Becoming a mom is filled with surprises. Even the most prepared are amazed by their addiction to baby snuggles, how loud a newborn can snore, or the wide range of colors found in a dirty diaper. In addition, the body’s postpartum soreness, tension, aches, and pains can also be unexpected. Once new moms are cleared for light exercise by their doctors, gentle yoga poses can help relieve pain, build strength, increase energy, and even fight off postpartum depression.
Here are a few gentle yoga poses for new moms, from certified Ashtanga yoga instructor Randi Sprintis:
Stress and shallow breathing go hand-in-hand. Shallow breathing is when we take short breaths, partially fill the lungs, and draw air into the chest instead of through the abdomen. The funny thing about shallow breathing is that most of us are completely unaware that we’re doing it. Shallow breathing sparks our body’s stress response and our stress response sparks shallow breathing. So, how do we get off this cyclical stress response merry-go-round? We practice deep, focused breathing! Need a deep breathing coach? Take a look at your newborn while she’s sleeping. Newborns are diaphragmatic breathing experts. You’ll see her chest rise and her belly expand as she breathes deeply. Diaphragmatic breathing can help us relax, reduce our heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress.
Directions: Lay down on your back in Savasana (corpse pose). Lay one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Bring your awareness to your breath. Take a deep inhale through the nose and feel the air move into your body, expanding your chest and raising your belly. Slowly exhale through the nose, and feel the belly sink back into the floor. Try to maintain equal inhales and exhales, counting to four for each breath in and out. Notice how the hand on your belly rises with each inhale and lowers with each exhale. Continue for 8-10 rounds of breathing.
Legs Up the Wall
Legs-up-the-wall or Viparita Karani is a great posture for new moms. It can soothe swollen feet by allowing the blood to flow in the opposite direction. It can also relax the pelvic floor, relieve lower back tension, stretch the hamstrings, and increase circulation.
Directions: Place your yoga mat in a safe and comfortable place next to a wall. Lay down facing the wall with both legs stretched out to one side. At the same time, start to lift your legs up while you scoot your hips and sitting bones closer to the wall until your body is in a comfortable L-shaped position. Once you’re in place, remember to continue your deep, focused breathing and take slow inhales and exhales through the nose. To gain the most benefits, stay in this posture for about 5 minutes.
Child’s Pose with Kegel Exercises
Child’s pose or Balasana is a wonderful resting posture that can relieve head and neck pain while opening up the hips. It offers a mild stretch to the lower back as it elongates the spine. If you’re experiencing a lot of tension in the neck and shoulders from breastfeeding, this posture that can relieve some of that pressure. You can also do Kegel exercises while you’re in this posture to help strengthen the pelvic floor.
Directions: Start by kneeling down. Bring your feet together so your big toes touch and slide your knees apart. Sink your torso in the middle of your knees and stretch your arms out in front of you. Breathe deeply and feel the gentle stretch in your lower back and shoulders. Once you’re in a comfortable child’s pose, you can incorporate Kegel exercises by tightening your pelvic floor for 3-5 seconds and then release. Repeat 8-10 times.
This is a flow of two gentle poses combined together. The cat/cow pose or Marjaryasana/Bitilasana offers a lot of physical benefits after childbirth. It’s a great way to invite slow movement back into the body. These flowing postures can stretch the hip muscles, engage the core, and relieve back pain. It can also increase flexibility in the neck, shoulders, and spine.
Directions: Come into a tabletop position with your knees hip-width apart and your wrists and arms stacked under your shoulders. Make sure your weight feels evenly distributed over your knees and shoulders. For cat pose, exhale as you round your back and dip your tailbone down. Lower your gaze, as if you’re trying to take a peek at your belly button. As you inhale, move into cow pose by lifting your gaze up, sinking your belly towards the floor and opening your chest. Slowly move into each pose by matching inhales to cow and exhales to cat. Continue this flow for 8-10 rounds.
While it may seem impossible to pull off, reserving a few minutes for gentle yoga can offer tons of physical and mental benefits and support the healing process!