I Should Go Do Yoga....Post-Natal
I’ve absolutely loved teaching a small group of new mums and their little babies recently; it’s a private class so they have complete flexibility to take a break to breastfeed if they need to, or sooth the baby if s/he is fussy. Being a new mum can be hard & yoga can really help to give you some much needed headspace & a chance to get back in touch with your body & ease aches & pains. However, it’s not all that easy to keep going to public yoga classes when you have a baby, so I’ve put together some of my favourite post-natal postures for you to practice at home!
***Disclaimer – you should be signed off by your doctor or physio before attempting any of the following exercises.
As with all yoga practice; take it slow to start and increase in difficulty once you get your strength / flexibility back. You can have your baby on the mat with you if you like or you can place them securely in a bouncer or Moses basket (or similar) close by.
Start sitting comfortably; you can be kneeling or cross-legged, or use a block to support you. We’ll start with some pelvic floor exercises. Relax the thighs, buttocks & tummy. Now squeeze the muscles of the back passage like you’re trying to stop yourself from passing wind & imagine zipping up your front passage from back to front. Hold for 10 seconds & release. Do 10 of these.
From here, interlace the fingers & press the palms out in front of you. Inhale & lift the hands up above the head, trying to keep the shoulders relaxed. As you exhale, round the back & drop the chin, pressing the palms out to the front.
Repeat 10 times.
Come to all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders & your knees under your hips. Tops of the feet flat to the floor. Inhale & press the floor away from you like you’re trying to lift your chest further away from the floor & press up between the shoulder blades. Exhale & allow the chest to lower but keeping the arms straight. It will be a slight movement in the shoulders. This exercise will help with tight shoulders & upper back from holding the baby for long periods of time.
Repeat 10 times.
From here, send the right leg behind you & tuck the toes under. Press the heel back to stretch the calf muscle. Breathe & hold for 5-10 breaths & repeat on the other side.
Now lift the foot of the floor & try to hold a straight line between the heel, the knee, the hip & the shoulder. Don’t let the lower back dip down, or the belly bulge (especially if you have diastasis recti). Keep the belly hugged in like you’re trying to fit on a tight pair of jeans. Hold here for 5-10 breaths & change. For a bigger challenge, extend the opposite hand out in front & hold the line. Keep pushing the floor away from you with the hand which is on the floor, to avoid sagging in to the shoulders. Hold for 5-10 breaths & repeat on the other side.
For a further challenge, on the exhale, draw the knee & the elbow in to the chest & round the back. Inhale & extend, exhale & crunch – repeat 5-10 times on each side.
From all fours, swing your right foot out to the right slightly, to create a sort of kick-stand for your body with the leg. Extend the left leg straight to the back of the mat & bring your right hand to underneath your shoulder. Turn the chest to the left & lift the left hand straight to the sky. Keep the lower abdominals hugging in, like you’re trying to fit on those tight jeans again. Hold here & breath for 5-10 breaths before repeating on the other side.
For a further challenge, try raising the top leg & hovering it off the floor, or lifting & lowering it 5-10 times. For an even further challenge try this with the bottom knee lifted into a full side plank.
Keep an eye on your hips & side body – keep them lifting upwards towards the ceiling & don’t forget to keep breathing!!!
Bring the feet hip distance apart, bend the knees and allow the belly to rest onto the thighs. Let the back of the neck be long & the top of the head heavy. You can hold on to opposite elbows & rock side to side here or nod the head yes / shake it no to release anything in the upper back / shoulders. Breathe into the lower back & backs of the legs for 5-10 breaths.
Now bring your feet to as wide as the mat & bring your right hand to the floor, or to the top of a block on its highest height, or a box/book. Bend the right knee & keep the left leg straight. Press backwards with the left buttock & hip, twist to the left & lift the left hand straight into the sky. You should feel a stretch through the left hip / lower back area which will help relieve tension here caused by sitting or holding the baby on one hip. Breathe for 2-3 breaths and then change to the other side. Repeat as many times as feels good!
Triangle & Extended Side Angle Pose
These postures will help increase that side-body stretch which usually helps to relieve back-pain. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, and then step your right foot back & turn the toes outwards so that the foot is parallel with the back of the mat. Line up your front foot so if you drew a line from the heel backwards, it would cut through the middle of the arch of your back foot.
Now bring your hands out at shoulder height. Inhale and start to reach forwards, keeping your hands and arms at the same height. Once you can’t reach forward any more, bring the front hand down to rest onto the shin of the front leg, & extend the back hand straight up to the sky. Imagine you’re in a toaster – you want to be in one straight line down the middle of your mat; not leaning too far forwards or sticking your butt out at the back!
Breathe here for 5-10 breaths, press down through the outside of the back foot & lift up with the ribs. From here bend the front leg & rest the front elbow on the knee. To deepen the stretch, reach the top hand overhead towards the front of the room, turning the palm to face the floor, & grazing the ear with the bicep. Try to keep the extension all the way through that arm & hand, like you’re reaching for something.
Breathe for 5-10 breaths and then repeat on the other side. For added fun with baby, have them lay at the top of your mat and draw big circles with your top arm, tickling their tummy each time you pass them.
Strong legs & glutes make walking & carrying a lot easier! For added difficulty, hold your baby in your arms which practising these postures – just be careful not to push yourself so that you fall!!!
Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Hug the lower belly in to engage the lower abdominals, squeeze the pelvic floor muscles, inhale & lift the heels so you’re on the balls of your feet. Exhale & lower with control. Try 10-15 of these, slowly & with control.
From here, widen your feet & turn the toes outwards. Bring the weight into your heels, exhale & bend the knees like you’re sitting down onto a chair. Try to bend your knees so much that your thighs go parallel to the floor. Engage the buttocks, pelvic floor & lower abdominals. Inhale & press down through the heels to stand up. Repeat 10-15 times.
Come back to standing with your feet hip distance apart. Lift your right foot & place it on the inside of your left leg (try to avoid the knee if you can!). Once in position, press the foot into the leg & the leg back into the foot. Engage the pelvic floor & think lifting through the torso. Fix your gaze at one point in front & breathe for 10-15 breaths or however long you can hold it.
***Tip: try not to hold it so long that you fall out. Instead, come out of it slowly and with control before you feel you need to, so you stay safe & focussed!
Lower Back & Hip Release
To cool down we’ll stretch out the hips, which can get tight if you sit a lot & which can lead to a tight lower back. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Cross the right ankle over the left knee creating a triangle-shape with your right leg. Press the knee gently away from you to locate the stretch in the right hip. Try to keep the right foot flexed & active (so no pointed or relaxed toes!). If you want to deepen the stretch, loop your hands around the back of your left thigh & pull your thigh in towards the chest. Stay for 10-15 breaths & then change to the other side.
To finish, bring the soles of your feet together & let your knees fall apart. You can bring your feet as close to you as feels comfortable & let the knees be heavy. Place your hands on your belly & follow the rise & fall of your belly as you breathe in and out. As an alternative you can support yourself with a cushion or pillow & let the hands fall out to the sides, palms facing upwards & allow yourself to relax! Stay for as long as you like & enjoy.
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