Kali Asana: The Yogic Position For Delivery

Dr Swami Karmananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd.)

Undoubtedly the most effective asana or posture for the latter stages of labour and delivery is the squatting pose traditionally adopted by women in village and tribal communities. In tantra, this position is known as kali asana, in which shakti is realized and expressed most powerfully. The woman who labours in this position is able to labour and bear down with great efficiency. Force and control, each time a uterine contraction arises. Labour is completed far more easily and quickly and the mother's whole orientation and appreciation of her role in delivery alters if she adopts this posture. The downwards and forwards orientation of the pelvic floor and the birth canal in the squatting position is such that all her efforts are concentrated directly into push - the infant down, forward and out of her body, without wasting any energy needlessly in other directions. In addition the whole process is assisted by the force of gravity. With adequate yogic preparation, a Woman can deliver easily from kali asana, requiring only minimal guidance and assistance from the attending doctor or midwife.

The lithotomy position

In contrast, modern women are uniformly delivered of their child from what is known as the lithotomy position. This is the posture where the mother lies on her back with her legs raised and knees apart. Her inkles are commonly supported by braces above and to either side of the table, the pelvic floor is aligned with the lower end of the delivery table, and the birth canal faces horizontally and upwards. In this position, the mother is forced to labour against gravity, pushing her infant up and away from her body. The whole labour, when carried out from this position opposes the natural principle of gravity. The mother's innate and powerful capacity to bear down and assist in expelling the foetus is counteracted and her power of self-expression and self-achievement in childbirth is lost. Much vital energy is also misdirected, going to waste in the back and leg muscles, rather than being focused where it is needed for successful, triumphant labour.

In this position the woman's whole psychic attitude is altered. She is no longer directing her own delivery and feels no confidence in her own capacities to assist nature, because she is no longer in a position to manifest her natural power. If the choice was yours, in which position would you prefer to deliver your child?

Harmonizing apana shakti

According to yogic physiology, the pranic force which flows downward from the navel into the pelvis is known as apana shakti. This energy is responsible for propelling the infant down the birth canal during the process of delivery. The secret of successful delivery is to alternatively project and withdraw the apana, bearing down from above in harmony with the contractions of the uterus. This is essentially the same process as defecation or emptying the bowels, which are far more effectively evacuated from the traditional squatting position than either the lithotomy position or the elevated toilet position assumed in modern cultures. The operation of apana shakti is obviously hindered in both of these positions. If you can understand this, then you will also understand what has to be done.

What has happened today is that womankind has lost touch with her own innate wisdom and power. No one should be too hasty in blaming the obstetricians and gynaecologists. They readily admit that for the superior woman the squatting position is far easier for labour than the lithotomy position, even if it makes their own role more passive and less significant. The birth canal is no longer accessible to active intervention, so that they are no longer in charge, but become merely advisers. The lithotomy position gives the doctor power, prestige and livelihood. If women were to realize their own potentials, symbolized in kali asana, today's social dominance of men over women would dissolve in less than a decade.

Preparing for delivery in kali asana

Women who wish to deliver in kali asana, as women have always done, and still do in native and primitive cultures, should first propitiate goddess Kali to awaken confidence, power and strength. Many women living in today's civilized communities will probably find difficulty in adopting kali asana for any length of time. Due to ignorance of yogic techniques and a toxic refined diet, the muscles and joints of the hips, lower back, knees and ankles have all but fused up. Many women today cannot even squat with their heels on the ground; such is the inflexibility in their ankle joints. How can they hope to deliver their child in kali asana, where they will have to remain squatting for quite some time? While they will be able to move somewhat in the squatting position, they will not be able to straighten up from the time that the foetal head has emerged from the cervix until their child is delivered. In the lithotomy position, the duration of this second stage of labour is often unnecessarily prolonged, and it is here that most complications, arrests and emergency procedures are deemed necessary. Many of these problems will be largely avoided and the whole of this second, crucial stage of labour can be completed in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes, if the child is delivered from kali asana, in the presence of a skilled assistant. For the woman who has practised yoga for some time, whose joints and ligaments are flexible, delivery from kali asana is definitely preferable.

How can the body be prepared for kali asana? All the asanas are helpful, but specifically the knees and ankles are prepared by crow walking, namaskara, chopping wood, and uttanasana, while the hips are made flexible by the butterfly posture. These should be performed on a daily basis, while a yogic diet which eliminates accumulated toxins in the joint fluids and keeps the bowels eliminating well, should be followed. The mother who has prepared herself in this way has the key to easy and successful labour. Through yoga a woman can know how to conserve and direct her energies better, and how to relax completely and quickly, so as to meet each contraction with renewed resources. She can complete the delivery with minimal delay, maximal enjoyment and reserves of endurance. She can be aware, in control and cooperating with body rhythms.

Most childbirths are normal and can be carried out free of distress. Child-bearing is not a disease that it should need routine drugs, anaesthetics or other medications, although there are times when such help is needed. But one should not be dependent on the modern obstetrics to the eclipse of one's own resources. Yoga is a science which a woman can use to develop her spirit, mind and body, to know her strengths and overcome her limitations. She can approach the special role of motherhood serenely developing the innate, intuitive dimensions of her personality, aware of herself as a happy, creative and fulfilled individual.