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Action on Postpartum Psychosis
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Pregnancy Yoga

Did you get PP after practicing pregnancy yoga?

Is there any research indicating that yoga can cause psychosis?

I practiced a lot of yoga throughout my pregnancy, and then suffered PP after birth in 2014.

When training as a yoga teacher, I heard anecdotes of the ‘kundalini awakening’. It sounds like there are many similarities between this experience and psychosis: feelings of grandeur, believing that they are godlike, that they may have an important mission or message to relay. Euphoria, and periods of intense depression. Experiences of alternate realities and altered states of consciousness, an impossible feeling of connection with the world and other people.

In PP, I remember the enlightenment and connection. I also remember my episode began with believing that I was very special or different from others; immortal, divine, omnipotent, omniscient, full of love and forgiveness.

I really loved yoga, but stayed away since my episode. As I’m 14 weeks pregnant, I’d like to attend another pregnancy class to get fit, relax and meet other expectant mothers. Many people suggest that yoga is good for mental health, so maybe it’s safe for me and I’ve nothing to fear. Or maybe it’s not safe, and practicing it could cause psychosis?

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Hi Jessi I think yours is an interesting post . My daughter has had phycosis and depression which is why I am on this forum. I have been reading about meditation a lot recently and from what I understand is that if you are in a meditative state during yoga or meditation if enlightened it could be unsettling for the mind. Personally I wouldnt recommend my daughter to start any forms of meditation, but this is just a personal point of view, from a lay persons interest.

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Hi there,

I had PP following the birth of my daughter in Feb ‘16, I practised gentle yoga once a week and I did do a lot of hypnobirthing before and during labour which gets you into a similar meditative state of mind, I have often wondered about the possibility that the hypnobirthing got my mind into a state vulnerable to psychosis but really I think for me and almost everyone I meet who have had PP (and doesn’t have a history of mental health issues) it is due to mainly the massive sleep deprivation and/or traumatic experiences happening both at birth or being reminded of trauma from the past, hormones most definitely play their part too! I didn’t have the feelings of grandeur in my psychosis, it was mainly focussed on danger that could come to me and my baby, I was manic but not euphoric, in a state of pure terror.

I don’t think there is any research into yoga causing Postpartum Psychosis, the same with the hypnobirthing, I guess because it is an illness that springs up seemingly from no-where and just impossible to predict!

I would do what you feel comfortable with, if you do yoga but are going to be worried throughout it that it may cause psychosis to develop then it won’t be a very restful yoga experience anyway so probably not worth doing. Is there another form of gentle excessive you could do instead? Pregnancy Pilates or aqua aerobics? That way you could meet other mums to be and still get some gentle excersuze in but without the fear.

I wish you well throughout and following the birth of your child,

Claire

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Like you, I questioned whether hypnobirthing was a factor (in addition to sleep deprivation) so stayed away from it second time round.

It always worried me that I felt no pain in labour, as if hypnobirthing rewired my brain, but had no pain second time either so think it’s all down to being relaxed.

My personal opinion is - perhaps all mothers with pp have (if only slight) mood changes before so we are already aware of complimentary therapies. So basically I think the therapies don’t cause pp, we had them as we had problems before (if only minor stress in my case) xx

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Hi Mims, no pain? Really? That’s amazing! I can’t imagine.

I’ve not done hypnobirthing, and don’t plan to this time around. I did encapsulate my placenta, and noticed that each tablet I took gave me lots of energy - I definitely won’t be doing that again.

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Interesting as they advertise it as helping mentally postnatally (although I guess pp is quite opposite to depression so this might send us hyper)

I was part of a research project in 2016 when pregnant with my daughter. I quationed hypnobirthing. I hope they find common themes x

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Hi Mims,

I recently took part in PP research (Cardiff University), but they didn’t ask me any questions about pregnancy yoga or placenta consumption.

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Hi Jessi,

I had PP in 2014 too....I also did pre-natal yoga and encapsulated my placenta too! I felt like each pill gave me energy and hormones. I was calling them my hormone pills! I’ve heard someone call my experience Kundalini rising. I don’t think yoga caused PP necessarily but research on this topic would be interesting!

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Hi Bravesurvivor2,

I thought it was the iron - they gave me so much energy! I don’t think there’s been enough research into the implications of consuming the placenta. I’m still cautious about yoga, as the asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) move prana (energy) throughout the body, and activate chakras. I would be interested to hear what an experienced yoga teacher thinks about this, but yet to talk to one about it. Maybe difficult to research, as it’s ancient medicine or theory which I don’t think has been proven scientifically.

