Yoga During Pregnancy and After Giving Birth – Part II: Postnatal

Mum and Bub graphic

How Can a Woman Support Her Body and Mind After Pregnancy and How Much Is Too Much?

In my previous post I was writing about the benefits of yoga during pregnancy, before giving birth. Now I would like to share the benefits and beauty of a yoga class postnatally.

I haven’t experienced becoming a mother yet, but I am very grateful and excited to support new born mamas in their postpartum time with my knowledge and empathy.

Yoga After Pregnancy - Postnatal

After labour the body of a woman is changing and as Ina May Gaskin beautifully said: her emotions, mind and spirit also change for the rest of her life. These changes are wonderful, if the woman is able to accept them and adapt her practice and her life accordingly to them.

The postpartum period, which starts right after labour, is the time when the hormone levels and the uterus size are returning back to a non-pregnant stage. The time a woman needs to recover from birth, depends on how the baby has been delivered (vaginal birth, c-section…) and on the physical and mental condition of the woman before. In any case, the puerperium time is the most important time to rest. The puerperium or puerperal period describes the first six weeks after childbirth, where the mother should mainly stay in bed or around the bed to give her body the best conditions to heal, to recharge her energy levels in order to give energy to her newborn. 

During this time a woman can start bringing tone back to the muscles of the abdominal region and the pelvic floor, only with gentle awareness breaths. As soon as all the wounds are healed, she can start with gentle exercises of the deeper inner muscles. How the woman treats her body in the first month after birth is crucial for a long-lasting recovery.

Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life!  Ina May Gaskin

How Yoga Can Help With a Various List of Benefits 

Yoga is not only asanas, physical postures, yoga is so much more. Meditation, breathing exercises, relaxation, practice of devotion and surrender. There are so many new challenges a mum has to face. Yoga can be a wonderful tool to support and help to manage them with more ease and joy.

  1. Helps to relax, to find peace and calmness in body and mind.
    Especially in the early time postpartum the new mum is struggling a lot with her energy. Long nights with only a few hours of sleep and an overwhelming feeling are very natural. 

Yoga helps to: 

  • to decrease anxiety, fear and stress.
  • to relax, to calm down the mind.
  • to boost Serotonin and Dopamine.
  • to recharge the energy levels.

Tools: restorative poses, guided meditations and breathing exercises.

  1. Helps on a physical level

After labour the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles are experiencing a lack of strength and muscle tone. This can increase the possibility for incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse (even months later).  It is very normal that the new mum is feeling stiff in the neck and experiencing shoulder pain or lower back pain due to the long hours of breastfeeding. 

Yoga can help: 

  • to find the tone of the muscles again. 
  • to decrease common pains of shoulder, neck and lower back.
  • to get back to the well-being weight in a gentle and mindful way.
  • to improve posture, balance and coordination.
  • to promote better circulation and can reduce high blood pressure.
Tools: stretching and strenghening poses and exercises.

  1. Empowers a woman in her new role as a mum

When a woman becomes a mum, her role changes. Change can be very uncomfortable a lot of times. Facing new challenges, dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions and an overwhelming feeling. 

Yoga can help: 

  • to be able to adapt to these changes in a respectful way towards yourself.
  • to release certain emotions and feelings rather than let them be stuck in the body 
  • to honour this sacred time, her body and to cultivate self-love during this whole process.
  • to learn to listen to your own intuition – what’s good for the mother is good for the baby.
  • to learn to surrender and to adjust in the best way you can in any challenges you are facing, without the need of judging.

“Compassion towards ourselves is the foundation for any compassion towards others. If we let ourselves become tired and run-down caring for others we have less to give everyone. We need to look after our own health too by making time for quietness and rest. In practising compassion we speak kindly to ourselves and notice whether our inner voices are supportive and friendly or judgmental and demanding. We are patient when we falter, for parenting makes amateurs of us all as we confront its never-ending new stages. It helps us cultivate self-awareness, not guilt.”

Sarah Napthali, “Buddhism for Mothers”.

Often the Question Arises: How Much Is Too Much? And Safety Guidlines

Golden rules of postnatal yoga and safety guidelines

1. Listen to your own intuition – you know best, what’s best for you. If something doesn’t feel right, leave it – if it feels good, go for it.

