Post-natal Yoga Bliss…with your Babe in Tow

post natal bliss with babeWhether it’s your first venture into motherhood or you’ve walked this journey before, bringing a life into the world is a task unlike any other. From having your days filled with diaper duty and sleepless nights to getting in as much cuddle time as possible and being lost in your little love’s eyes, the one thing we can all agree on as new moms is that we’re much shorter on time for ourselves than we used to be.  You are your best self when you take some quality time. And because we know how hard that is to come by for the first few months, Ergobaby and I have teamed up to create yoga sequences for you that allow you to incorporate your babe right into your practice, safely nestled into your Ergobaby Wrap.

We’ll be offering a practice for each quarter of the first year, to take you through the newborn phase all the way up until your little one has their first birthday. You can do the practice pose by pose, breaking them up to focus on a specific part of the body, or as one sequence, whatever works best for you. The following practice is specifically designed for the first 3 months, and although the general rule is to not exercise for the first 4-6 weeks (if you’ve had any surgery, please give your body time to rest and re-cooperate, and consult your doctor if you aren’t sure), we also know how much work you’re putting in, and with the new addition to your family comes a lot of stress on our bodies. Throughout pregnancy your weight bearing shifts dramatically, and after giving birth it not only begins to shift back, you’re now strengthening new muscles you probably didn’t use much of before, and some you didn’t even know you had! Our shoulders and upper body get tense with all of the holding, nursing, and even just doting on that tiny being. So with that said, the following seated sequence focuses mostly on stretching out the areas we tend to tighten, with a little bit of strengthening thrown in. It will give you some much needed stretching and opening of your heart, which after all as a new mama, is not only refreshing, but allows you to feel the best that you possibly can!

All you’ll need is a folded up blanket, a strap (a scarf or belt will totally do the trick), and a commitment to a teeny bit of your day. Let’s begin!

First things first, make sure your baby is nice and comfy in your Ergobaby. I’d suggest doing this series while the little one naps, and having the chest to chest contact will help support a nice little slumber.

Lay the Foundation- Breathwork and tuning in

tuning inGrab your folded up blanket and lay it down to sit on. Start seated, in a comfortable cross-legged position. Go ahead and take each thigh and roll it outwards, encouraging your hips to open (I know you probably don’t need more of that), but it also urges your sit bones to come back toward one another.

Place your hands on your little one’s back. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Don’t put any pressure on your inhales or exhales, just begin to notice the cadence and the depth. When you begin to feel that your energy has grounded, send your focus to your ribcage. Inhale, and begin to widen through the ribs. Exhale and feel them come back together. With every breath you take, exaggerate this feeling a bit more.

When you’re ready, send your focus to your back body. Begin to breathe into the back of the ribcage, almost like if someone had their hands cupping the middle of your back, you could breathe right into them. While you were pregnant, the focus gets sent to the front of your body, now having your baby in your arms, we want to bring it back promoting stability and strength in our core, as mothers and as women.

Neck + Shoulders

As I said before, and as I’m sure most of you know, your shoulders and your neck take quite a beating the first few months. Our bodies are reconfiguring to care for another person, which means new muscles are being used, and lots of hunching can begin to happen. The following will help you counter the hunched feeling.

Neck

neckReach your left hand out to the side, fingertips a few inches above the floor. Take your right hand, bring it over your head and cup it onto your left ear. Keep your left hand actively reaching. You may feel an immediate stretch or you might want to add a little pressure with your right hand.  Whichever category you fall in, gentle is the name of the game. Switch sides when you’re ready.

Shoulders & Upper Arms- Gomukhasana Arms

Shoulders- gomukhasana armsGrab your strap and place it into your right hand. Reach your right arm straight up to the sky. Keeping your arm raised, internally rotate by rolling your right tricep towards your face. Bring your left arm out to the side, parallel to the floor, and roll your arm forward so your thumb points to the ground. Bend your right arm, placing your fingertips between your shoulderblades. Next, bend the left arm, reaching it behind you and begin to crawl it up your back to take hold of the strap or maybe even your fingertips. If you can grab the opposite hand, feel free to discard the strap. This may be enough for you, but if you want a bit more of a stretch, keeping the frontal ribs pulled in, begin to round forward. Pause here, and focus back on the breath, this time sending all the way up between the shoulders and the upper back. Feel free to take a moment and nuzzle your little one. When your ready, on an inhale come back up to a straight back, unclasp the hands and release. Give your shoulders a little wiggle and switch sides.

shoulders2 shoulders3 shoulders4

Chest

chestInterlace your fingers behind you and let your hands come to the ground, lightly placing them on the floor. Just like we’ve used the breath in our previous poses, we’ll focus it again here, only this time sending it right up to our collarbones. We’ll use the ground as leverage for a little backbend (again, gently).  Shift some your weight back into your hands, inhale and let your heart come forward opening up through the collarbones, exhale and roll your shoulders back. Let your chest open up as much as is comfortable for you, letting the shoulderblades press in towards the front of your body. When your ready, come back to neutral on an exhale, and release.

