5 Reasons Why Post Natal Yoga is Good for You

There is a disturbing trend to bootcamp new mothers into shape…it has little to do with real health, true strength and long-term well-being but the promise of a flat tummy and “bikini beautiful” body within weeks of birth is everywhere…Firstly, I encourage you to ask if your post natal class instructor has any specialised training in pregnancy and the post partum period – if they answer no, walk away…And secondly, did they train in Yoga, Pilates, Fitness etc before or just get a quick qualification in post natal provision, I encourage you to seek someone who has experience in their field beyond a dedicated training course – otherwise, how can they tailor what they offer for you and your body? Whilst certain practices will be of benefit to most new mothers, some are better left alone for a while if you’ve experienced SPD, PGP or diastasis recti for example… Know who it is that you are entrusting with your health and well-being…

Then, please consider just being kind and gentle with yourself for a while, for at least 2 weeks and preferably 4, consider taking a babymoon and limit visitors, encourage visitors to help you with practical tasks and keep outings and activities to a minumum so that you can rest when your baby naps and establish breastfeeding and begin to find a new rhythm to life with your baby… Then when you really feel that you need to get out and about, choose groups and classes where you come away relaxed, nourished, nurtured…

So why yoga…?

1. Yoga is non-competitive

2. Yoga shrinks and repositions your womb

3. Yoga develops patience

4. Yoga promotes rest and relaxation

5. Yoga cultivates contentment

1. In early motherhood, we begin to notice the temptation to compare ourselves to others…It is easy to feel that we are not good enough, not losing weight fast enough, not managing that glamorous “yummy mummy” lifestyle… At post natal yoga classes, the emphasis will always be on you…your body, your breath, your baby…You will be encouraged to see that you are MORE than good enough, that you are a phenomenal mama and that you deserve to be nurtured just as much as you nurture your little one…If you need to rest more than you need to stretch your hamstrings, that is what yoga can offer you…If you want to take three breaths in a cat pose instead of six, go ahead…there is no beat to match and no yelling instructor to push you beyond where you are ready to be, no franchised 6 week “one size fits all” route to getting “your old body back”…your yoga teacher will help you find a gentle way to realign and close your pelvis and abdomen, to ease the aches and tensions that so often accompany early motherhood in a world that refuses to slow down with us for a while…you’ll be guided to rebuild tone & strength from the inside out so that you don’t pee your pants if you decide to head back to class with your bootcamp buddies….Want to work harder? Ready for a little more?…your yoga teacher will show you how to gain more strength and how to safely expand your flexibility…no pressure, just honest, sensitive support to help you find the practice to nurture your still changing body…

2. You will be encouraged to put your own needs and the needs of your baby above everything else, meaning that you can relax if your baby needs to be cuddled or changed, or fed or held…No pressure to put baby down, no need to wonder if you’ll hear baby cry over the pumping tunes and the stamping feet…Rest and restore with your baby, and begin to see that you can create quiet, serene moments with your baby, you don’t need to escape to find a sense of peace and tranquillity…When you relax, you are better able to produce oxytocin, which stimulates contractions in your uterus, encouraging it to shrink back down to size so that your womb and the other internal organs can begin to settle back into the space they once occupied… is also vital to the production and let down of breastmilk (*the added bonus here is that oxytocin also gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, to deepen your incredible bond with your baby even more, no matter how you are feeding your little one…) Even as you relax, we can use gentle but powerful engagement of the breath with the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to heal and strengthen your body…

3. Meditation requires that we are able to sit still comfortably for extended periods of time…yoga poses were originally designed to create a strong, supple body that would not suffer discomfort and unnecessary tension whilst remaining still for meditation…Yoga poses will help to relieve common aches and tensions in the body so that you can sit comfortably to nurse your baby or to hold them as they seek comfort to settle into sleep…Post Natal Yoga will work your upper body to encourage healthy posture and release tension from the upper back, neck and shoulders…As you practice Yoga, you are encouraged to withdraw your senses from the external world and focus in on the internal experience, in Post Natal classes, you will be encouraged to draw your baby into that relaxed awareness, to quiet the busy chattering mind of everyday living and to develop patience to live life at your child’s pace…Sometimes we will need to focus on the babies in the room and mothers’ needs will be temporarily put aside, we develop patience and we cultivate a sense of surrender…not of sacrifice, we are not consigning our needs to the rubbish heap, but acknowledging that we are not the centre of our universe for now and feeling content to be patient and return to our own needs a little later…

