It’s been over a year since our beautiful turd bird arrived on the scene. Only recently do I sense that I have my body “back”. Not precisely the same but a close facsimile to the pre-pregnancy version. It was a slower process than I anticipated, but I think it’s just the way my body is.
I’m not referring to the bikini-ready, People front page version, but the body that runs, jumps, dances and moves free of those interesting twitches and pangs post pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The version that I am grateful for with all of its imperfections, regardless of how it looks in a bikini.
Granted there are also many changes that occur on a mental, emotional, familial and spiritual level that are interconnected. But taking care of our bodies when we recover from the demands of pregnancy and childbirth while adjusting to parenthood is one ingredient for a happy family. Naturally, I think nothing helps you take better care than a little bit of yoga love. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner, or have recently decided that you want to incorporate yoga into your life, the tips offered below come from my own experience as a mother and yogini. I’d love to hear what worked for you.
- Start with your centre and expand out. With patience.
Post birth, whether vaginal or surgical, expect your physical practice to be very limited. Pregnancy hormones still have a strong affect on your ligaments and connective tissues, and will do so for at least six months, longer if you are breastfeeding. Now is not the time to move vigorously or expansively. Tone down any asanas that involve deep opening of the pelvic or hip region, keeping muscles activated to prevent the strains, pulls and tears you are more susceptible to. Put simply, bring everything into your midline or centre, expanding over time and ensuring you feel no discomfort.
- Do what you can when you can.
Let go of the idea of a scheduled time for your asana, meditation or relaxation practice and allow it to fall into place where it will. In time, things will settle and you’ll figure out what works for you. In the early days especially I relied on some wonderful postnatal classes led by Stephanie Snyder on Yogaglo. Even now, there are still days where I press pause numerous times throughout the day before I finish a class. Sometimes I meditate amongst a cyclone of toys for 15 minutes while girlie naps. There are all sorts of new variations that were not my modus operandi pre-motherhood. Find yours.
- Listen to your body, aligning your practice to your needs.
Prior to bub’s arrival, at least later into the third trimester, I was a vinyasa fiend. While I still love a flowing practice I’ve noticed I am now drawn to a slower, deeper yoga experience. My upper back, neck, side body, shoulders, hips and psoas are craving juicy, long-held postures after carting around, picking up, setting down and swinging around her highness all day. Repetition of the same postures helps to gradually loosen those knots and tight spots. Right now, variety is not the spice of life; savouring the moment when my body can unfurl from the daily demands of mammahood is the current sweet spot. If you’ve returned to your practice be sure you return to what you need now. Respond to your body with your practice and see where it takes you.
- Yoga Nidra is your friend.
Particularly in the beginning as you slog through the sleep-deprived haze. Also known as yogic sleep, this powerful practice allows your mind and body to restore and heal. I’ve purchased a few recordings off iTunes of various lengths that I use when feeling really depleted or frazzled. Those days I know the game plan at nap time: throw the puzzles and blocks to one side – make room for the mat, bolster and blanket, grab the eye pillow and voila! Sometimes I fall asleep, other times I am able to sustain conscious awareness throughout the relaxation, as recommended. Either way, I always have a better attitude and more energy afterwards.
- Don’t do yoga, be yoga.
The other day I overheard a new mom complaining about how she is no longer doing enough yoga – hmmm wonder who that could be? Yoga is not just about zooming through asanas or sitting for hours in meditation. It can be about spending a mindful moment with your bambino – or stepping back from yourself, or detaching during times of parental frustration. You can be yoga anytime.
Stay tuned; I’ll expand on this topic in future posts.