Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Post-Natal Yoga Tips and Poses

Hey again mamas of all shapes and sizes!  Whether you're a new, new mama or it's your 2nd or 3rd baby...or even if you're a year postpartum, I wanted to offer up some insight to your yoga practice during this time.  
The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby= take it slow.  It's a time to rebalance your energy flow in the body and spirit, and stay focused on remaining as patient and relaxed as you can in your yoga practice.  Since, let's face it, this might be challenging during the rest of your day/week/month when not on the mat, and while sleep-deprived/navigating a whole new lifestyle and transition!  Plus, how we are on our mats will eventually translate off the mat, too, right?! ;)  

As I conveyed in the previous postpartum post about body image, it's very easy to get sucked into our culture's notions about how new mothers "should" and can look/act/feel/be.  Blecchhh.  Don't get me wrong, I WANT you to feel as beautiful and special and as strong as ever.  But, on your OWN terms and in your own time.  This, for most of us, requires taking it SLOW in our yoga practice and in any form of exercise after giving birth.  
Your body needs time to heal and process.  And your spirit needs even more time.  

I'm thankful that I journaled and took notes about my yoga practice that first year.  Now I can share with you all!  And I look forward to hopefully going through it all once again sometime.  

**Remember, you are ALL unique in the natural make-up of your body and also in the kind of birth you had.  Take it all in as what it is supposed to be.  Release the need to compare and use your yoga practice to breathe with attention to what YOU need and how YOU feel when practicing.  Let go of how you look.  Tune into how you feel, and LOVE yourself for this amazing being you just brought into the world!
***Also remember that your postpartum yoga practice will have a lot to do with how long you practiced before pregnancy and how your body naturally is while in yoga practice.  Don't expect to jump into doing vinyasa classes if you didn't do them before.  Work up to your goals and savor the stillness in your practice, as your life is probably all yang energy-go-go.  

The first 3-4 months after birth:

This is a time for Restorative and Yin practices more so than Vinyasa or Power yoga.  Embrace it and nourish your body spending spurts of your day in gentle forward folds and hip openers, down dogs, legs up the wall, reclining twists, standing balance poses, and eventually some slow/modified sun salutations.  I avoided warriors or other poses that stretched the groin until after about the first 6 weeks.  This was because I had a vaginal birth to a 9 lb boy!  And those poses just didn't feel right for awhile.  This could be different for you, of course.  After about the first 2-3 weeks, I could do many of the most basic asanas, but I stuck to a mostly seated practice, breathing, and gentle hatha until about 3 months PP.  
*Use props!  They will be your friend and will feel great.  
*Avoid deep backbends, deep groin stretches and intense inversions.  I was able to do a shoulder stand at 2 months pp, but didn't even attempt headstand or wheel until after the 4 month mark.  That was just me.  
*Seek out classes that are Yin, Gentle, or Restorative in the title.  
*You are getting a hang of SO much in these first few months, so only do what you have energy for.  

4-8 months or so:

You're probably starting to feel more like yourself.  Physically stronger, a little more used to your new lifestyle routine as a busy mama, and better at pacing yourself.  Now is the time to begin taking slow flow or all levels vinyasa classes with mindful attention.  Try adding in gentle backbends (will be great to focus now on locust and cobra-type stuff, as well as bridge), more twists, core work, standing warrior lunges and sequences, and an overall more fluid and consistent practice.  
I remember at this point beginning to love plank pose again, twisting triangle, eagle, wide-legged forward fold, half moon, and all hip openers.  Slowly but surely you will build your strength, whether it looks like it from the outside yet or not.  

8 months and beyond:

Continue to be gentle and loving with yourself!  Notice all of the physical changes taking place, especially if you are still breastfeeding.  By one year PP, you are relieved to have made it so far and it's truly time to amp up the self-care.  Book in the yoga classes for yourself each week, and maybe even schedule a little retreat getaway or spa weekend.  Isn't the saying something like, "A happy mama is a happy home?" Something like that.  It's true.  
Anyway, as long as you've been practicing with some regularity and you're paying close attention to your limits and progress with helpful teachers and intuition, then now would be a time to start practicing longer holds, even more core work poses (and trying some more inversions or arm balances if they are part of your practice), and simply exploring yourself through yoga in new and exciting ways in your new and exciting body!  

I can say that now over 2 years PP, I feel stronger than ever and able to do poses I couldn't even do before having Isak!  It's astonishing to me in ways.  That said, hanumanasana (splits) seems farther away than ever before.  Haha.  You win and you lose some.  The point is to keep trying, keep going, keep growing and whatever cycle you are at currently is where you need to be.  

*I highly recommend often to mamas to find an online yoga class website that suits your needs, since sometimes making it out to classes can be challenging with childcare and family schedules.  I love Yogaglo since my fave teachers are on there and there are SO many classes to choose from, including some postnatal ones!

Happy to provide more insight and tips as needed.  Message me or comment with your own experience.  Love to you all!