NEW DELHI: Research indicates that over the years, a critical gap has emerged between medical and lay perspectives. Caught at the centre of this conflict is the process of childbirth, with the medical discourse on pregnancy being seen in opposition to maternal perspectives. Pregnancy and childbirth -- a biological function that women’s bodies have been designed to perform -- have been relegated to the discourse of an illness. The doctor is the expert, and the mother -- whose body is the scene of action -- is reduced to the role of a subject. Research further suggests that the two perspectives differ on whether pregnancy is a medical or natural process, and whether, as a consequence, it should be separated from the woman’s life experiences and treated as an isolated medical event.

This debate has its own ramifications in India, where pregnancy and childbirth are moving increasingly to the domain of medical centres and hospitals. In New Delhi, a leading mother and child speciality facility, Phoenix Hospital, is out to demonstrate that pregnancy and childbirth should not be caught in a medical-versus-natural either/or. The hospital’s holistic wellness centre, Zaazen Wellness, is the result of that effort.

(Zaazen Wellness at Phoenix Hospital, New Delhi)

Zaazen Wellness, which is currently directed towards fulfilling the wellness needs of pre as well as postnatal women, is positioned as a resource centre for wellness activities and information, presented in a creative and unique way. Activities promoted through the Centre reinstate the objective that pregnancy and childbirth are life experiences, and the medical process, instead of being an isolated incident, is a tangible part of that experience.

"The idea of pregnancy and birth being people and family-centered had been the cornerstone of care offered by Dr. Urvashi Sehgal (co-founder of Phoenix Hospital). This resonated with me. For more than 10 years, I have worked with expectant families putting women, babies, and family first. Over the years, I have been gestating creative ideas to spread awareness and interaction opportunities, and Zaazen has been an expression of those dreams for me.” says Divya Deswal, childbirth educator and Doula working with Phoenix Hospital, and advisor to Zaazen Wellness, told The Citizen.

Jayati Sehgal, founder of Zaazen Wellness, echoes the above. “Having worked in the field for over a decade, Divya had a lot of great ideas about what Zaazen could be. I think I came in, and took these ideas, played with them, and decided what Zaazen would be. I knew what I wanted our brand to be, and what I wanted it to stand for, and most importantly how it made the women that came to us FEEL. That for me has been the driving force behind Zaazen. We don't want to be just any other place providing any other service. If someone makes the choice to come to us, we work very hard to provide them with not just a service, but an overall experience,” Sehgal told The Citizen.

In context of the above, Zaazen Wellness offers a range of workshops and activities, including prenatal fitness, prenatal yoga, and even prenatal belly dancing. “Belly dancing is a dance of fertility and is practiced as a form of fitness, and also for labour and birth. The practice of Belly dancing whilst pregnant is extremely common in the West due to its several benefits, however, the concept is still very new in India. The rhythmic, fluidic movements in belly dancing are said to help bring the baby in the right position for natural birth, and also strengthen the pelvic and abdominal muscles which are extremely important for labour and birth,” Deswal explains. In fact, Zaazen Wellness is currently the only place in the city for prenatal belly-dancing and workshops!

(A yoga class at Zaazen Wellness)

(A belly dancing class at Zaazen Wellness)

One of the most popular workshops at the Centre are the sessions on breastfeeding. “There is so much misinformation out there about breastfeeding, and as a result of which a lot of young mother’s are left feeling helpless and lost about how to go about it, and unsure what the benefits of it really are. In order to ensure that every single one of our mums gets all the information they need to know, we hold 2 breastfeeding classes as well as 2 breastfeeding workshops a month. The workshops are complementary and serve as an introduction to a more detailed breastfeeding class,” explains Deswal.

The Centre also provides physiotherapy sessions and pre and postnatal massages, to support women with the biological changes the body goes through when making room for the baby. It also provides classes highlighting the mind-body connect in pregnancy and birth, and informative classes on breastfeeding and meeting the newborn baby's needs.

(A childbirth class at Zaazen Wellness)

In addition to these regular classes, Zaazen Wellness goes a step further in breaking down the divide between the medical and maternal -- by seeking to a build a community where the two overlap. The wellness centre holds a series of complimentary workshops every month which are open to all expectant mothers. “The idea behind these workshops is to bring women together, building a community for pregnant women to interact and find support. For first time mums especially, this is a great way to connect and meet one another, and really talk about whatever they are going through. For instance, if you are the first person in your friend’s circle to have a baby, you need other women around you that can understand how you feel, offer advice, or even just to interact with. It is only after seeing and hearing a lot of these to-be moms every day, that I have understood how much there is to learn about pregnancy, beyond just the physical, and just how much of a support they are for one another,” says Sehgal.

The workshops are interactive, informal sessions, often touching upon unusual yet fascinating ideas and topics. “We recently did a ‘Meditative birth art’ workshop for expecting mums. The idea here was to use art to bond with the baby, through a meditative and almost spiritual experience, using art as a window to tap into one’s own intuitive wisdom and communicate with the womb,” explains Sehgal.

Another example of an unusual and interesting workshop is the upcoming session on labyrinth explorations, where to-be moms are taught how to draw their own labyrinth, and form a deeper connection with themselves. The circular motions involved with drawing a labyrinth are said to allow access to a higher state of consciousness, awareness, and peace of mind.

“These workshops are our attempt at community building, as well as bringing to light the amazing ways in which mothers and babies can connect with one another even before their birth,” says Deswal.

(A fitness class at Zaazen Wellness).

Although a relatively new entrant at 4 months old, Zaazen Wellness boasts a number of very happy new mothers and to-be mothers.

"Once I got pregnant …it seemed that pregnancy and birthing was a hush hush topic… no one wanted to talk about it the baby bump or about childbirth or about how to understand the changes your body was going through. I am so glad that amongst this my husband and I found Divya Deswal and her childbirth classes at Zaazen. The 5 Sunday evenings taught us more than the remaining 34 weeks of my pregnancy did,” Sumedha Dutta, a lawyer who delivered a beautiful baby girl at Phoenix Hospital told The Citizen.

“Zaazen has been an experience which you realise the importance of only once you join it. No amount of literature will be able to tell you the good it does. The classes at Zaazen have been of tremendous help to me for my pregnancy… Also, you get to meet other pregnant women and discuss all your symptoms, worries and doubts with each other. This was amazing for me because you get a lot of tips and practical advice from people going through it at the same time as you are. All the girls from the batch are now on a whatsapp group and keep posting their queries even after the babies have been delivered,” chimed Priya Kochhar, a fashion stylist who is the proud mother of a baby girl.

“From my first day at class, I was made to feel at home. All newly pregnant women are nervous and scared as they take their first hesitant steps into this new phase of life. The team at Zaazen has recognised these understandable fears and made every effort to provide a safe, happy, comfortable zone to get us prepared for motherhood :)” echoes Simar Suri, a lawyer due to give birth in a few months.

(A yoga class at Zaazen Wellness)

The happy clients reaffirm the need for a Centre like Zaazen Wellness and the philosophy that drives it. “Our goal at Zaazen is to enrich the lives of the women that come to us and to facilitate a paradigm shift that really opens up their mind, and society's minds about pregnancy and what having a baby means, and how to experience it in its most natural, untethered form,” says Sehgal with a smile.

Zaazen Wellness
Phoenix Hospitals - E60-62, Greater Kailash I, New Delhi, Delhi 110048
T: +91 98110 24233
F: 123-456-789