A Different Approach to Postpartum Yoga

IMG_3589The first few weeks and months after having my baby were not what I expected.

Initially my body felt like it had been hit by a truck. I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but the impact of childbirth and the physical toll taking care of a newborn took on my body blew me away.

When I attempted to resume my yoga practice I found I had very little energy and even less time to practice. 

I knew I needed yoga, but I wasn’t able to do the yoga I did before getting pregnant or even while being pregnant. Postpartum yoga was its own category. When I would search for postpartum yoga I’d see lots of articles about “getting your body back.”

I wasn’t interested in “getting my body back.” I was interested in figuring out how to function and practice yoga in this new body.

This is where my yoga teacher training really paid off. I decided I had to scrap my old yoga practice and mindset and start from scratch. This wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the safest and most nurturing thing for my body.

I’m six months into motherhood and I still don’t have my old yoga practice back, but I’ve learned how to make my yoga count.

Gone are the days of 5-minute warm-ups and 10-minute savasanas.

I’m happy to get in a 15-minute practice on any given day and have found that life after baby requires a different kind of flexibility, strength, and patience than the kind I practice on my mat.

The 5 poses I share below are what I practiced for the first couple months post-baby. Coupled with awareness and breath I found them to be healing, energizing, and supportive for my body and mind.

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In all poses bring awareness to your breath and your back body, two areas that tend to get neglected in new moms. Step into your new body slowly and with awareness, letting it open up when ready and heal at its own pace.

Cat/Cow: This was the first pose I did after having baby and it never felt so good. It’s a wonderful way to gently begin to reconnect to your new body and massage your spine at the beginning or end of your day.

Learn how to do cat/cow here.

Supported Twist: Back pain is a common complaint among new moms. Twists are rejuvinating Supported Twistfor the spine and can provide a much-needed release to the back after a day of carrying baby. This restorative version is gentle enough for your recovering body and the support allows you to deeply relax.

Use blankets or a pillow wrapped in a towel. Line up your hip with the middle of your prop. Twist to face the prop and lengthen your torso as you place yourself on it. Rest on each side 5 to 15 minutes.

Supported BackbendBack Bend Over a Bolster: The hunched shoulders that come from carrying and picking up baby all day compromise our posture and can leave us feeling exhausted energetically as well as physically. This gentle heart-opener expands your lungs and frees up your breath.

Roll up a blanket and place your upper back over it until it rests under your nipple line. For extra support use a blanket under the knees and neck. Rest here 5 to 15 minutes.

Shoulder Clock: Carrying and rocking baby contracts the biceps as well as the forearm muscles, creating tension in the upper chest and neck over time. Gently opening the shoulders when possible helps to relieve some of the tightness we develop in the arms.

Learn how to do shoulder clock here.

Constructive Rest Pose: Hours spent sitting while nursing, rocking, and playing with baby Constructive Rest Posefatigues the psoas, a core muscle connected to our central nervous system and a major player in keeping the hips happy and balanced. The psoas connects the spine to the leg, and this pose helped me learn to relax it without pushing my body into deeper poses too early.

Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor in line with your hips. Keep your spine in its natural position with a curve under the low back and neck. Rest here for 10 to 15 minutes and let gravity do the work.

(Check with your doctor before beginning or resuming any yoga practice postpartum.)

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