2. Listen to your body. I’m not in your body, I can’t feel it as you do. What I can do is to give you guidelines, instructions of the poses and share my knowledge, but whenever you feel you want to adjust a pose to make it more comfortable for your body, feel free to do it. Whenever you can’t find a pose, just rest in a child pose or on your side body, or back.

3. Challenge yourself in a respectful way. Do not force yourself in any position, but always keep in mind that you are stronger than you think. The body only gets stronger in challenging situations.

4. Breathe – there’s nothing more to add ;).

5. Allow and accept interruptions – there will be times, when you have the baby next to you while practicing. There will even be times when you will practice together with the baby. And the baby will get hungry at some point and the baby will cry… Don’t see these moments as a destruction of your practice – see it as a new part of your practice. You can always pause a video and go back in again. And during the live calls you can still be part of the class, even though you are feeding your baby – this is all part of the course.

Be careful with deep stretching/ overstretching:

The hormone ‘relaxin’ which is very important in the prenatal stage, in order to make the tissues, ligaments and muscles soft to create space for the baby, needs around six months after giving birth to decrease its level. Because of that it is important in the postpartum period to not overstretch the muscles but to find a nice balance. Stretching can help a lot to relieve stress in the body and mind and can decrease pain of the body due to long hours of sitting, laying and breastfeeding poses. 

Be careful with over strengthening:

After birth the body needs rest. No matter how the baby has been delivered, labour leaves wounds and they need time to heal. If a woman is forcing her body in this time to workout, she can damage a lot in the deeper tissues. 

It is important to start slow. To get the muscle tone back in the pelvic muscles and abdominal muscles needs time. Focusing on strengthening the deep tissues of the muscles can prevent and decrease incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse. The same counts for running, which depends if running has always been in the routine or not. 

When it comes to strengthening the abdominal muscles, it is important to clarify first if and how big the rectus diastasis is. When the belly grows during pregnancy, the abdominal muscles have to seperate in the middle to create space. After labour they need time to close again before starting work on strengthening them.

Thanks for taking the time to read – let me know in the comments your thoughts and experiences. 

Yoga During Pregnancy and After Giving Birth – Part I: Prenatal

Yoga during preganancy, Pregnant woman in Sukashana

How Can a Woman Support Her Body and Mind During Pregnancy and How Much Is Too Much?

After having completed my online teacher training as a certified pre- and postnatal yoga teacher (at the amazing and well experienced Bliss Baby Yoga School in Australia) I am exited to share my knowledge in theory as in practice.
I invite all the beautiful Mamas and ‘Mamas-to-be’ to read more about my thoughts and the benefits of Yoga during pregnancy and after giving birth in this article and I’m looking forward to welcome you in one of my classes

I am also very grateful for the learnings and the experience I’ve gained by already working with wonderful mamas-to-be in different stages of their pregnancy. It is truly amazing to be part of these journeys.  

Pregnant woman doing yoga, Lotus Sit

Yoga During Pregnancy - Prenatal

Yoga is so much more than only physical exercises to build strength and to gain flexibility. When it comes to yoga during pregnancy and postpartum, this understanding of Yoga reaches a whole new level.

A woman’s body is changing and with that her physical & mental, especially emotional condition. In order to that her practice needs to change accordingly. Pregnancy is not the time, where a woman should focus on bringing her physical condition (strength or flexibility) on a higher level – it is the time to show compassion towards oneself and to support the body the best way possible.  

Yoga Can Help With a Various List of Benefits

The benefits of yoga during pregnancy are truly amazing and can support a woman in order to work with her body and her energy rather than against it. By using props like cushions, yoga blocks, blankets and straps all of the positions are easy to adjust for each woman individually.

1. Promotes relaxation and overall well-being

A pregnant woman often feels tired, stressed and needs a lot of rest. A lot of times anxiety and fear arises. A calming and well-rounded practice is great for the nervous system and balances the hormonal system. It can increase Serotonin and Dopamine for more general joy in life and the energy levels get recharged.

Yoga can help:

  • to decrease anxiety, fear and stress.
  • to relax, to calm down the mind.
  • to boost Serotonin and Dopamine
  • to recharge the energy levels

Tools: restorative poses, guided meditations and breathing exercises.

2. Improves physical condition and prepares the body for labour

Even though pregnancy is not the time to level up the physical condition it is still important to work on strengthening important muscle groups, in order to minimize pain in the body and to prepare the body as best as possible for the challenges of labour.

