After nine months, bubba has finally arrived and changed your life completely. You probably love this little bundle of joy more than you ever thought you would, or could.
They’re everything you never knew you needed and everything you ever wanted. They makes your heart full and complete when you never knew it wasn’t.
Motherhood — such a powerful and overwhelmingly special experience.
Now that we have the mushy side out of the way, we can talk about the physical side. You’re probably totally exhausted and recovering from the marathon of labor, not to mention waking every two hours with a hungry newborn. Once you have the ok from your doc or midwife, and you have someone to take bub for an hour or two, definitely give some post-partum yoga a go.
It’ll help loosen tight muscles, release tension, calm nerves, and calibrate and rebuild pelvic floor and abdominal muscles that have been tried and tested over nine months of supporting a heavy baby.
It’s not uncommon to struggle for a while after birth with running, laughing, sneezing, or jumping. Try not to be hard on yourself. The muscles will rebuild — they’ve worked hard, so give it time. Try not to judge, and just remember this too shall pass.
Here are some fantastic yoga poses to counteract these common ailments post-pregnancy.
1. Kegel Exercises
Come into Child’s Pose. Squeeze the muscles that you use when you’re on your third cocktail (or sparkling water!), you’re busting for the loo, and there is a line out the door of the ladies. Hold for five seconds, then release.
Rest for ten seconds and then repeat. Try to do it five times. Then as you progress, increase your sets. Work up to ten, then up to twenty, maybe even thirty after a few months of practice.
Not only will it bring your muscles back to pre-pregnancy, but it might even take them to the next level. It’s great for your sex life and will help prevent incontinence down the line.
2. Modified Navasana
After you’ve worked your Kegel exercises for a few weeks and you have the ok from your doc, rebuild the abdominal muscles with yoga poses like Modified Navasana. It’s important to take it slow. Most women have large separation between the abdominals after birth — I had a width of four fingers between my abs.
Sit with your knees bent, toes on the mat just beyond your bum. With a flat, straight back, pull in the abs to support the lower back. Take your fingers to your ‘knee pit’ and balance on your Sitz bones, taking most of the weight out of your toes.
This might be where you stay for a few weeks until your ready for the next level. When you’re ready, begin to play with lifting one foot off the mat to a 90 degree angle. Maybe then the other so you’re balancing on your Sitz bones, with a flat back, knees at 90 degrees and shins/calves parallel to the mat.
After a few weeks like this, play with releasing your hands from behind your knees and reach them out straight in front of you.
3. Warrior I with Shoulder Bind
Many new mamas complain about sore shoulders and neck from constantly looking down at their gorgeous baby while feeding (bottle or breast), or from carrying bubs around all the time. A great way to counteract this is with chest openers.
Start out in Warrior I. This will alleviate tight hips and strengthen the lower body. Then add a shoulder bind. Interlace your fingers, connect the wrists. If this is too mild for you, expand into Humble Warrior with a shoulder bind. Bow forward, chest towards the Earth. Place the same side shoulder inside the forward front knee.
Hold for three-five breaths.
4. Locust with Shoulder Bind
To continue releasing the tension that builds up in the upper back, another great pose for post-birth is Locust with a shoulder bind. It rebuilds strength in the spine, bum, and hamstrings, while stretching through the upper chest, back and belly. It also stimulates the digestive system and abdominal organs.
Adding the shoulder bind draws the focus to the chest and shoulders — an area that is always tight in mamas.
Hold for three breaths and release. Repeat three times.
5. Camel Pose
For a deeper backend with even more heart opening, give Camel a go. Be sure you’re ready for this and take it slowly before you drop back into Full Camel, just to make sure your abdominals and spine are ready for it. Perhaps first work into Camel with your hands resting and supporting your lower back. Simply arch the back and open your heart to the sky.
As your strength and flexibility increases, begin to play with reaching for your ankles. Again, take it slow as you don’t want to overstretch.
Camel opens up the heart chakra and can often make intense emotions arise. Physically, you can often feel a bit light headed after the pose, so come out of it slowly, and just rest in a comfortable kneeling position for a few breaths to soak in the benefits.
6. Rabbit Pose
One of my all time favorite poses, and the inverse of Camel, Rabbit Pose stimulates and articulates the vertebrae. It stretches through the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine, and stimulates the internal organs and thyroid gland thanks to the tight chin tuck.
Bring your awareness to the crown of your head and take note of how much weight it’s taking. There shouldn’t be too much; if there is, use your grip. Pull harder and maybe adjust it slightly lower to take more weight into your hands.
Hold for five beautiful, nourishing breaths.
7. Bridge Pose
Anxiety is very common after birth. Your mind can run a million miles a minute calculating every possible thing that could ‘go wrong’ or happen to your little one. (A bit of anxiety is normal, but if ever starts to get in the way of your daily life, talk with your doctor).
Bridge is a fantastic antidote to anxiety and therefore a pose I recommend to post-natal yogis. It calms the mind, helps with headaches, and alleviates stress and mild depression.
Every mama needs some time to herself, so try out these poses (or pop to your local studio) to help you physically recover, but also mentally deal with the pressures and pleasures of new motherhood!