I practiced yoga throughout my pregnancy in 2008. For me, the biggest benefit of my practice was the time I spent curled up in my expression of side-lying Savasana. I would channel positive energy toward my son and it really helped me to be more present in my life and more accepting of the dramatic changes I was going through.
When my son arrived, my life completely changed. My body took months to heal, and because I nursed for quite a while, I was navigating those unique physical and emotional challenges as well. I returned to work full-time outside of the home when he was about three months old, and finding the time to do any sort of exercise or spiritual practice felt nearly impossible.
It was several years before I felt able to make more time for myself and eventually, I returned to my mat on a daily basis in 2014 when my son was five years old. Soon after, I started and completed my yoga teacher training.
Hindsight is certainly 20/20 and my hope is to share some insights that I’ve learned as a yoga teacher and mother to help new moms who are thinking about how to get back to yoga after giving birth. Here are some of them.
Note: remember to consult with your doctor about when it’s safe to get back on your mat.
There are EIGHT Limbs, Not One
Most people are familiar with only one aspect of yoga—the mat-based physical postures known as asana. Asana is just one of the “limbs” of the larger tree of yoga, with seven other limbs that include ethical practices, breath work, and meditation.
If your body isn’t quite ready to enter a Warrior II pose, don’t worry! There are plenty of other ways to practice yoga. Starting your day with some simple, deep breathing and a five-minute seated meditation are two simple ways to start returning to your yoga practice. Allow your body as much time as it needs before returning to asana.
Restore and Renew
One of my teaching specialties is Restorative yoga, a style of yoga where we use props like blankets and bolsters to create a fully supported practice that allows students to release all effort and tension from their bodies, minds, and spirits.
It’s an excellent option for people returning to yoga after any sort of physical or emotional challenges, making it a great choice for new parents. If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation from waking up with your little one, you might fall asleep in a restorative class. This is totally okay and normal!
Talk to your teacher about your needs, and as your practice and home situation evolve, you’ll likely be able to remain awake but relaxed during class.
Return to Prenatal Class
Many of my yogi friends take prenatal studio classes, which are awesome options for expecting parents and are typically taught by an instructor who is well-versed in the needs of the pregnant body. You might wish to consider returning to what’s comfortable by taking a few more prenatal classes even after your baby arrives.
Some larger studios also offer “Mommy & Me” style classes for younger children that might be a great fit for you as well.
Ask for Help
Learning how to ask for help is one of the ultimate life skills, and it’s also one that I really need to work on. It’s hard to ask for help. I sometimes feel like I’m burdening people or putting them in an awkward position. But if you love helping people, then know that others probably feel the same way.
If you’re ready to head out for a studio class and you need someone to watch your child, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Taking care of yourself will allow you to be the best version of yourself for both you and your child.
Less is More
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been rehabilitating from a concussion. One of my doctors recently told me that he’d rather have me doing my recovery homework exercises every day for a few minutes than only one day per week for an hour.
In other words, consistent practice typically beats big bursts with long spaces in between. If your goal is to return to a mat-based asana practice, take it slow and work on consistency first. Aim for 15 minutes a day for about a week, and then build slowly in five to ten minute increments.
Be Mindful of Pose Selection
Your favorite asanas might not feel quite the same way when you first get back on your mat. Anything that puts a lot of strain on your pelvic floor (think Goddess pose and Warrior II) probably needs to wait until you are 100% recovered.
Try doing some gentle stretches on the floor like a seated Cat/Cow or a gentle side stretch. You can also try sitting on a folded blanket for extra comfort. If you had a C-Section, you’ll want to pay special attention to avoiding anything that puts strain on your belly while your incision fully heals. Twists and backbends should obviously be avoided at first.
Remember that yoga isn’t about fitting ourselves into someone else’s version of a pose; it’s about becoming more present in our own body just as it is in this moment. As one of my yoga teachers says, “You are the world’s leading expert on your body.” Trust your instincts and honor your body.
As you return to your practice, consider letting go of the goal of trying to get back to what you used to be. Now is the time to create a new practice that merges your former approach to yoga with your new reality as a parent. It might not go as planned, but you can always begin again tomorrow.
Yogi mamas: we want to hear from you! What was your experience with returning to yoga after giving birth? Any tips for your fellow moms?