HEALTHY YOGIC PERSPECTIVE ON RETURNING TO YOGA AFTER PREGNANCY
There are no quick fixes here, no stringent diets or hard-core workout plans for the postpartum mother, especially in the first few months.
Karen Reynolds you all you need to know about getting back on the mat by nurturing the body with the breath in yoga, taking your attention to areas which maybe require extra focus such as the back, pelvis and core.
After having a baby, we may feel there is an expectation to “bounce back” to our pre-pregnancy body/exercise regime from well-meaning friends and colleagues as we all see so many pictures of new mums in the media after increasingly short periods postpartum looking incredibly fit and toned. However, the pregnancy journey is a long one and each experience is different. There may have been complications along the way and you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of returning to yoga and your previous exercise classes; this is completely natural – the return is also an individual journey, it is important to allow sufficient time with a mindset of kindness, after such a huge life-changing event. Try to give up on the idea of perfection too – there is no such thing, your body has created an amazing new life and you can love your post pregnancy body for that amazing gift!
My advice on when to return to class would be (as always), to listen to your body and the Health Professionals. How do you feel? Are you excessively tired? Or are you feeling that your body and mind is ready, and you are keen for some YOU time!? You may feel fine after only a couple of weeks and naturally you will return to walking – pushing the pram and weightlifting – car seats with growing babies in them are not light…(!) Also, your (and babies’) sleeping and feeding patterns may be taking up a lot of your time and energy. So, enjoy this special time to bond, to breast feed if possible and to recharge, taking care of yourself with healthy eating, adequate hydration and finding time to rest.
Your life changes radically after your baby is born. Your hormone levels may make you feel emotional and a little unstable too. To help you feel more balanced, you may want to practice some meditation, pranayama (breath extension) and relaxation postures focusing on your breath. Many cultures honour a rest period for the newly delivered mother to recover from childbirth and bond with the baby. This typically spans 4 to 6 weeks and in Spanish, it is known as “la cuarantena” or the 40-day quarantine. Most doctors now do usually recommend six weeks of recovery time for new mothers after a vaginal birth and longer after a cesarean. Your doctor or midwife should check for diastasis recti (abdominal separation), which can affect how you approach your return to yoga and working out. When you do feel ready and have been given the all clear from your health provider (and have no significant bleeding), you may then wish to return to yoga. If you previously practiced yoga (and maybe did prenatal yoga), you will have learned to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard.
It is important to take time to ease yourself back into your yoga practice, keeping in mind that if you are breastfeeding, you may be uncomfortable lying on your stomach in prone poses or those that lower onto the chest, like ‘knees, chest, chin’ (ashtanga namaskar). On returning to practice, please do inform your teacher of your pregnancy and any issues which may affect your practice – such as any discomforts and also if you are breastfeeding… Be aware that this is a very different body coming back to the mat, so do go slowly, give yourself time and permission to build yourself back up. Your body strength needs time to be redeveloped (arms, legs, back, inner thighs, core and pelvic floor). Your joints may still feel a little unstable (due to the relaxin hormone in the body up to 6 months after childbirth) and your core and pelvic floor especially need time to heal. Your diaphragmatic breathing is crucial here as it tones the pelvic floor and it is important not to overdo abdominal work initially as putting too much intraabdominal pressure (from crunches for example) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing.
If you are returning to your own practice tune into your body and mind and breath and enjoy your practice no matter how short. Pay attention to your neck, shoulders and back especially as you may feel stressed here after carrying and tending to the baby. Go slowly and listen to your body. You may wish to incorporate more walking, swimming or other gentle cardiovascular exercises too, just getting out and socializing with adults may also make a very welcome break! Your practice should be enjoyable, schedule it into your routine regularly and you will begin to see and feel the benefits, not only from the endorphins; it may also help against post-natal depression, improve your energy levels, help you get a good night’s sleep and improve your selfimage – helping you feel like you again!
About the Author:
KAREN REYNOLDS teaches Flow Yoga at NRG Fitness at 11am on Friday Mornings and also teaches Private Classes. Everyone (whichever life stage you are at) is always welcome. She also teaches at Exhale Fitness in JBR on Saturdays at 10am and offers free Community events from time to time. Instagram: @yogikaren99
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