Due to the growing belly, growing breast and often additional weight gain the body of a pregnant woman has to hold more weight. The weight distribution is pulling a woman into a higher arch in the lower back, which often leads to back pain, overly tight hip muscles and quadrizeps.

The right exercises can help:

  • to handle the weight better and to decrease common aches in the neck, the back, the hips and the legs.
  • to prepare the body for labour in terms of strength and stamina (especially in active birth position – to be able to hold an active birth position).
  • to tone the deep birth muscles (deep transversus abdominis, uterus walls, pelvic floor) for more support during pregnancy, during labour and faster a recovery postpartum.
  • to improve posture, balance and coordination.
  • to alleviate muscle cramps, constipation, swelling legs and ankles (because of fluid retention).
  • to promote better circulation and can reduce high blood pressure.
  • to relax the pelvic floor in order to prepare for labour.
  • the body to become juicy and soft (flexible and agile) to reduce pains and to prepare for labour.

Tools: strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, pelvic floor toning, breathing exercises

3. Improves mental and emotional condition and prepares the mind for labour

As mentioned in #1 the mental and emotional stage is changing due to a hormone cocktail in the body. The woman experiences mood changes, often feels vulnerable and emotional.

Yoga can help:

  • to balance the hormones.
  • to strengthen the mind – “you are stronger than you think” (e.g., holding a pose longer than to the point where the natural thought of “I can’t hold any longer” kicks in – you can’t just stop during labour either)
  • to become more flexible in the mind
  • to stay focused and in the present moment
  • to stay aware and conscious
  • to deal with unwanted circumstances and challenges that arises (e.g., in a worst-case scenario during labour, it is crucial that the woman stays calm and relaxed rather than falling into panic
  • to increase the overall emotional wellbeing so that the woman can enjoy the journey of pregnancy in a healthy mental stage which is so important for the mum and for the growing baby.  

Tools: Breathing exercises, guided meditations, visualisations

4. Empowers a woman in her power

Not only the body of a woman is changing – her energy is transforming as well. She becomes stronger in her feminine power. She becomes a loving mother.

Yoga can help:

  • to feel powerful, to trust oneself and one’s strength.
  • to awaken her full power and potential as a mother.
  • to learn to be able to speak for yourself and to be able to communicate what you need and you want or not.
  • to honour this sacred time, her body and to cultivate self-love during this whole process.
  • the woman to feel her body better, to tune in even better with the baby’s energy.
  • to learn to surrender and to adjust in the best way you can in any challenges you are facing, without the need of judging.
  • to learn to listen to your own intuition – what’s good for the mother is good for the baby.

During pregnancy teh body, mind and also the energy of a women is changing.
Since change can be hard on some points it is more important then ever to be compassionate with oneself. 

Often the Question Arises: How Much Is Too Much?

First golden rule: do not overstretch, strain or compress the belly – just leave the womb and allow it to become soft.

Second golden rule: listen to your intuition – you know what’s best for you. If something doesn’t feel right – leave it, if it feels great – go for it.

Be careful with deep stretching/ overstretching:

Due to the hormone Relaxin the body is already getting soft on its own. Too deep stretching can lead to overstretched muscles, ligament, tendons and joints, which can lead to less support and weakness in the body, especially in the pelvis floor. This can cause incontinence (especially postpartum) and aching hips or pain in the lower back.

Still important: supporting the softening of the body in gentle stretches (See #2)

Be careful with over strengthening:

As already mentioned, the woman’s energy is changing and so does her practice.
How much you can work out during pregnancy, is of course a question of how much you did before. The other question which arises is – is there a need to work out like before? If the body feels tired, sore or weak – why should you force yourself through a workout? (This also refers to non-pregnant women!)

During pregnancy the body becomes softer in order to allow the baby to grow. The abdominal muscles, especially the 6-pack muscles, are opening in order to give space for the baby. Their function is changing. By toning these muscles, you would actually work against nature.


Still important: maintaining strength and stamina to support the body with the additional weight it is carrying. (See #2)

Thanks for taking the time to read – let me know in the comments your thoughts and experiences. 
And always remember the Golden Rules of Yoga during pregnancy. 

Comming next: Yoga During Pregnancy and After Giving Birth – Part II: Postnatal
How can I support my body to recover after giving birth and when can I start again?
How can I include a Yoga practice in my new daily routines? (I don’t have time…)