Jeannine Parvati Baker
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Jeannine Parvati (June 1, 1949 – December 1, 2005) was a bicultural child of a Jewish mother and Native American reservation-raised father. An advanced yoga teacher (yogini), midwife, herbalist, published author, poet and mother of six children, she was also an international activist on the matters of homebirth, lotus birth/navel integrity, unassisted childbirth and newborn rights issues.
Though her maiden name was O'Brien, she was also known by married names Medvin and Baker at different periods of her life.
Born in North Hollywood, California, to a Jewish mother and Native American father, Jeannine O'Brien migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sebastopol areas in the late 1960s, where she became a yoga student of Baba Hari Dass while attending Sonoma State University and majoring in psychology, pursuing graduate studies with the primal psychology scholar Graham Farrant. She was an early contributor to the fields of natural health and healing, studying yoga asana and meditation. Parvati chose to give birth to all of her children without the use of drugs, which she discusses in her early writings.
Parvati first book, Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, was the first text in the Western world on the subject, written during her studies with ashtanga yogi Baba Hari Dass from whom she received the name Parvati. In the Hindu myth, Parvati is the female counterpart of the male principle, Shiva. She endures much to stay true to her spiritual devotion, and eventually merges with Shiva. Jeannine Parvati's contribution to the realm of prenatal yoga was groundbreaking, and in the following years, other authors such as yogini Geeta Iyengar and Janet Balaskas expanded the Prenatal Yoga realm with texts which further asserted benefits of yoga for healthy pregnancy and childbirth preparation, eventually resulting in one of the most popularized trends for modern women.
Parvati followed this work with Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal as her master's thesis in psychology at San Francisco State University, and later, co-authored with her second husband and under the last name Parvati-Baker Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey through the Labyrinth of Sexuality.
Parvati practiced as a spiritual midwife in Sonoma County, California for over ten years, before moving to rural southern Utah where she continued her practice and taught Prenatal Yoga while raising a family. She founded Hygieia College, a mentorship program, through which she matriculated over 500 students both locally and internationally.
A keynote speaker at many professional herbalism and midwifery conferences, and a newborn rights activist working to eradicate infant/child circumcision (both male and female), Parvati Baker was awarded a Lifetime Achievement recognition by the International Symposium on Genital Integrity.
A self-described "wordsmith", she coined the popular word freebirth to describe unassisted childbirth in a positive mode, despite the practice's many well-established risks. She also coined the lesser known, phenomenological Birthkeeper to describe the spiritual midwife in a traditional shamanic or yogini role.
Parvati Baker died December 1, 2005, aged 56, after a two-year battle with Hepatitis C in Utah.
- "Practicing Yoga during pregnancy is one way to heal the split between soul and spirit found in our culture. Prenatal Yoga sexualizes spirituality and spiritualizes fertility. It is the tantric practice of mothers. Once the babies come planetside, our yoga practice shifts into karma Yoga beyond belief. We become servants to our babies and our path is bhakti Yoga, the practice of devotion. Giving conscious birth is woman's vision quest, par excellence. It is ultimate sadhana, spiritual practice, – which requires purity in strength, flexibility, health, concentration, surrender, and faith."
- "We birth as we conceive."
- "Birth is the most obvious expression of "what -is" that we can experience...For a conscious woman, childbirth is self-evidently holy. A spiritual midwife makes the full agreement to support the innate holiness of birth. It is as simple as this: anyone being with a woman giving birth who worships, attends closely and invisibly, follows true, and opens hearts (as well as wombs) is a spiritual midwife. A full spiritual midwife is a healer. She brings a commitment to maintain the wholeness of the birth experience, to keep it holy. She does no harm. In any effort to "save life", she will do no harm, create no extra karma."
As the daughter of a First Nation father (Ute tribe) and as a longtime student of Baba Hari Dass, Jeannine Parvati Baker's midwifery philosophy was one of earth-based values and nonharming principles. She was fond of the idea that midwives should attend only one birth per month. Her idea was that limiting the number of births allows the midwife to integrate the miracle and deeply savor the lessons of each birth. She also liked to say that she only kept one chart for each birthing woman and that was her astrological chart. She often said that “Every mother is a midwife." – Gloria LeMay, Midwifery Educator & Traditional Birth Attendant, Vancouver, Canada http://www.glorialemay.com/blog/?p=231
- Parvati, Jeannine (2001). Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth. North Atlantic Books-Consumer Hlth; 2nd edition. ISBN 1-55643-382-4.
- Parvati Baker, Jeannine (1986). Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey Through the Labyrinth of Sexuality. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 0-938190-83-0.
- Parvati, Jeannine (1979). Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal. Freestone Publishing Company. ISBN 0-913512-54-0.
- Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, New Atlantic Publishing, 2001. Pages 1–10
- Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth (2001), p. xii
- Parvati Baker, Conscious Conception, p. 34
- Parvati Baker, "Psyche's Midwife", The Mother Magazine, UK (2000)
- Birthkeeper Official website
- Jeannine Parvati Baker Biography
- Freestone Innerprizes Original website