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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Back to normal…

I am delighted that my postnatal yoga classes have been featured in the “Heart of the Community” pages of The News, our local paper…

Not quite so delighted about the innocent enough misquotes…paraphrasing is a dangerous game…

“I don’t think you can ever fully get back to yourself after birth but everyone can definitely feel good in their own skin…”  Not quite what I said…the essence of what I said is lost in the omission of just one word *old*…

In recent years, women have been bombarded with celebrity pregnancy and post natal stories, complete with glamorous images and tales of *getting back to normal* or *getting back to being myself* or *feeling like my old self again*…

Why would any woman want to go through the phenomenal transformation of pregnancy, labour, birth and becoming a mother only to become her *old* self again a few weeks or months down the line?

I wouldn’t trade one second of my *old* self for a million pounds…she was neurotic, fearful…she thought she had all the time in the world and she was drifting…

Getting pregnant and giving birth, becoming a mother taught me so much…I learned to put someone else before myself at every waking thought…I manage on hours less sleep a night than I (or my husband) ever imagined I could tolerate…I have purpose every moment…I feel more feminine, more shapely and more beautiful than I ever did before my children…

The thought of giving birth terrified my *old* self, and she thought she would want all the drugs the hospital could offer…my pregnant self heard “homebirth” and thought, “YES!!! I can do that!” …and my pregnant self was brave and courageous and I discovered that warrior-woman that we hear whispers of…I became a warrior myself…

lightworker-graphic

Sometimes, my warrior self gets wounded…at times I am tired, sometimes I ache and there were days after the birth of my second son in particular when I wondered how I would survive the lack of sleep and the pain in my hips and the soul-sucking darkness that was my post-natal depression…

But I had a reason to survive, a reason to heal my wounds…my two beautiful boys blessed me when they came to me…of all the millions of women in the world, I get to be their mother…the darkest shadows are created by the brightest sunlight…through the darkness of depression, what kept me going was a haphazard yoga practice underpinned by a mindfulness practice of reminding myself moment to moment how lucky I was to have these two souls in my life…I kept a gratitude journal; writing down a few things each day that had made me smile or lifted my heart, and without fail that list was about my sons, it was about being a mother…I still keep that journal on dark days…

My *old* self would have completely succumbed to self-pity and let everything slide, hiding away to lick at her wounds and refusing to let them close…as a mother, I just about keep it together…because my sons have given me myriad reasons to be whole again, to find a way through the labyrinth and I thank God every day for the gift of my children…and they taught me the real value of Yoga…

Yoga was a hobby before I had my children, now it is the lynch pin of my sanity and the core of my mothering, as well as being my living…I adore yoga, it keeps me loving my body and living my life…

As I breathe in pranayama, I marvel at how my body breathes all day, every day, with no conscious control or effort…and I notice when I spend a moment connected with my breath how much calmer, taller, lighter I feel and that fascinates me still…

My body will never look like it did before pregnancy, no matter how much I get on my Yoga mat, no matter how much I diet or lift weights or swim or run or cycle…that’s ok with me…I love my body…I have a new *normal*…

I am stronger of mind & body than ever before my children came Earthside…I have a strength hewn from lifting my babies, from carrying them in slings and pushing them in prams and swings, it comes from climbing imaginary mountains and swimming imagined oceans…from jogging to keep up with scooter-mad kids and climbing ladders and slides and scrambling over the beach and through the woods…it comes from doing “aeroplane Yoga” and “cuddle cat” and from wrapping my arms around my babies, my boys and from loving them so much it hurts my heart and I have to take a deeper breath to survive the next explosion of love and joy that threatens to rip me apart as I watch them grow and learn and smile and love…

My mind will never work the way it did before my children came to me…but it is my new *normal* and it is improved, although I may be a little scattier, and some of the useful things I used to know have been lost to amateur paleontology for my six year old and Peppa Pig characters for my three year old…but as I calm my sons with quiet breathing & Sanskrit chanting, or as I do yoga on the beach with Joe,  I know that my mind works just fine because it puts my children first and foremost and finds the things they need buried deep or has the good sense to go seeking new knowledge from trusted mother-friends…

I love my body not because I sprang back to *myself* after the birth of my children, but because yoga reminds me to appreciate the miracle of the human body…it is so strong, and when I move into a pose, I remain amazed by how this body of mine also grew and stretched and transformed to be home to my babies and then to bring them into this world…My stretched marked belly will never be taut again, and my stretch marked breasts will never be polite & pert as they once were…But I am proud of those changes, they mark me as a mother…

I treasure my *battle scars* to stick with warrior analogies…why do women want to come out of the process of becoming a mother unchanged, what then is the point of having children?  I don’t need to thread feathers or bells into my hair to mark the victories of my motherhood…my body has marked itself in honour of its lifebringing and its lifegiving…I celebrate my scarred skin…I wish that all women would do the same…show me your body marked by love, your belly sagging and your breasts drooping…show me your stooped shoulders from loving so completely, so heavily…and together let’s lift our shoulders back to open our hearts ever wider and show the world what we have done, proud and fierce and beautiful…

I am more *myself* today than I have ever been, and I owe that to being a mother…and so, in essence, I supposed that quote was spot on, I don’t think you can ever fully “get back” to yourself…mostly because I hope, like me, you dragged your self along for every delicious, dirty, inspiring, exhausting, joyful, messed-up, mind-blowing, magical moment of the journey to where you are now…

Enjoy it, this moment, it will be gone soon, and you can never get back to that old self, back to normal…but why would you want to?  *Normal* is overrated…

OMx

motherhood, belly button, stretchmarks,

My Belly Button
Tree of Life