Post Natal Yoga by Hannah Waldman of Hove Yoga Studio, Brighton and Hove, BN3
Simple yoga poses to address fatigue, anxiety and aching neck and shoulders.
The morning sickness, achy lower back, and fatigue of pregnancy have passed but for new mothers a whole other different set of physical conditions often accompanies the arrival of your baby.
Luckily, there are a few simple yoga poses that can address the most common concerns: fatigue, anxiety and aching neck and shoulders.
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“Our bodies are always in transition, so don’t think that you have to be exactly the way you were before pregnancy,” says Jane Austin, a San Francisco-based pre- and post-natal yoga teacher. “But you can expect to be healthy, vital, and strong again.” And mothers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from yoga; a few basic moves for baby can make your infant more comfortable and calm too.
I guess the first six months are the most transitional months to getting back to a place that resembles what life was like physically and emotionally prior to becoming pregnant and giving birth (if such a place can still exist!). I will briefly discuss three postnatal symptoms and state how I feel yoga can help towards your personal recovery. I will also include some additional tips to aid this transition further.
Waking up every few hours to tend to your babies needs doesn’t exactly make for a well-rested person. Although you won’t cut out all of your sleepless nights, you can deal with fatigue to make your waking hours more manageable. I personally feel that impatience, irritability etc.. are all due to lack of sleep or broken sleep. It is really important first to acknowledge this and perhaps try the following posture to just take time out and be in the moment with and ultimately help you become a rational person once again.
Solution: Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)
When you feel exhausted, your breath becomes more shallow. A restorative pose known as Viparita Karani helps open the chest, encourages you to take deeper breaths, and aids relaxation and rejuvenation.
Lay with your right hip against the wall and a pillow under both hips. Then slowly swing your legs up onto the wall, bring your arms out to the sides, and breathe deeply. Hold for two minutes or for how ever feels comfortable for you.
After your baby is born, you might notice that running up the stairs isn’t as easy as it was a year ago. With your body recovering from labour, fatigue from caring for a newborn, and a change in your exercise routine while pregnant. The following posture will build stamina and eventually give you an energised feeling.
Solution: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose)
Standing poses like Warrior II build stamina and are highly accessible to most women. “New moms like to feel they are building strength, and with standing poses they can feel it in their body,” she says. Try Warrior II, named after the fierce warrior Virabhadra: with legs four feet apart, turn the right foot in and the left foot out 90 degrees. Bring your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor, as you bend the left knee over the left ankle. Reach out with your arms and hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Problem: Upper back and shoulders
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, many new mothers experience neck and shoulder aches—the result of many hours spent bending forward to feed the baby and also by picking baby up. The resulting hunched-over position can lead to the dreaded “forward head” position that may cause other problems such as headaches and back pain. Also see this post by Hannah's husband Registered Osteopath Philip Waldman about what he calls Mother's Shoulder
Solution: Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) Arms
While feeding, focus on keeping the shoulders away from the ears and the shoulder blades down the back. For a more active approach, try Gomukhasana Arms: Bring the right arm overhead and turn the palm inward. Bring the left arm out to the side and parallel to the floor and turn the palm outward. Bring palms together behind the back, using a strap if they don’t touch. Hold for five breaths, release, and repeat to the other side.
Another posture is shoulder circles to release tension. Sitting comfortably extend arms out to the sides and then bend at the elbows and place hands on your shoulders. Circle from here anti-clockwise and clockwise for as many as feels comfortable. Lead from the shoulders using the elbows as a lever. Inhale the elbows up the exhale them back drawing the shoulder blades together at the back.
Simple Breathing Exercise for Managing Anxiety
Lie on your back in a comfortable place. Breathe slowly through your nose. Use your diaphragm to such air into your lungs. Allow your abdomen to expand at the same time. After the abdomen is fully expanded, continue to inhale as deeply as possible. Reverse the process when you breathe out. Contract your abdomen while exhaling slowly and completely. Repeat this exercise several times.
As well as Mother and Baby Yoga if there is a lack of vital nutrients, the mother’s body is the first one that is deprived because her developing baby is Mother Nature’s priority. All mothers need to consciously replenish their lost nutritional and energetic reserves during the postpartum period. If this isn’t done, mothers will continue to say “I just haven’t felt the same since the baby was born.”
The energy demands of caring for a newborn can further drain and deplete the mother’s nutrient reserves, especially if she is breastfeeding and sleep-deprived. If a woman has lost a great deal of blood while birthing her baby, the need for replenishing the nutritional components of blood is even more critical. Women who undergo Caesarean section also need to restore nutrient reserves; not only have they become mothers, they have had to have major surgery in the process. Women don’t replenish key nutrients may well experience light-headedness and throbbing headaches, along with extreme fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression.
One example of a nutritional supplement is Omega-3 oils. Omega-3 oils are robbed from the mother’s body at a very high rate via the placenta to help form her baby’s brain, eyes, nerves, and cellular membranes. Breast feeding robs even more Omega 3 oils from a postpartum woman’s body because it is removed from her body to form the milk her body is producing. Many studies show the importance of Omega 3 oils to relieve depression, dry skin, thin hair and nails, fatigue and prevent heart disease in postpartum women. Omega 3 oils are an essential ingredient in a good postnatal nutrient program to assist a mother to replenish her nutrient reserves.
For shoulders and upper back problems I would suggest a visit to an osteopath and while you are there you could get a bit of cranial-sacral osteopathy for the little one which works a treat. I really think it is lovely when mother and baby can do things together like with the yoga. In this way there is no need to worry who will look after the baby as you are doing it all together.
The most important one apart from yoga I feel is simple fresh air and nature. Take a stroll in the park taking note of birds and trees and just sit on a bench and let your mind be immersed in nature for a while and forget the aches and pains. Ideally at a time when baby is asleep but then again I have found that my daughter Amelie loves to watch leaves moving on trees!