Its during this postpartum time, and in the midst any other radical life transition, that it’s critical to stay connected to one's practice. Especially as women, who are natural caregivers, it’s easy to forget that we must always secure our oxygen mask before helping another. Often that breath of oxygen, that deep inhale, is found only on the mat amidst the chaos of new motherhood.
Perhaps in mastering the transition from hovering half moon to Warrior II, one can also start to conquer the uncertainty and challenge that accompanies any change in life, especially those related to life as a new mom. Committing to time for self-reflection on the mat allows one to move from a human being in transition, to one in transformation. Transformation is intentionally. Is it the choice to change with a certain power and decisiveness. Those qualities of strength, power, and fearlessness gestate on the mat, so that they too can be born into one’s life.
Considerations for your Postnatal Yoga Practice
Always consult your physician before beginning any form of postnatal exercise.
The most common discomforts after having a baby include a weak pelvic floor, loss of endurance, aching neck and shoulders, weak abdominal muscles, and fatigue. Although any yoga is better than none at all, there are certain poses that better facilitate recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. Unlike prenatal yoga, where the focus is usually on opening the hips and stretching the side bodies, postnatal yoga has different goals and intentions, and includes hip neutral and hip closing positions to help bring the pelvis back into stasis. Beneficial standing postnatal poses include: Forward folds, standing splits, chair pose, crescent lunge, warrior I, warrior III, pyramid, and eagle.
Additionally, focus on poses that open the heart and stretch the chest, shoulders, and neck. Many hours are spent holding and feeding a new baby, which results in rounding the upper back, collapsing the shoulders, and straining the neck. Beneficial shoulder opening poses include: Forward folds with hands clasped behind the back, cactus arms, creating big circles with the arms, standing backbends with hands behind the head, dancer, bridge, camel, bow, plow, and wheel.
Abdominal work is another important focus for new mothers and required especially to weave the rectus abdominis muscle back together if the common separation or diastasis of this muscle occurred with the expanding uterus. Beneficial abdominal poses include: Boat, side plank, knee to chest from downward facing dog, plank.
A weakened pelvic floor and associated discomforts are common concerns for the postpartum mom. There are several poses in which we employ a root lock, mula banda, or kegel contraction for stabilization. Beneficial poses to tone the pelvic floor include: child’s pose, downward facing dog, tree, triangle, extended side angle, fish, pyramid, chair, and hero.
Its no surprise, the that best poses for fatigue are already listed on this page and offer benefits to not only the postpartum body, but also to a new mother’s mind and heart. On a final note, if you are breastfeeding, it may be uncomfortable to lie on your stomach in cobra and spine strengthening exercises. Instead, come to all fours and take the variation from a tabletop position. Lastly, avoid deep hip openers such as runners lunge, humble warrior, and malasana.
By Jennifer Lux
Jennifer Lux is a yoga instructor, birth doula, and mother. She teaches for Warrior Academy Yoga, with the philosophy that creating powerful bodies and open hearts on the mat will serve to improve the world around us. As a doula, Jennifer encourages women to use aspects of their yoga practice, including the breath, mantras, visualizations, vocalizations, and poses to ease and invite labor.
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