January 28, 2014

Postnatal Yoga: How A Yogi Got Her Groove Back. ~ Eliza Whiteman

First, I would like to start off by saying that this article is not about how to be Heidi Klum walking the Victoria Secret’s runway seven weeks after giving birth.

Dropping the post baby weight will come eventually.

For now, you can work on your strength and building back up to your yoga practice. Take these tips and suggestions lightly, every body is different, every birth is different and wrought full of various challenges for each person.

Immediately after birth

Wrap it up:

One of the best things you can do postpartum is after your first shower, wrap your belly with a post-natal corset or wrap. This does many helpful things, but primarily, at first, it helps contract the uterus and make it clamp down.

A postpartum wrap secures your belly, which helps support your back; it allows abdominal muscles to begin working on going back in place. Overall, it just makes you feel a little bit more confident in your post natal recovery. Wear this as long possible and as much as you can. I usually tried to keep them on for about a month.

Here are two types of wraps on the market: Belly Bandit and Postpartum Support Belt.

First few weeks after birth

Rest as much as you can, easy enough to say if this is your first, however for those of us with more than one child you may feel the need to be up and tending to everyone.

You have to make sure to take care and put yourself first. Rest (the best rule is to rest when baby rests), hydrate, take your prenatal vitamins and/or iron supplements, and eat healthfully–no crash diets.

Take a walk

Going for a walk depends on you, maybe the first week or maybe a month after delivery. From here you can also start consciously holding your belly in, actively contracting those abdominal muscles. Doing some lunges and squats, no matter how deep, helps to strengthen leg, thigh and pelvic floor muscles.

Back to basics

You have to go back to basics for your body and start building your little yoga house from the foundation up.

Arm strength is diminished, abdominal muscles—especially lower—are very weak and the hips/inner thigh muscle and ligaments are still very loose (thanks, relaxin). Also, if you gave birth naturally there is the dreaded fear of the intake of air. The horror! This is a very different and new body you are introducing back into yoga.

Here are some great building blocks to work on:

Arms and Shoulders

Plank and forearm planks making sure to hold in your belly, engage your thighs. Modified pushups on the floor or against the wall or counter tops.

You can even practice holding a modified chatturanga (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) and work your way up in holding for longer lengths of time.

Side planks and forearms side planks both regular and modified but this time make sure to push your hips up and engage your obliques.

From here you can play and come up with a little flow linking these all together or just work on a few at a time and hold the pose. This is great core work, too.


Take care here and go slow. The chemical relaxin that helped our pelvis loosen up during pregnancy and delivery can still course through us up to six months after we deliver, so our joints and ligaments can still be a little wacky and loose.

Lunges and squats are great, so Warrior variations and Chair pose work well, too.

Another great tip is to use the blocks in poses that have your knees together (i.e. Chair, Boat, Bridge, Forward Fold, Plow etc.).

You put the block on its thin side and place between your knees. Squeeze the block with your knees, either hold the squeeze or you can pulse. Feel the inner thighs working, as well as your lower abdominals, too.

Goddess pose or wide squats help to strengthen the outer thigh and hips.

Restore the Core

Actually, one of the best core workouts is something we can do anywhere, at any time.

Start off sitting in Tailor’s Pose (Sukasana). Relax your belly then focus on your posture, sit up tall, shoulders back and tailbone tucked.

Now, bring your belly in, keeping your pelvic floor and core engaged as far as you can. Keep your breath steady and hold for five to 10 breaths.

A great variation is to pulse, allow your belly to relax just a bit on the exhale and on the inhale quickly engage again. Once you get the hang of it then you can practice this sitting in a car, watching TV or even nursing.

Full or modified Boat pose, leg raises with just a slight upward tilt of your tailbone when your legs are vertical, slow bicycles and slow crunches—anything where you are holding and engaging those abdominal muscles—are great to build core strength.

Pelvic Floor

Mula Bandha, pelvic floor lock, is where you pull together the pelvic floor and hold or lock it in place—like one big, giant Kegel.

You do this while holding all poses in your yoga practice.

It is simple, but the trick is to actually remember to do it. Keeping this pelvic diaphragm contracted through poses also helps against taking in air.

Downward Facing Dog, Three Legged Dog, Half Moon, Shoulder Stand,Plow and Inversion poses are some of the main culprits of this. Especially at first make sure your pelvic floor is locked down before going into these poses.

Other things to keep in mind

Being on your stomach and chest can be uncomfortable at first. Use a breast pump before class, so you are not engorged by the middle of class or start leaking all over your mat. Also good to stock up on dark colored tops!

Whether it is taking someone’s class or working your practice at home, see what is working for you.

Listen to you body and be kind to yourself.

Take your time on jumping through if you are doing Vinyasa or Ashtanga and go slow with getting back to your inversion practice and if you do inversions remember that mula bandha!


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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Debra Lynde/Pixoto

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