by Helen Cunningham
If you took part in yoga regularly during pregnancy, you’ll understand the moments of deep emotion and joy associated with the spiritual sensation of being in control of your birth and an experience you contributed to completely.
Now baby is here, postnatal yoga can provide the continuity of being in tune with your body and allow you to begin the steps back to postnatal fitness. You can also rediscover the joy of yoga and the benefits for your mind and body.
If you did not practise yoga during pregnancy, this is the perfect time to embrace the wonderful feeling of helping your body to heal. You can celebrate working through the natural stages of creating a foundation for increased fitness as well as augmenting energy from your inner core.
Getting the most out of postnatal yoga
To really benefit from postnatal yoga, the important thing to remember is that you need to take the time to re-align your mental and physical energies. It’s not the same as rushing back to a gym routine; it’s about moving from the time following birth to full recovery and then looking forward to diversifying to a favoured style of yoga that will allow the following of a yogic and philosophical path.
Immerse yourself in the gentle yoga practices. Sets of movements that are unique to you and those in the group with you will take you from the very first weeks following your giving birth through to the eventual time when the body is ready for more dynamic yoga poses. Regular enjoyment of this style of yoga will mean continued growth of much needed energy and the body will be healed in a gentle, empathetic way. The initial stages will be slow and tender and will be easy to carry out at home for just a few minutes each day.
Involving your baby and dad where possible will give all the family the time together to bond naturally, and baby yoga movements can be introduced that are age-appropriate. These will guide your baby through their first weeks and months as they discover their new world.
The body is always in transition so don’t feel that you should be looking to return to exactly how you looked and felt before pregnancy. The important state of mind to cultivate is that you can certainly feel as strong and healthy as before.
The benefits of postnatal yoga
Some common issues shared by many new mums immediately after birth include:
- Weakened pelvic floor
- Aching neck and shoulders
- Loss of endurance
- Weakened abs
- Being unable to relax
- Feeling anxious
Postnatal yoga invites new mums to create a new platform foundation to ‘close’ their body and to knit back the abdominal muscles stretched during pregnancy. The exercises will focus on the following:
- Regaining core strength and restoring tone to the muscles deep in the pelvic floor. Solutions such as Kegel exercises and pelvic rocking will support regaining strength in the pelvis and weak abdominals, while specific poses such as Viparita Karani and Virabhadrasana II will assist with reducing fatigue and increasing physical stamina and endurance.
- Learning and developing yogic breathing to promote the benefit of a more relaxed and deeper sleep as well as to reduce the incidence of postnatal fatigue.
- With baby, learning gentle movements to soothe and relax your little one and to address issues such as colic-type symptoms and long bouts of crying.
As well as being beneficial to overall health and wellbeing, taking part in postnatal yoga will help to cross the bridge to other forms of yoga and other kinds of exercise.
Where and when to start postnatal yoga
Talk to your health practitioner about when it is right for you to start postnatal yoga; it varies from mum to mum but is usually around six weeks after a natural birth and ten to twelve weeks if you had a caesarean.
Find a class that’s beneficial to you depending on your birthing experience, natural or caesarean, and talk to the teachers regarding their expertise in working with new mums. Classes that offer specific movement and routines for this very special time are the best way to begin to recharge your energy levels and to increase your physical health. If you want to introduce your baby to yoga as part of this important bonding time, find a workshop or course where babies can be an integral part of each session.
Helen Cunningham experienced the benefits of pre- and postnatal yoga first-hand when her son was born three years ago. She is now a yogi-in-training.