This episode is about how soon to practice yoga after giving birth, what to start with and how to teach someone who has just given birth.
First of all, it’s different for everyone. I start by asking what kind of birth and pregnancy the mama had and how active they were during pregnancy. If you had a C-section, you can’t really start much for six to eight weeks, because your incision is healing. You might be able to walk and things like that, but picking up heavy items, certainly doing any core work, will not even be allowed until the surgical healing time has passed. But if you had a vaginal birth, and you don’t have any restrictions, how soon can you start practicing yoga again and things like that? I would say that you have to listen to your body.
The first thing to do is look down and start reconnecting to your abdominals. Even if you see the postnatal belly, even if it looks like you’re still a couple of months pregnant, start looking there. And don’t shame yourself for any belly that’s still there. But what you can do is start to reconnect to your abdominals. That connection is going to make you feel a lot stronger and more engaged.
Put your hand on your abdominals and try and hold them in a bit. And then maybe lift the head up a little. Those gentle activities will add a little demand to that area. And if your belly quivers while doing that, know that the quivering is not weakness, it’s awakening. It’s quivering because it hasn’t had that demand put on it recently. But it’s awakening to the demand now.
Then start gently placing more demand as allowed. You can bring your hands behind your head. And, on an exhale, lift your hands a little bit off your head. Look down at your abdominals. Maybe they’re quivering, but you can move one hand there and help them out.
Standing against the wall is also great for new moms. Put the shoulder blades, the skull, the sacrum and part of your butt flush against the wall and then pull the belly in toward the wall and see if you can hold it there for 5-10 seconds. You might have to hold your breath as you’re doing it. Don’t turn blue in the face, but just use all of those muscles, because what you’re trying to actually do is use all the muscles to help your abdominal wall, and some of those muscles also help you breathe.
Then on the floor, you can do the same thing with your back on the floor. Instead of just lifting your hands or lifting your head, you can also try lifting one knee. Bring one knee above your hip and hold. We’re not in a bridge here, but you’re just starting to move the limbs and hold the core together. Practice holding that region together as you start walking, particularly if you’re carrying your baby.
And then when you feel like you’re doing all of that, then you can start adding bigger movement patterns. So getting back into a yoga practice is going to be slow. You want to pay attention to your core area, and include the pelvic floor in that area, the area between your pubic bone and anus and between your two sit bones. Imagine drawing all of those points of contact together and giving that some firmness because the pelvic floor has probably been stretched.
The other thing that you want to think about when you’re starting to move is that you will have hormones left over from birth and, if you’re nursing, you’ll have extra hormones from that. So all of your ligaments are affected by hormones. It’s much better for you to draw into your strength and hold things for a little bit, like going into a plank, instead of big movement patterns where you’re mobilizing the hips and moving with it. So just know those bigger transitions that we do in yoga, you will need your core even more because of the hormones that are present.
When you are feeling stronger in your abdominals, start working with bridge pose because working the glutes is part of the core as well. Have your back on the floor with the knees bent and the feet on the floor. Lift up, not too high, just until you really feel those glutes turn on. Feel the webbing of the abdominals pulling together and down and try and hold that.
Be easy on yourself, you’ve housed a baby and you’re coming back to yourself and reconnecting. Remember, you have just done something so amazing. But don’t ignore your body either. There’s a lot of women who just put it all into the baby and just ignore that their body needs to be rehabilitated. So do not hesitate to take care of yourself because it gets a little bit harder as the time goes on. If you’re just about to have a baby or you’re thinking about it or in the recovery, the sooner you can get re-connecting to your abdominals, the better.