The initial weeks and months postpartum are a unique time in a woman’s life. Although new moms often feel a lot of pressure to “get their body back,” the reality is that having a baby changes your body radically from the inside out and there’s no need to push yourself. Even with a healthy pregnancy and delivery, the impact of childbirth and the physical demands of taking care of a newborn can be surprising to new mothers.
My yoga practice has changed dramatically since having my baby. With no extra energy and little free time I’m learning 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 am learning that life after baby requires a different kind of flexibility, strength, and patience than the kind I practice on my mat.
Here are 5 poses I’ve found healing, energizing, and supportive on my postpartum path. In all poses bring awareness to your breath and the back side of the 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.
1. 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.
2. Supported Twist: Back pain is a common complaint among new moms. Twists are rejuvenating for 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.
3. Back 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.
4. 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 tightness in the arms.
5. Constructive Rest Pose: Hours spent sitting while nursing, rocking, and playing with baby fatigue 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. Rest the knees against each other. 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.
Mo is a writer and yoga teacher who believes in peace over happiness and love over fear. She likes to set her sights high and then take small steps to get there. You’ll find her walking the dirt path behind her house with her little fluffy dog, practicing walking her talk by keeping her head high and her heart open.
Read more from Monique on her blog, mindfulmo.com