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December 6, 2019

Yoga, Pranayama & Ayurveda for the Postpartum Mom.

 

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You’ve delivered your baby after a long nine months, and you’re happy, healthy, and excited to have your baby in your arms.

Wait…plot twist! It’s actually not that easy.

Although I haven’t had any babies (yet), I watched my best friend suffer after having her first baby. What was “supposed” to be the most magical experience of her life, turned out to be quite the opposite.

Sleepless nights, postpartum blues, low self-esteem, trouble producing breast milk, which shot her self-esteem even further out the window. The worst part, though, was the immense shame she felt as she wasn’t bonding with her baby—I mean, how could she? She was barely eating or sleeping, and she was doing all she could just to stay a level or two below “normal.”

I’m writing about this because I think it’s important for those out there who can relate. Sure, for some women, having a child is easy and magical, and you’re back in your skinny jeans and at work the next week and all is good. But for some—in fact, for most—this is a Hollywood idea that needs to be addressed.

I watched my friend struggle through the process, and slowly but surely, we figured out the best techniques to help her in a natural way. I’m a yogi/health nut, and I wanted to do anything I could to help her figure this post-baby thing out. She, like me, is a strong believers of using the power of the mind, natural herbs, and yoga to solve most any issue—so together we figured out what worked best for her in her postpartum daze.

Although there is so much I could share in this article, for simplicity’s sake, I recommend taste-testing these techniques, but really the true transformation happens when you can practice them every single day for at least 30 days.

Here are three simple techniques you can take into your daily life to see an instant, yet subtle shift:

1. Cultivate a simple meditation practice.

I know, I know. You’re probably already short on sleep with the newborn in the house, and meditating seems like the lowest of your priorities right now. But trust me. I encourage you to try this simple technique, which only takes about 10 minutes a day, and stick with it for about 30 days to see the differences.

For those of you new to meditation—don’t worry. The point of meditation is not to let go of thoughts. It’s normal for the mind to think—that’s the nature of the mind! The point of meditation is actually to observe your thoughts. Through observation or “witness consciousness” as we like to call it, you can begin to observe where your mind is using its energy.

What are the stories going on repeat in the mind? What are its patterns, habits, and tendencies? Once you begin to observe your thoughts and stories, we can begin to practice acceptance and non-judgement, which leads to non-reaction and decreased stress in everyday life. 

The technique: 

Begin by finding a comfortable seat, preferably with the hips sitting on a pillow so your hips can be elevated above the knees. 

Box Breath: Roll the shoulders up and down the back, and close the eyes. Inhale slowly through the nose for five counts, hold the breath at the top of the inhale for five counts, exhale slowly through the nose for five counts, and hold the breath at the bottom for five counts. 

This is a calming and stabilizing meditation practice. Begin with five counts, and if it feels comfortable, feel free to move up to six, seven, eight, or more counts. 

Practice for a minimum of five minutes. Once finished, keep the eyes closed and breathe normally, observing the subtle shifts. Sit as the silent witness for an additional five minutes minimum. 

I like to meditate using Insight Timer, which has peaceful chimes to alert you at each five-minute interval, so you know when to switch techniques. 

2. Ayurvedic herbs.

Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga and has been used for centuries as common medicine in India. While the science is extremely intricate and takes years of study to fully understand on a deeper level, there are some simple ayurvedic techniques and herbs we can take into our day to day life. 

Especially for postpartum moms, there are certain herbs used in Ayurveda specifically to increase breast milk, balance hormones, and increase happiness! One in seven women will experience postpartum depression, so if you’re experiencing the blues, try adding some of these herbs to your diet: 

Shatavari: 

This ayurvedic herb is also known as wild asparagus (not to be confused with the asparagus you have probably eaten!) and can be found in pill or capsule forms at a natural health food store or with an ayurvedic practitioner. In Ayurveda, shatavari has many amazing uses, including: 

>> Reduces anxiety
>> Balances the hormonal and reproductive system
>> Acts as an aphrodisiac (yes, please)
>> Fights fatigue
>> Supports production of breast milk
>> Strengthens the immune system

You can take shatavari daily, whether in capsule or pill form or adding the powder to smoothies. 

Turmeric: 

You might be familiar with turmeric, as it’s commonly used in recipes worldwide. What you might not know, however, is that turmeric is a superfood with properties to make you feel like a superhuman. Not only is turmeric a galactogogue, which is a substance that helps increase breast milk, but it has so many additional properties to assist you postpartum, such as: 

>> Acting as an antidepressant
>> Natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory
>> Improves brain health
>> Reduced risk of mastitis 

You can add turmeric to your diet whether in a lactogenic protein powder shake, a golden milk latte, or simply ingesting it in pill form. 

3. 1:4:2 Ratio pranayama.

This simple pranayama technique is profoundly powerful. I have personally been using this technique in my daily Sādhanā every morning, and the clarity, balance, and groundedness it brings is the perfect way to start the day. The technique is simple, using the ratio 1:4:2. 

How to do it: 

Find your seat, preferably with the hips elevated on a cushion so the spine can be tall. Similar to alom vilom, take the right thumb to the right nostril, and breathe in for three counts through the left nostril. Hold the breath at the top for 12 counts, and then switch so that your ring finger is on the left nostril, exhale out the right nostril for six counts.

Hold that position right there, ring finger still on the left nostril, inhale for three counts through the right nostril, hold the breath at the top for 12 counts, switch the thumb to the right nostril, and exhale through the left nostril for six counts. 

Repeat this technique for a minimum of five minutes. Keep the eyes closed and the spine tall. If you wish, you can roll your gaze inward and upward toward your third eye center—the space in between your eyebrows. 

Once finished, release the hand to the knee and observe the breath. Breathe normally with the eyes closed for a few minutes. 

~

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author: Brooke Nally

Image: Christie Creative/Instagram

Editor: Naomi Boshari