I've had the privilege of working with many pregnant people and their families in various capacities over the years. One of my most favorite ways to connect with parents is guiding them through some of the positional and bodywork releases inspired by the paradigm-shifting phenomenon that is Spinning Babies.
When a parent discovers this rich body of work, they often align with the power of taking an active part in supporting and creating space and balance in the body. But I think there is so much more possible with the “Three Sisters of Balance” and the “Fantastic Four.” I’ve noticed that my guidance and suggestions have shifted to include a more holistic and mindful approach that make a regular practice of these “basic” passive and active releases into truly holistic childbirth preparation. Influenced in part by Birthing From Within® and the work of Bill Plotkin and Peter Levine (and my training with STREAM), these suggestions and questions listed below and chosen thoughtfully can help parents explore many different ways of knowing and being in the body-mind. I believe that Spinning Babies has a spiritual side: that staying curious and introspective as they practice “Spinning Babies stuff” allows parents to experience pregnancy in awareness and birth as a rite of passage.
I think it’s helpful to Begin Within before working with any Spinning Babies technique. If you are a pregnant or birthing person, clarify how it is that you know to get into or stay in a certain position or receive a certain technique. Feel into what it means to give whole-bodied consent if someone will be touching you, and clarify honest adaptations that will allow your body to step more fully into a “yes” for the practice. Also, how can you expand your intention to be more than just “get baby to turn?” Rather, asking “how am I connecting even more with my baby and body?”
If you are a birthworker, perhaps ask yourself how you know to suggest a certain technique? Are you just going through the checklist, or can you really feel into how the position will be helpful for THIS particular client and their partner? Will it help them connect with each other, give them more confidence? Are you feeling rushed, or is there enough space and pacing to experience the full benefits of the techniques?
Once embodied consent and clear intention are established (and continue to be established as this is an ongoing process), also clarify that the techniques are being performed properly and safely. Having an experienced practitioner present to guide you, especially the first time through, will be ideal, but the step-by-step instructions at spinningbabies.com are also excellent.
Take a moment as well to tune into your body (both parents and birthworkers) before you begin. This is important to do during and after the session, as well. What are you noticing? What sensations are you aware of, and where do you experience those sensations? Are any images arising? What is your baby communicating with you? How do you feel emotionally? Any significant insights? After each direction/technique is visited you might journal or share with your partner any discoveries or things that surprised you, or maybe some new questions either of you may have.
Plotkin’s Nature-Based Map of the Psyche invites us to tune into the various “parts” of ourselves that make up our pattern of being in the world, and to overlay those aspects/archetypes in a place-based way. These qualities/parts are mirrored by the qualities of the four directions: North, South, West and East. I “assigned” a Spinning Babies practice to each direction for the convenience of tapping to these qualities/energies from an embodied place. You might even face or connect with each actual physical direction in your space, and feel your body in that space, as you rotate through the practices and directions.
A lovely place to start is in the North with Rebozo Manteada. The North is about Trusting Others, asking for help, care-taking ourselves, others, and the more-than-human world, and receiving support. “Leaving home" and deciding who we can trust or not trust. Sometimes just asking your partner or someone to set aside the time to do this practice together can be a spiritual awakening, especially for those of us who identify as “independent” and admire this quality in ourselves or others. Some questions to help you or your partner tap into the qualities of the north (especially while being held and sifted by the rebozo) include:
“Where can I soften more to support (in this moment, and in my pregnancy)?”
“How am I letting myself be supported, protected, and held in this pregnancy?”
“How am I trusting the wisdom of others? How do I know when to trust or not trust? Family, Ancestors, Partners, Companions, Friends, Neighbors, Doctors, Midwives, Nurses, Doulas, Community?”
“How an I honoring the lineage of traditional birth practices I am benefiting from? What sacrifice can I make to communities from whom this ancient knowledge has been shared? (Perhaps purchasing a rebozo that supports communities in Mexico, Guatemala, etc? Donating to schools for midwives in marginalized communities?)”
“In what ways do I receive gifts from others, and in what ways do I find it hard to receive?”
As the person doing the technique, the Giver/Sifter, you might ask yourself:
“What happens when the pregnant person is telling me to do it differently? Or that they like what I’m doing? What do I tell myself?”
“How do I keep going even if I’m told I’m doing it wrong, or I don’t know if what I’m doing is working?”
“How do I stay present? How do I take care of myself if I tire or need a break?”
Another lovely starting place is in the South with the Standing Sacral Release. This direction reminds us of the power of Trusting the Body/Self, the deep wisdom of somatic messages, and enjoying the sensual and sexual pleasure of being in a human body. It is an important place of Innocence and Trust. The SSR often has a luscious belly dancing quality as the pregnant person attunes to the rhythms within and allows the body to lead any movements of unwinding and unbuckling, of the sacrum in particular. The feet are rooted in the earth, there is no agenda, only the sovereignty of the body.
