Françoise Freedman

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Session one

Open a new Dharma cycle with prenatal yoga on and off the mat


"Dharma refers to an encompassing connection with God or Atman as Self. Yoga helps promote an expansion of consciousness through which this connection colours our lives from momentous decisions to the way we change babies’ nappies".


Pregnancy is a time of intense transformation in the creation of new life and the emergence of new family ties. Yoga can ideally support a deepening alignment with Dharma, helping pregnant women to get closer to the true values of Being. Childbirth is a physical, psychological and spiritual process that can only be approached in a holistic manner, also planting the seeds of Dharma in the next generation.   The majority of women who come to yoga for pregnancy and birth are new to yoga: they need a direct, easy but authentic access to its essence. In this session I would like to share some of our Birthlight adaptations of yoga practices that pregnant women often describe as ‘life transforming’. Flow, breath and movement are combined in practices accessible to ALL women, on and off the mat. Yoga then alleviates fear and anxiety and opens the way to self-nurture in preparation for the challenges of baby-nurture. This expands into spirals of joy and wellbeing in all areas of life.

What can people expect?

Sample modifications of asanas for different stages and conditions of pregnancy, on and off the mat: transitions, fluid sequences, partner sequences, yoga walks, chair yoga, instant relaxation practices. Selected pranayama to make space and prepare for birth Illustrated anatomy: slides supporting practices shown


session two

Postnatal Yoga as re-creation of core alignment with Dharma with breath and micro-movements.


Far from just “returning to normal” (?) postnatal yoga can be offered as an opportunity to create new foundations for one’s being after the profound transformation that every pregnancy and birth brings about. This is in line with all world traditions including Ayurveda, where new mothers (parents) are supported in their personal and social transition of being.

This session will show how the breath, altered by the expanding uterus, can be re-discovered as a powerful tool to help muscles, ligaments and fascia create better organ support and spinal alignment in postnatal bodies. The micro-movements pioneered in Birthlight act on the core of the self, at the root of the spine, nurturing the nervous and endocrine systems with a connection to the heart.

Postnatal “self-re-creation” practices are best done soon after childbirth, but they are also effective in different ways for mothers, years, even decades later. Men and women with no children have also used these practices with benefits after major transitions in their lives, particularly post-surgery.


what can people expect?

Adapted Pranayama, (illustrated with slides showing the inter-connections between diaphragms and the effects of the breath practices shown in the session on the nervous and endocrine systems). Sample postnatal micro-movements as core expressions of Asana in different positions.


What does dharma mean to you?

Dharma is the essence of the universe, the cosmic law of being that rules all expressions of life as we know it. As such, it is truth, and truth is associated with joy and lightness of being (the Ananda of Rta). Mindfulness is an attitude of the subject. Dharma refers more to an encompassing connection with God or Atman as Self. Yoga helps promote an expansion of consciousness through which this connection colours our lives from momentous decisions to the way we change babies’ nappies.


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The Founder and Director of Birthlight, Françoise Barbira Freedman is a medical anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, where she does research and teaches as an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology.

After spending long periods of fieldwork in Peruvian Amazonia, including two pregnancies and stays with her young family, she was inspired to share the gentle approach to parenting of her Amazonian hosts among friends in the UK. As a trained yoga teacher and therapist, Françoise used the idiom of yoga to create an original programmer of movements and nurturing relaxation for mothers to be and new mothers with their babies.

Having a background of competition swimming and swimming instructor, she also developed Infant Aquatics and Aqua Yoga original programmes. All these activities took place informally in Cambridge around Françoise four children and friends of friends until demand grew and the time came to produce books and videos. Parents and professionals who used these products asked for training and the Birthlight training structure was put in place as a development to training courses offered to Yoga Therapists at the Yoga Biomedical Trust in London.

In 1998, ten years after the first informal Cambridge classes, Birthlight was set up as a registered charity with an adjunct company Birthlight Training Limited. Birthlight courses have grown exponentially from year to year since 2001 and now has over 1500 certified instructors in four major teaching areas, mainly in the UK but increasingly abroad. Françoise is a Board member and adviser of the  European Yoga Federation Council.

Françoise is a registered SYT teacher with Yoga Alliance UK. This accreditation demonstrates excellent standards as set by Yoga Alliance UK.

An expert in her field, Françoise is a speaker at International Conferences. Françoise’s books have now been translated into 11 languages, she has also written articles for numerous yoga journals and pregnancy / baby magazines.

Françoise received the prestigious Virginia Hunt Award in 2009 (World Aquatic Baby Children Association).

Françoise has always maintained close links with her research partners in Peru. As a co-founder of Yakumamay, Françoise has extended her commitment to support the conservation of traditional knowledge within its original context.

Françoise is the Chair of Education and Research committee for BYCT.

Birthlight is listed as a Social Impact Project at the University of Cambridge - Dr Francoise Barbira-Freedman and Learning The Art of Amazonian Gentle Parenting.


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