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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.