Even if you have kept up your practise throughout your pregnancy, you might be surprised how your body has changed through giving birth. Whether you had a cesarean or gave birth the natural way, this article will ease you back into your yoga pants.
The changes you might notice
Whether you’re a regular yogini, or started yoga to help with the aches and pains of carrying another person inside you, after the little one or ones come into the world, you may feel a little strange. A woman’s postnatal body is a weird and wonderful thing and easy yoga poses can help.
Firstly, you’re a whole lot lighter. I remember standing for he first time after I had my twins and nearly toppled over. Not because I was injured but because my centre of gravity had suddenly changed and I wasn’t expecting it to be so noticeable. As your baby grows, your hips widen and your back arches giving pregnant women that oh-so-attractive waddle when they get nearer the due date. When baby is no longer there the hips take several years to close back in, but the back does not take as long. It only take a few weeks for your mobile back vertebrae to remember their rightful place but in that time back pain, particularly in the lower back can be worse. Laying flat on your back again can be surprisingly uncomfortable.
You might also suffer from diastasis recti. As baby grows your tummy muscles with separate to give baby room to grow. After the birth they slowly knot back together. I can’t recommend wearing a postpartum belly band straight after birth enough, it holds all your organs in and your muscles closer together so the heal much more quickly and helps prevent the mummy tummy we all try to avoid. It really helped me while my organs were rearranging to fill he void, and almost overnight I saw a very noticeable different in my tummy. After my boys you could put your hand through my belly nearly to the back, I was that soft and squidgy. Zero muscle tone. It was really, really weird. And you can’t just do some crunches to get back into shape, you either damage your back in the process or end up with a strange, pointy, triangular tummy.
What can you do?
First off – take it EASY! It’s so tempting to jump straight back in to exercise vigorously to get in shape. Wait for your 6 week postnatal checkup, you need to make sure you have no chance of hemorrhage before you do anything. After all, you have a giant scab where the placenta was inside you that needs to heal. That wasn’t there while baby was. I really dislike seeing insta-yogis back on the mat doing deep twists and inversions, a day after giving birth. They are bowing to the pressure of social media and not looking after themselves. Do not follow their example, despite what they say, it’s no good for you. Listen to your GP or midwife.
The yoga poses I have outlined below will be suitable for 0-6 weeks after giving birth. .
Shiva Rea is a well known yoga instructor who has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to postpartum bodies. If you are too shy to go to class while your body is still healing and worried about embarassing yourself, starting at home with a DVD is a good way to get back in the habit. You could try one like this, which is full of tips, very gentle, and you can easily stop whenever you need to take a break:
You can even include baby in this one, although newborns make prefer to be cuddled on your chest.
Remember your tummy muscles are not where they should be! Start by laying on your back. If this in uncomfortable, and it may well be, roll a blanket and place it under your back to lift and arch the back until you can bear to lay flat again. Then gently bring each knee in and hug it, before bringing both knees in. Hold and briefly lift the head off the floor a centimetre or two. Practise this one whenever you can, even in bed!
Once you can lay on your back again, no problem, this could be a matter of days or weeks, there’s no judgement here, try this one.
Bend your knees with feet flat on the floor. Lift your bottom slightly and shift it a few inches to the left. Then let your knees fall to the right. Spread the arms wide and turn head to the left. Hold for a minute or two then repeat on the other side. This will start to release the lower back again. If you experience any pinching pain then stop immediately and wait another week.
Extended Child’s Pose:
Curl up into a ball with your head down in front of your knees. Extend the arms in front of you, then keeping fingertips stuck to the floor lift the palms, as if you are playing the piano. You will feel a nice stretch in the shoulders. Hold for a minute, then walk the arms to the left and finally to the right. This will curve the back gently from side to side and stretch the upper spine and neck.
Your balance may be way off. Practise not falling over in public with the classic Vrksasana, or Tree Pose. Start in tadasana, mountain pose, with feet together, toes touching, heels slightly apart. If you can bear it, tuck your tailbone under. Stretch down with your fingertips and extend your spine upwards. I find it helps to stare at a fixed spot on the wall in front for this one. Then lift the right leg a tiny amount, bend the knee and bring the right heel to the left ankle. Remember to turn the knee out. Bring the hands to prayer position at heart centre. If this is ok and no wobbles, slide the foot up the leg to the middle of the lower leg. Hold and release and then swap to the other side. Some may find turning the hip out difficult, if this happens, bend the knee if front of you instead.
So There You Have It!
Some very simple poses. They may be too easy for some, while others may find them slightly difficult. Stay well away from any deep twists or inversions until after your checkup, even if you kept up your practise, you just don’t know what is going on inside. Congratulations on being a new mummy, enjoy it!