Often the last thing a new mother has time to do is practice yoga. There are numerous hurdles to overcome to get onto the yoga mat: physical and mental exhaustion, the demands of a newborn or infant, residual weight gain from the pregnancy, and absolutely no free time. On top of that, the body is still recovering from the difficult work of pregnancy and childbirth. However, it can be argued that these are precisely the same reasons why post-natal yoga is so important!
If you have recently had a baby and have struggled to get back into your yoga practice, here are some tips for your post-natal yoga practice.
Making time for yourself is usually the number one challenge with babies in the house. Class schedules don’t often jibe with limited available childcare, or sometimes going to a yoga class requires more time than you can be away from your infant. As unrealistic as it may sound to you, this is an opportunity to jump start your home practice. You don’t need to get on your yoga mat, though. If you can just commit to sitting for 11 minutes with a mantra, you may find yourself quickly rejuvenated.
Pick a mantra that’s simple, ideally one that you feel comfortable chanting while holding your baby if necessary. Guru Ram Das is a wonderful choice, since it taps into the energy of the heart. One of my favorites is Nirinjan Kaur’s version on her Aquarian Sadhana CD. Another mantra that is uplifting yet gentle is Sada Sat Kaur’s “Guru Guru Wahe Guru” on Angel’s Waltz.
To help regain your physical strength from childbirth, you may want to begin to incorporate 3 to 7 minutes of Sat Kriya into your daily routine. This powerful practice works to heal and energize the body, and it’s a particularly important way to strengthen the pelvic floor. The physical movement in Sat Kriya involves contracting and lifting the muscles of the pelvic floor (similar to kegel exercises), which can be weakened during pregnancy and childbirth. Start slowly, taking breaks as necessary, and it’s recommended that you rest for several minutes after practicing this kriya.
If you manage to build time in your schedule to attend yoga classes at a yoga center or gym, make a point to search for classes that will best meet your immediate needs. If your biggest challenge is fatigue, for example, find a teacher who will offer a gentle, restorative practice, maybe with a focus on meditation. If this isn’t possible, use that time to expand your home practice. A couple kriyas that are helpful for low energy are “Conquering Sleep” and the “Meditation for the Lower Triangle” in Sadhana Guidelines, which works on the adrenal glands and the kidneys.
Another thing that many new moms struggle with are weakened abdominal muscles and discomfort from having gained “baby weight”. Kundalini Yoga is a great way to rebuild core strength; however, it’s recommended that you wait 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth (or 8 weeks for a cesarean section) before starting abdominal work. (In the meantime, you can continue to work on toning the pelvic floor!) As you feel able, begin to practice breath of fire for 1 to 3 minutes at a time, building up from there. Look for kriyas that will focus on the navel center, such as Strengthening the Stomach from Owner’s Manual for the Human Body. Of course, modify as necessary and rest when you feel the need!
There are some other excellent resources available to new mothers. The book I Am a Woman is filled with wonderful kriyas and meditations, and DVDs such as Pre & Post Natal Yoga DVD With Natalie Stawsky can offer some guidance for keeping up with your practice. As always, check with your health care provider before starting, and treat yourself with love and care. You deserve it!