Jenny Beeken

Your Yoga BirthguideBuy the book, by Jenny Beeken and Sally Townsend, from the Inner Yoga Trust

Sally was my independent midwife in 1989, which meant that she cared for me throughout my pregnancy, labour and birth and then postnatally for my daughter and myself.

Sally had a girl 2 months after me, then a boy just over a year later. She then started coming to an ante and post natal yoga class that I ran with a crèche. Sally had attended classes for many years on and off, but became regular as she found yoga helped her so much with motherhood.

Yes, it was a little chaotic to have ante and post natal together, but it did work well although students often needed slightly different advice and babies needed to come in now and then to be fed. It was fun and relaxed as well as a lot of practice of yoga. Everyone enjoyed getting to know one another and nobody was in a hurry to leave at the end. This is where life long friendships were made.

Sally and I met regularly with a group and then I spent 6 months living in her house when our daughters were 4 years old, so a close friendship was established. Sally came on the Council for the Inner Yoga Trust. Her advice was always very sensible and valuable.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 (her children were just 9 and 7 years), I was committed to supporting her with it.

Our link became stronger with many heartfelt discussions on yoga, what may happen to us through death and afterwards and what on earth is karma and just how to get through it all.

I went with Sally to many hospital appointments and visited her after the many operations she had, where she talked about what she would like to do with her life. One thing was to teach midwifery but, as she had not completed her A levels (her father had died when she was studying for them), she wasn’t able to teach.

I had thought of developing a pregnancy module for our growing school of teachers, as I felt there was so much knowledge I had gained from Sally and from running ante and post natal classes for many years. It was clear that Sally and I could do this together. Her health was deteriorating and she was no longer able to be a practising midwife but wanted to be involved in something worthwhile.

So, in 2006, we wrote together and then taught a 6 month pregnancy module pilot scheme that is now accredited by the British Wheel of Yoga. It was a wonderful experience to teach this with Sally although it was a struggle for her. Yet she carried on right to the end in a very professional way. I then thought that it would make an excellent workbook for the module and put this to her.

The day Sally told me that she had just been given the diagnosis of a few months to live, she said “but we will get into print.”

However, Sally was not well enough and died within 2 months. I sat with her for many hours of those 2 months which was a wonderful privilege and sacred time that I will never forget. I had an awareness of her more subtle bodies (the maya kosas in Sanskrit) being slowly gently withdrawn until the poor ‘shell‘ of her physical body remained hanging on by a thread. It is so clear, if you have had the honour of seeing that happen to someone, that this is not all there is to life.

Soon after Sally died in May 2008, I started on the manuscript for this book. It helped me a lot in my grieving for her.

I worked with Sally’s midwifery notes bringing in the appropriate yoga in all its forms of posture, meditation, chanting, mudras, bandhas and vast philosophy. The first draft was read by an old school friend of Sally’s who was in publishing and Sally’s old boss, the Head of Midwifery at St Mary’s hospital where Sally had a return to midwifery, who also remembered Sally giving lectures on independent midwifery in London when she was a student.

They both requested that I extend the script to include much more than was just appropriate for yoga teachers, including information relevant to all those who are involved in caring for pregnant and post natal women. In this way, the book expanded greatly and also encompassed more of the deep philosophy of yoga which relates to our lives which seem to be so full of the stresses and strains of modern day living.

This combination of midwifery and yoga, I hope, has given a workbook for all those involved in childbirth, including fathers, written from the yoga viewpoint in the widest sense of the term which is a real tribute to Sally and the many aspects of her life for which she had such enthusiasm.

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