Adding certain postpartum yoga poses to your weekly routine also helps the recovery process when it comes to a weakened pelvic floor, tight hips, sore shoulders or neck, lack of endurance, and over-stretched abdominal muscles.
Our experts explain the benefits of post-baby yoga, as well as which postpartum yoga poses are best to help your body heal.
Take it slow, at first.
“So many moms want to rush back to drop baby weight and hit the gym hardcore. But, in reality, yoga is a much better way to initiate the healing process and understand your body and where it is,” says Aaptiv Trainer Jaime McFaden. “I suggest for all moms to start slow. You have to re-familiarize yourself with your body. Remember, you just changed your entire bod for nearly one year. So give it time before you try and bounce back.”
Check out Aaptiv’s yoga workouts to take your time getting back into a workout routine. Learn more here.
While it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a gentle, postnatal yoga routine, Yoga Teacher Calli De La Haye, who specializes in pre- and postnatal yoga, recommends waiting at least six weeks after childbirth, unless you’re doing specific pelvic floor exercises. And, if you’ve had a caesarean section, then she suggests waiting 12-16 weeks postpartum.
Understand the benefits of postpartum yoga.
De La Haye notes three key benefits to practicing postpartum yoga. These are rebuilding muscle tone, maintaining the integrity of your spine and pelvis, and preventing postpartum depression. “You’ll develop strength in your pelvis, abs, and back, all of which have taken a serious toll during the prenatal and labor period,” says De La Haye. “During the prenatal period, your ligaments and joints loosen due to the relaxin hormone. These may remain loose and are prone to overstretching for several months after giving birth. But with yoga, you can gently ease back in as a low-impact option. Finally, yoga promotes a positive outlook, gives you time to focus on your own well-being, and decreases the risk of depression.”
Of course, adds Yoga Teacher Jayla Pearce, postpartum depression is a real illness and requires medical attention. So it’s vital to get the help you need, if necessary. Yoga can certainly help alleviate with general stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as support your transition into motherhood. But it doesn’t replace professional guidance.
From a physical standpoint, many new mothers find themselves hunched over frequently, which leads to pain in the hips and lower back, says Laura Arndt, certified strength and conditioning specialist and CEO of Matriarc.
That’s where yoga can release tension in the body, plus support better posture, flexibility, and core or pelvic floor strength, all without creating abdominal pressure. Try an Aaptiv yoga workout by signing up here.
Know what poses to skip.
For the most part, says McFaden, in order to prevent abdominal separation, known as diastasis recti, don’t do crunches and deep twists during the postpartum period. “You want to avoid exercises that build abdominal pressure or stretch your abdomen too much, like wheel pose or any intense backward bends,” agrees Arndt. “When you do yoga poses, make sure to hold your core muscles in tight and do not overextend your stomach. Avoid overstretching the abdomen, as you are trying to strengthen it again.”
Here are a few specific yoga poses to skip, particularly if you’re suffering from diastasis recti or experienced any kind of tearing during delivery, says De La Haye.
Also, be mindful of poses where your belly faces downward, due to gravitational pull, or poses that stretch the midline. You can slowly introduce these poses back into your yoga routine as you continue to heal.
“Poses that involve major abdominal strength should be avoided until cleared by a midwife, doctor, or pelvic floor physical therapist,” concurs Yoga Teacher Val Minos. “Many women experience abdominal separation, which, if not healed properly, can cause abdominal weakness, pelvic floor weakness, or other more serious problems. These poses include major back bending poses like upward bow and boat pose. Other poses depend on your physical readiness. So consulting with a doctor would be best in any situation, even for advanced yoga practitioners.”
But, definitely add these six poses to your postpartum yoga practice.
The below yoga postures can help improve blood flow, strengthen your nervous system, and relax your body and mind. Our experts explain why.
Legs up the wall
“This is relaxing, meditative, and helps bring blood flow in opposite direction,” says Pearce. “It’s a great pose to do before savasana. “You can rest your body on your chest, close your eyes, and notice the inhale and exhale [of breath] for both of you.”
“This a gentle yoga pose that focuses on alleviating head, neck, and chest pain, and opens the pelvic floor, hips, and low back,” says Minos. “Relieving back pain is helpful for any nursing mother. Adding Kegel exercises here is also a great way to start to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that become weakened in the process of childbirth.”
“This pose tones and stimulates the abdomen, pelvis, torso, and back,” says Pearce. “Keep the muscles in your neck soft, and lift your arms in front of you with palms open facing each other. Raise your arms over your head, and push your shoulder blades down. Extend your palms toward the ceiling, stretch body sides of your body, and suck in your lower belly. Hold for 30 seconds.”
“Bridge pose is great for relieving thoracic spine discomfort,” says Minos. “It strengthens the legs while stretching the hip flexors, and opens the shoulders and chest. These are all areas that can become tight after childbirth and while spending many hours sitting or laying with the new little one. It can also help relieve anxiety, which many new mothers feel.”
Standing forward bend
“With this forward stretch, bend forward at your waist with equal weight [in your feet],” says Pearce. “You can use props and rest your hands on them with legs straight, or bend knees slightly and rest your fingertips on the floor or your shins. Exhale and push your torso closer to your legs, then hold for 30-60 seconds.”
Cow face pose
“Cow face is great for stretching the hips, as well as the neck and shoulders,” says Minos. “Practicing this pose on both sides can help combat the shoulder hunch that can happen as a result of nursing and holding a baby for extended periods of time.”
“Daily life can strain your body, causing nervous tension which then affects your mind,” says Pearce. “Yoga is not a cure-all miracle, but it helps. Any new mom can practice yoga and receive the benefits. You can also take deep breaths at home, and send a message to your brain to send oxygen to points of tension in the body. Every mama is different. But bringing awareness to your body is the main benefit of postpartum yoga, as well as dedicating time to relax when you have a new baby to focus on, too.”
Do these poses and more in our yoga workouts. Check out the Aaptiv app to learn more.