4. Most new mothers will tell you that they are tired, many will describe themselves as exhausted…in fact, even before pregnancy and motherhood, a majority of us are chronically sleep deprived…Rest is vital to health, it is not a luxury, it is not laziness to want to take life easy for a while…Your body has been through 9 months of change and the physical shifts and hormonal disruption continue beyond childbirth…Your body is likely to be bleeding (lochia) and blood loss requires support and nourishing of the physical body, rest is as vital to this nurturing as is eating well…Your hormones will continue to fluctuate as you move into the fourth trimester and beyond in the first year of your child’s life… the feel-good, well-being hormones/neurotransmitters Dopamine and Serotonin are released when we meditate, work with balancing breath practices and rest in deep relaxation… Lack of sleep can disrupt these essential ingredients for good mental & emotional health, Yoga can promote their production to help prevent and reduce the baby blues and post-natal depression…

birth of mother pain

5. Your body loves gentleness, your heart and mind love gentleness…Yoga encourages you to accept where you are now, in this moment… Yoga will enable you to appreciate your innate beauty and strength, to love the body you have today and marvel at how it supports you and grew your baby, how it continues to change and to nurture you and nourish your baby… Yoga does not promise you abs and lean thighs, but it offers you the opportunity to experience health and love your body no matter its size or shape… Yoga’s offer of gentle, individual practice suited to your body, and its ability to connect you to the calm within you mean that it is ideally suited to motherhood… You don’t need an hour to follow the workout, you don’t have to feel the burn or melt into a puddle to feel its benefits – it can give you those too, but really this is not the time – you can take one quiet moment in breath awareness, sing quietly to your baby, stretch in Cat or balance in Tree and all this will be Yoga… And you will also be encouraged to be gentle in the way you speak to yourself, consider the gentle, encouraging, loving voice you use with your baby and use it to speak to yourself, turn down the volume on that old critical, harsh voice and embrace non-violent communication with yourself as well as with your baby…

You have emerged beautiful and bold from the most ordinary of miracles, give yourself some credit, show yourself some love…Come and take an Early Post Natal Recovery class, and stop trying so hard, it’s time to try easy…

Let Yoga open your heart, calm your mind and love your body…

OMx

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Something for everyone…Find your quiet centre

Whether you are pregnant or have recently given birth, whether you have a vivacious toddler or a spirited adolescent, taking some time out to find your quiet centre can be an essential part of being the mother (or father) you want to be.

Try this as a meditation or relaxation…take 1 quiet minute or half an hour, whatever you want to spend or what time you can spare will do.

Close your eyes, keeping them softly closed, no tension held in your forehead or face, space between your upper & lower teeth to keep your jaw soft, your tongue released away from the roof of your mouth & your teeth.

For a moment or two, simply watch the natural rhythm of your breath.

Be aware as you inhale…aware as you exhale…

As you watch your breath, notice that you connect to your breath, it slows & deepens, and you gently become calmer (it lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart rate and as your breath deepens, you improve your lymphatic drainage, massage your abdominal organs to support effective digestion, and bring more oxygen into your body, helping you to feel more energised & improving your well-being).

Now visualise a velvety darkness behind your eyelids, and slowly begin to lay down a golden thread in the soft, serene dark, circling around and gradually inward to create a spiral.  Inhale deeply and exhale slowly as you journey from the outer most point and in toward the centre of the spiral.

When you reach the centre, rest your awareness at the centre of the spiral.

And in the words of the wonderful Snatam Kaur “Breathe, my love, breathe in your quiet centre”.

Take as long as you can to connect with your breath, to feel the calm that you can create, to feel the quiet within your heart centre at the innermost point of your spiral.

When you are ready, slowly retrace the spiral, gathering in your golden thread, returning your awareness to your physical body by taking a breath to the soles of your feet, another to the crown of your head, breathe into the palms of your hands and to the root of your spine.  As you become aware of the space that your body occupies, try to remain gently conscious of the quality of your breath and remind yourself to breathe with freedom & ease, as you did in your quiet centre.

With love, and with thanks to all the teachers, real & virtual, book-based & web-based whose words & teachings have inspired this simple practice Lx