital birth is preferable. Both options can lead to empowering, positive births.

For me, home was the right choice and I’m so grateful to the inspiring women I’ve met along the way who made it possible. They taught me a different way to think that challenged the sometimes-limiting ways we understand our female bodies within a medicalised context. Through birth, I surrendered to the most powerful thing my body has ever done and it left me stronger.

Louisa offers both Pregnancy and Postnatal classes. She teaches in West London and online.

Stress in Pregnancy

Stress in Pregnancy

How can pregnancy yoga combat stress?

By Lolly Stirk

Our senses are heightened during pregnancy.  Some say this is a safety mechanism, but it can make life difficult if we are used to living life in the fast lane.  Hormones are released into our bloodstream to facilitate pregnancy and this can bring up emotions that have lain dormant and under control for years. Not everyone finds pregnancy stressful, many women say it was the best they’ve ever felt in their lives, but many of us find the roller coaster of emotional highs and lows hard to negotiate. 

One powerful element to our YogaBirth classes, both online and in person, is that you recognise that many of the women in the class feel exactly as you do.  ‘OMG thank goodness I’m not the only one feeling and thinking that’, is something I have heard very often in my classes. The joy of realising that you are not alone with your sometimes exaggerated (according to some people!) emotions.  I’m not sure crying at toilet paper ads with puppies running about is crazy! ☺  Or throwing a hissy fit because someone who was trying to be helpful bought the wrong brand of spaghetti for you.   Laughing together at these things really lowers stress levels.  

To the first time mother

In an online class a month or so ago a young woman piped up and said, ‘For some reason I’m not anxious about the birth, but so worried about being able to look after my baby once it is born.’  Lots of nodding heads.  I asked if any of the second time mothers had anything to say about mothering and how it came to them with their first born.  A gorgeous woman, pregnant with her second baby took the floor and told the young first timer not to worry, just to hold her baby close and the baby would show her the way.  She too had been stressed and worried and realised that it was her anxiety that was blocking the instinct to mother.  She talked about the flood of oxytocin, the love hormone that came with the baby, how strong it was and how it would really help her to relax into motherhood.  She added that every baby came with more love so there was no problem about sharing what love there was.  There’s always more.  There were many sighs of relief during that five minute talk.

Reassurance from your YogaBirth teacher

Another reassuring feature of YogaBirth classes is the way your teacher will show you how cleverly designed your body is, particularly in regard to giving birth.  When you are thinking with your hands on your large belly, ‘how will all this manage to get through my pelvis?’ your YogaBirth teacher with all the tools of her trade, her pelvis and doll, charts and videos will show that you were built to do the task and that your body knows how to give birth, it’s just your mind that doesn’t know that your body knows how to give birth!   Also reassuring is the knowledge that if we need assistance it will be there. The safety net of modern technology is there to serve us if we need it.  Preparation and open mindedness are key in bringing down stress levels.

Women sharing experiences

Using yoga to release tension

And then comes the actual work, the yoga. YogaBirth classes are different in that we focus on the breath as we practise the postures as a way of releasing tension.  Slowly, mindfully we work our way into the tension that a posture has highlighted and as we exhale we melt the stiffness.  The exhalation is about letting go, not by collapsing but mindfully finding space where there is holding.  Not only do we hold in the body, but in the mind.  For some reason many of us meet tension with tension.  We try to force our way through and this only creates more tension.  You cannot force stiffness out of the body you can only let it go…….. through the exhalation.  This is the perfect preparation for riding the waves of labour and birth.   This is what we do in our classes.

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Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training – A Journal – Part 2

Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training – A Journal – Part 2

Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training – A Journal – Part 2

By Marcela de León Pérez

YogaBirth teacher trainee, Marcela has been working hard on our teacher training course and has continued her reflections. Here is how she got on throughout August.


The summer holidays have meant that I’ve had to change the dynamic of the things that I need to do for the YogaBirth Teacher Training. With my two kids around most of the time I’ve had less time to sit and read and to sit in at Scaravelli and YogaBirth classes. However, I’ve had more time to read some of the books of the extensive reading list that the course requires.

As a Doula and Birth Educator, I have read many of these books before but it is so enriching to dive into them again from a different perspective. The reading list we get doesn’t only include books but many articles and papers that are kept in our Dropbox shared folder and we can access this at any time which I find very valuable as a working mum.


I have been exploring my own yoga practice more lately and after only three months into the YogaBirth training, I can see how it is influencing the way I move and approach each pose when I am on my mat. I really enjoy playing with incorporating some of the elements of Scaravelli Yoga that I’ve been learning from the teachers whose classes I’ve attended.


I recently had the opportunity to attend a fascinating workshop co-taught by Catherine Annis and Gary Carter: ‘How do we translate yoga practice into teaching’. It was very inspiring to hear a little bit of the journey of two very experienced teachers, sharing their wisdom on the importance of focusing on simple foundations of yoga practice.

The workshop made me reflect a lot on the anatomy of our wonderful human bodies, with the spine as its central axis: a flexible, moving, adaptable structure. And on how our bodies adapt during pregnancy and the fact that the extension and flexion of the spine starts from when we are embryos.


As the months go by and we deepen more into the YogaBirth course, I value more and more the fact that it is being taught online as that has offered me enormous flexibility to be able to attend.

Although I would love to be in the same space as my teachers and fellow students, the opportunity to be able to do this training online has meant that we can join from all over the UK. And not only that, but attending Zoom classes (both Scaravelli Yoga and YogaBirth classes) would have been really different in person.

I feel very lucky to be able to study with teachers that are based far away from me. The fact that the training is all online in my personal opinion has not impacted at all on the quality of teaching and whilst I dearly miss seeing my teachers and friends in person, I know that there will be time for that when we meet for annual CPDs in the future.

Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training Class Plan


I am looking forward to our next weekend together in September. During the summer I have spent more time reading the resources and suggested articles, papers and books that are part of our reading list.

All of this background reading is so important and because the training is a year long, we as students have the time to reflect on and process all of this information which is such a fundamental part of the course.

All YogaBirth teachers whose classes I’ve observed have so much knowledge on many things related to pregnancy and childbirth. And I believe that this is because of everything they learn during the course but also because of the annual CPDs that offer a lot, so that as teachers we can continue to learn.

Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training Reading Material

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