Welcome Back to Your Body
An Introduction to Postnatal Yoga with Your Baby
By Brigid Godwin
So you’ve had your baby?! Huge congratulations and welcome to the secret society of incredible mums! Becoming a mummy makes you realise how totally awesome they really are. It’s crazy isn’t it - how you don’t sit still for a single minute these days yet the housework is out of all control and you’re lucky if you’ve managed to have a shower or eat anything more complicated than a piece of toast. In this new world of chaos, joy and tears it’s unrealistic to expect your yoga practice to be anything like it was before you had your baby (if indeed you had a regular practice). Especially in the weeks after giving birth -it’s probably more beneficial to rest when your baby rests. But once they have reached 6 or 8 weeks and you are all settling into it - you might find that incorporating just a few simple stretches every day can start to help you build streghth and close your body up again, ease tension in your neck and shoulders, it can be uplifting and grounding when you’re feeling tired and hormonal. In this simple practice I’m showing you how your yoga practice can also be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your baby. Your baby gains so much comfort, stimulation and brain development from movement, eye contact and touch.
Please wait until after your 6 week check before undertaking any of these exercises or 3 months if your baby had a caesarean birth. Make sure you are pain free before starting this or any exercise programme and stop if any discomfort is felt.
Easy Twist (Sukasana)
Sit with your legs crossed. Inhale reach up over your head with your right arm in an arc and then touch the floor behind you in a twist. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side. Repeat this a couple of times on both sides.
Benefits:Twists help to relieve tension in your spine, shoulders and neck and tone the abdominals. Twists can give you a lift if you’re feeling down, or ground you if you’re feeling unsettled.
Cat / Cow (Marjariasana / Bitilasana)
On all fours, put hands under shoulders, knees under hips. If your wrists are painful then put your elbows on the floor. Inhale, lift your head and your tail up as you gently dip your back (very gently if you have a csec scar). Exhale, bow your head and arch your back spreading the shoulder blades. Repeat 5-10 times.
Benefits:Gently tones and stretches the muscles in the front and back of the torso. The front muscles will have become incredibly weak and over stretched during pregnancy, while the back muscles tend to become short, tight and tired.
Modified Boat (Navasana)
From the above position take your right knee to your chin as you exhale. As you inhale straighten your leg with your foot at eye height if you can. If that is too strong then put your foot on the floor instead. Repeat 5 – 10 times on each sides. Then see if you can hold the open position for 5 breaths.
Benefits: Strengthens the abdominals and hip flexors.
Dynamic Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana)
If your baby can hold his/her head then they can sit on your thigh as above, or smaller babies can be held in your arms as you do the lower body work. Feet are approx. 3 feet apart with pelvis squared to the front of the mat. Inhale, bend the front knee (keeping the knee lined up over the middle of the front foot) perhaps raising one arm if your baby is secure. As you exhale bring your arm down again and straighten your front leg. Repeat with your breath 5 times then you can hold the bent knee position for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Strengthens legs and back. Helps with co-ordination and balance.
Lunged side stretch (Parsvakonasana)
If your baby isn’t strong enough to support his/her head while you hold it, you can put them down next to you and put your elbow on your thigh instead. If your right leg is lunged then take your left arm back, up and over your head in 5 big side circles. Then hold in position above for 5 breaths.
Benefits: Tones the waist, stretches the lower back, shoulders and hips.
Flying Baby (Apanasana)
Caution: This should only be done if you don’t have separation of the abdominals. Your doctor can check this for you.
If your baby is strong enough to hold his/her head up you can place them on your shins holding them safely. As you exhale lift your head and shoulders off the floor as you draw your baby in to meet you blowing them kisses. As you inhale place your shoulders and head back down and slide your shins away keeping hold of your baby. Repeat 5 – 10 times.
At the end of your yoga session it’s always good to finish with a few minutes of rest time lying quietly next to your baby. If you focus on your deep calm breathing you may find that your baby also decides to be calm too - maybe ;-) Stay as long as your baby will allow.
Brigid teaches Me and Mum Postnatal Yoga and Baby Massage classes in Tunbridge Wells and Penshurst. www.unitybumpsandbabies.co.uk for more info.
Brigid’s DVD ‘Pregnancy Yoga Flow and Postnatal Recovery’ can be purchased at: www.unityyoga.co.uk.
Thanks to baby Noah for being such a perfect mini-yogi.
Photographs by Kirsty Grant: www.kirstygrantphotographer.co.uk