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Thanks Claire. I’d agree that anxiety and stress, and lack of good quality sleep were significant issues leading up to the psychosis. I didn’t try hynobirthing, but had a really good labour/birth experience overall - maybe because I prepared my body well by practicing pregnancy yoga :) I think I’ll give it a go, and see how I feel (I can’t find any alternatives locally). I loved it before, and my perinatal psychiatrist told me today that he’s never seen any evidence to suggest that yoga increases risk of mental illness.

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Hi Jessi.

I had pp in 2014 following my son. No pp following daughter in 2016 and this was the only pregnancy where I used yoga, which I found really useful.

I like you questioned what caused pp but I now think it is a combination of many factors - stress in pregnancy, being a new Mum, lack of sleep as well as hormones.

I personally don’t think the yoga as I didn’t do it first time, it may be a small factor but for me the main factors and stress and lack of sleep.

Family helped me with night feeds second time round (I set off doing no night feeds and built up to a few then all but with a few nights off a week)

I don’t plan a 3rd but I wouldn’t worry about pp again as I feel protected sleep keeps my mood stable xx

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For me, lack of sleep has a very big impact on my emotions and resilience. My husband plans to do the night feeding, so hopefully sleep won’t be a problem this time.

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Hello Jessi,

I just have been writing to you whilst Claire has sent the post below with some great guidance, personal view point based on her own experience. Excellent!

In my opinion I can not see a link between the cause of PPP and pregnancy Yoga either and doubt that there is any validity and/or research evidence. On the contrary I am a great believer in meditation and Yoga exercises with the guidance of a qualified Yoga teacher, (when no established skills). It has been a wonderful experience for me whilst being pregnant.

I was linked to the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and learnt how to meditate and became a very "flexible yogi". This life style has helped me to be strong and healthy for many years. After PPP I was unable to meditate and do yoga for quite some time. I managed to go for walks and cycle. Nevertheless my spirituality is part of me and when times were at its worst my partner gave me a Buddhist book with poems...I could not read, but was holding onto it.

Now meditation and yoga reduces my mind racing, helps me to focus and I have regained those important breathing techniques, so vital when struggling with panic attacks. I am so happy to feel the consciousness and momentum whilst practising Yoga & the peace I soak up when just sitting and/or meditating.

By the way meditation and Yoga was always recommended in my care plan, but no tools were given to put theory into practise. It is another alternative therapeutic way for keeping our mental health in balance.

Wishing you a good day...

x

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Thanks Jasa, it’s interesting to hear that you didn’t practice yoga for some time after PPP too. I’ll give it a try, and see how I feel - perhaps I’ve some problem with my spirituality now, as the PPP experience was so strange.

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Hi again,

in your own time and at your own pace. I go to a Yoga group only once a week as I find being in a group of people quite challenging. Nevertheless, I am learning and regaining confidence.

You will, too.

x

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Hi Jessi,

It’s an interesting question, I don’t know of any research into this.

I did practice very gentle yoga and breathing techniques whilst pregnant and had done it previously. However when I was in labour and by the time I became psychotic (for me it happened during labour itself) I was so sleep deprived, in so much pain, had an infection developing and quite starved that yoga and relaxation techniques were the last thing on my mind.

Interestingly I had a recent blip before Christmas that caused insomnia and anxiety and in this case yoga really helped calm my mind and quell the anxiety. Its now something that I try to do at least once/twice a week.

I wish you all the best with your new pregnancy - have you seen the PP guides on subsequent pregnancies? app-network.org/what-is-pp/...

Helen x

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Hi Jessi_D. Have you read anything about "spiritual emergency"? You might find it relevant/interesting..

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Hi Jessi_D,

Your posts show a lot insightful thought! Again couching everything I say as nonprofessional and strictly from my insight (which I believe comes from my daughter, so take that with a grain of salt!), I believe there is a hormonal link behind the feelings of high/low spiritual awareness and PPS.

According to some doctors, oxytocin is responsible for "thoughts greater than ourselves". That the group is more important than the individual, and evolutionists (which I am not a big fan of) believe is responsible for the development of religion.

It is not surprising that nursing/bonding mothers have these intense feelings of "thoughts greater than self", which are great, as long as they are balanced with thoughts of "I need to survive! (the role of testosterone), ie get sleep, eat, have good hygiene, etc.

To make a long story short, yoga as an exercise shouldn't be a risk factor per se, but if increases feelings that make you loose touch with taking care of your physical self, I would suggest discussing it with your doctors.

Best wishes for your continued joy,

Peter and Rosa

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Yes, makes sense. Thank you both. I need to focus on the pregnancy yoga practice as present self-care, and if it means anything more to me then I should probably stop. I need to stay grounded and relaxed, and not do anything that makes me high, ambitious etc.

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