This is also one of the practices that can be done solo, without partner or Birthworker support. While it’s true we are not alone when giving birth, it’s also true that only the Birth-Giver can make the journey themself.
“How do I move playfully and intuitively?”
“How am I embracing my sexuality and letting go of the shame around being a person with a vulva and uterus? What’s one small thing I might try sensually/sexually with myself or with a partner that I’ve not done before?”
“What would I do if no one was watching or if I didn’t care?”
“How would I move if I could just be wild?”
“How am I shifting and moving with grace with what arises in my pregnancy?”
“How am I tuning in to my body and my baby?”
“In what ways do I trust my body and my self? Even if complication arise?”
“What sensations am I aware of in my body? What am I noticing with regards to temperature, sweating, saliva, tension, openness, denseness, pointedness, diffuseness, achiness, pulsing, dynamism, stillness, prickliness, etc. ?”
The practice I’ve found that embodies qualities of the West is the Side Lying Release. The West is about Trusting Death, Trusting Mystery: letting go of identities and attachments, stepping into the Unknown, the Terra Incognita. Going toward what we fear, meeting it, being in relationship to it. I love how in the SLR the pregnant person is totally surrendered, letting the weight of the top leg fall forward, trusting that they won’t be dropped, that a part of them is tethered to the Upperworld, while another part of them is preparing to drop into the Underworld. Dipping a toe in the Underworld, if you will, where the language of the Soul is spoken. Tuning in to any images that arise while experiencing the SLR can be helpful and informative. It’s also a great opportunity to contemplate how one might cope, be flexible and resilient, if the unexpected or unwished for might happen. The body twists at the level of the pelvic rotator cuff (the spine is straight though), much like the twists and turns of the labyrinthine soul journey of birth.
“The truth is that the ground has always been shaky, forever.” - Pema Chodron
Some helpful questions to contemplate:
“How do I surrender and stay curious about sensation?”
“What am I avoiding? How am I tracking my avoidance?”
“How do I stay present to discomfort?”
“How am I embracing vulnerability and Self-Doubt?”
“What images arise in this position?”
And, especially if knowledge of your baby’s position will influence your options in birth, exploring “How will I stay loving and present to my baby and myself if we birth in a way I wasn’t hoping or planning?”
Finally, or perhaps, again, we come to the East, where the upside goes downward with a Forward Leaning Inversion. That which made sense gets turns on it’s head as we Trust Life and Birth. This direction and position waking us up to new perspectives. Associated with the element of Air, whimsical, unpredictable, like the Birth Fairy who also brings the unexpected. Or like the Eagle who flies high above our experiences and sees a broader perspective. I also love with FLI that the heart is “higher” than the head, reminding us that the heart’s wisdom and yearnings are just as important as, if not more important than, the logic of our minds. Being in FLI reminds me of the Tarot’s “Hanged Man” - that place of suspension and in-between, not quite who we were, but not quite who we are becoming. The Fool/Sage, a place of great wisdom and “No Story” at the same time.
“How am I no longer a maiden/non-mother/non-parent? How am I already a mother/father/parent?”
“How am I opening to shifts in perspective?”
“What has surprised me about myself already?”
“What am I drawn to during this pregnancy in terms of books and classes and groups? How do I know to be drawn to them?”
“What unconscious preparation has led me to this moment in my pregnancy?”
“What were my First Stories around Birth? Do I still believe what I learned from those early stories?”
“How am I heeding the wisdom of my heart? How have I let the heart lead in this pregnancy?
“What is my Heart’s Question? What is my Heart’s Longing? What is Calling me?”
“How am I discovering strength and power? What does it mean to be “Strong” in pregnancy and birth?”
“What mantra is calling me toward a more whole self?”
After this Spinning Babies session including such deep reflections one might take some time to journal, to draw, take a slow and mindful walk with Breath Awareness, and then also to Rest. Perhaps in the Constructive Rest position (see coreawareness.com) to fully nourish and hydrate the juicy psoas, And, (or if lying flat is uncomfortable), Rest Smart in the sidelying position with the spine straight and knee and hip level. Maybe receive some nurturing bodywork, or a foot massage from your partner.
Return again to the question: what are you are noticing in your body? What’s different now after all of these Body Balancing Spinning Babies techniques? Where do you honestly notice more space, or perhaps more tension and holding? What’s one small thing that might be different today or this week as a result of this practice? What might your partner notice is different? What new questions do you have?….
“The most important aspect of being on a spiritual path may be to just keep moving.” -Pema Chodron