Fundamentals of post-natal yoga
Congratulations! Your life has been thrown off course (in a good way) but prioritizing your physical and mental wellbeing is important so you can actively and mindfully participate in your baby’s development.
When a new mother is ready to begin post natal yoga is highly individual and situational. If you’ve had a vaginal birth with no major complications, you can start with gentle exercises as early as 6 weeks. For caesarean deliveries, it would be best to wait at least 6 months to allow for full recovery. In either situation, it is absolutely necessary to seek clearance from your gynaecologist to determine that the uterus has contracted back to its original size and that bleeding from post delivery has stopped completely, as beginning an exercise regime too early will place strain on the internal organs and impede the healing process.
If you have a home practice- there are some modifications you’ll need to make to your asanas.
1. The first is to reduce hip opening exercises if you’ve had a vaginal birth. Passing a baby through the hips inevitably results in some degree of sideway expansion, so to correct this, reduce your stance in poses such as warrior 1, tree pose, malasana and of course side splits. Incorporate more “hip closing” asanas into your practice instead, such as cow face sitting with your knees stacked directly above each other, or eagle.
2. Chest opening exercises provide much relief to new mums for two main reasons- the first being a counter stretch to compromised posture of a rounded upper back from constant carrying and attending to their newborns. Rolling the shoulder blades backwards and drawing them together squeezes the sore muscles in the upper back, relieving some tension. The second reason chest stretches feel good for new mums is that added weight in their breasts from production of breastmilk results in soreness of the pectoral muscles. Chest opening stretches out the compression in this area.
3. Mums who have recently delivered tend to feel pressure (both externally and self-inflicted) to regain their pre-pregnancy shape with a lot of focus on the firmness of the abdomen. Of course yoga can help in this aspect, however it should be approached slowly and cautiously. The “six pack” muscles will have widened with a vertical gap from pregnancy expansion, known as diastasis recti, and this gives the appearance of a flabby tummy. Core training exercises will narrow the gap but it needs to be executed correctly as over exertion or wrong engagement of this muscle group can actually worsen the condition.
4. You may have experienced newfound flexibility during your pregnancy due to the release of the relaxin hormone, which the body releases to increase the elasticity in the muscles and joints in preparation for birth. Post delivery, mum’s joints are still unstable as it takes a few months for the relaxin hormone to leave the body. Therefore it is important to reduce the risk of injury by using a wall for support in balancing and inversions.
There are endless benefits to post natal yoga, however there are also many precautions to be aware of. It is worthwhile investing in a trainer who is qualified to specifically teach post natal yoga to fully receive its restorative effects. As with any fitness regime, it is important to practice safely and always listen to your body.
By Stephanie Heng
Pre and Post Natal Yoga YTTC