Childbirth is a wonderful, life-changing event that can take a toll on our minds, bodies and spirit. With an emphasis on closing and firming our bodies after birth, Postnatal Yoga can help us regain our physical and mental strength, while connecting deeper with our babies and the mama within. If you gave birth recently and feel ready to get back on your yoga mat, please check with your OB or midwife before you begin.
A common timeframe to begin postnatal exercise is at six weeks. Starting a yoga practice before this may lead to complications such as Diastasis Recti (see below), incontinence, back pain or other issues associated with a weak core and pelvic floor. Make sure to ease back into practice and listen to your body. Gentle stretching with an upper body focus is a good way to start moving, especially if you’re feeling stiff after holding and feeding your little bundle of joy. This Postnatal Upper Body Routine is a postnatal yoga video with a balance of gentle yoga poses and moves that stretch and strengthen you while giving your lower body more time to heal.
Remember to move slow as you create a regular routine on your mat. Even if you feel back to ‘normal’ early on, trust that more rest, not less, will help speed your recovery. Be aware you might feel antsy around the eight to twelve day mark postpartum. Your body may feel ready, but believe me, it still needs more recovery time. Use this restful period as a way to connect with your newborn. This time is precious and fleeting, so make room in your day for skin-to-skin contact with your baby and kick up your feet for a show (or four). Your yoga mat will still be there tomorrow.
When you are ready, you will want to start with your core. Pregnancy, labor and childbirth all impact our core in different ways. Most issues resolve themselves naturally, but sometimes, more serious ones like Diastasis Recti, a separating of the abdominal muscles, may occur.
A majority of women experience Diastasis Recti to a degree after delivery. Some will heal naturally during the allotted six weeks of recovery. For those who do not, an unpleasant side effect is the stomach not ‘bouncing back’ or ‘mummy tummy’. A postnatal yoga practice with a core focus can help to get tight and strong again. Postnatal yoga video routines like this Postnatal Core Workout will engage and strengthen your core, firm up your tummy, improve your posture and build a healthy foundation of strength. In addition to these physical benefits, a strong core can improve your mood, boost confidence and decrease stress.
To be successful, modify, modify, modify! There is no need to push yourself so modify the first several times you practice. If you find after a consistent practice of three times a week, that your body is not responding in the way you would like, ask your doctor about other exercises that may help to ‘close the gap’ of your abdominal wall.
All this movement on your mat is a positive step in reconnecting to your sense of self. Being mindful of your movements off the mat helps with this, too. Something as simple as remembering to roll to your side before getting up or laying down will not only protect our healing cores but it reminds us that we deserve tender care, too. Take a moment to firm up your core while bending over, picking things up or carrying your baby. When feeding your baby, prop the back of your head with a pillow and deepen your breath as you relax your shoulders, jaw, eyebrows and hands.
Use this time for YOU.
As mothers we would sacrifice everything for our babies, and a lot of us do. But your whole family benefits when you take time for your own self care. Even five to ten minutes seated on your mat with your baby safely by your side, puts the focus back on you. This can also be a playful way to encourage tummy time for your baby. Simply close your eyes, sit up tall and take a big breath in and out. Then, roll your shoulders and neck while releasing your jaw. Allow yourself to feel your body, check in with yourself and most importantly, love yourself. As time passes and you get stronger, this practice can become longer with more movement.
Eventually, you will find simple movements and your postnatal yoga practice are getting easier and easier. Again, check with your doctor first, but it may be time to deepen your yoga practice and move on to (Non-Postnatal Yoga Core) routines.
As a mother of a young family, I know making time for ourselves is a challenge. However, our well-being depends on it. A strong, healthy mom has more to give to herself and to her baby. SBY is a resource of support for getting you to a healthy place both on and off your mat.
Written by Diana DeVaul, blog contributor for SarahBethYoga