Core- Navasana

So core is definitely something to stay away from the first 4-6 weeks. Consider if your body is really ready, and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is create space, practice self love, and give yourself time. Your organs need time to shift back into place, and doing core work too early can encourage the muscles to form over the shape your body is currently in, accentuating the bowed belly. For those of you that are ready, creating a strong core as a mother definitely takes a bit of work, but will leave you feeling empowered.

We’ll take this pose in a few variations, numbered from 1 to 3…months, levels, or steps.

Navasana1

  1. Uncross your legs and place the souls of your feet on the ground in front of you, keeping the knees bent. Bring your hands to the ground directly behind your hips, parallel to one another, and your fingers aiming towards you. On an inhale lift your legs into the air, keeping the knees bent with your shins parallel to the ground. For most of us this will be more than enough. Focus on the lift from the lower belly all the way up through the chest, shoulders rolled back and heart forward. Take 5 full breaths and release.
  2. Navasana2If you’re seeking a bit more core conditioning, lift your legs once more and once you find stability, you can lift your arms as well, grabbing the backs of the knees or arms reaching forward alongside your legs. Keeping the chest lifted here is key, pinky side of the hand towards your body, palms facing up to help you lift through your sternum. Again, take 5 breaths and release.Navasana3
  3. No matter where you feel you are, I’d wait until the 8week mark or later to take this last step. On an inhale come back into the pose, knees bent, with the arms fully extended and reaching forward. Inhale and extend just the right leg, actively reaching through your toes. Exhale and bend, inhale, this time straightening your left leg. Repeat both sides 5 times, inhaling as you straighten, exhaling to come back to center, and release.

Hips – Baddha Konasana

Baddha Konasana- HipsThere’s nothing better after a bit of core work than to let your energy get grounded, which is easily done by coming into a forward fold. Keeping the knees bent, soles of the feet together, go ahead and open the legs and let your knees splay out to the sides. You can bring your hands to the insides of your feet, inhale sit tall, exhale and start to fold forward. Since you have your babe on the front of you, there’s quite a bit more weight added, so take it easy, let your hands brace you, and focus back in on your breath. Let your head hang, and do a quick scan of your body, noticing any areas that you’re holding tightness. Even if it’s just one part, your jaw, or your neck, bring softness there. You’ll be surprised at how releasing just a bit of tension will change a pose dramatically. When you’re ready, come back up.

Hamstrings – Paschimottanasana

Paschimottansana- Forward foldFor those of us who aren’t bendy Betty’s, the hamstrings are generally an area that see a great amount of tightening during pregnancy. As our bodies make room for baby, they won’t allow us to fold forward as easily with a belly in the way. Although we have our babies on us today, they’re moreso on your chest, so you should have more than enough room to begin to stretch this region of the body out.

As you sit, extend your legs to straight, keeping them together. If you’re using a strap, place it around your feet, with easy access to grab each end. Flex your feet with your toes pointed up towards the ceiling. Take an inhale sit tall, and as you exhale begin to fold forward. You know the lift of the chest we keep talking about? It applies here as well. Use your inhales to find length and bring your sternum forward, exhale as you fold. If you’ve chosen to use a strap here, grab each end, the strap should be looped right on the balls of your feet, gently encouraging the pinky sides of the feet to come back toward you. Find your edge, and respect it. Before motherhood I had a habit of pushing myself, sometimes too hard, but now I try to use that energy to find my limit, and stand firm right where that is. Take this opportunity to make new habits, ones that will feed your role as a mom. Sometimes it’s the little things that we start to develop here, that help you on your path in other areas of your life. Take as much time here as necessary. Give yourself time, breathing deeply into the whole circumference of your body. When you are ready, come back up to seated.

Twist

twistGetting ready to come onto your back, grab your blanket. Depending on the size of your blanket it’ll vary how many times you fold it. What you want to focus on is that you end up with a long rectangle measuring about the length of your arm. Starting from seated, grab your blanket and place it behind you, the base starting about 2 inches away from your body, the length of the blanket moving away from you. Slowly lower yourself onto your back, you should be situated to where the blanket is supporting your whole spine all the way up to your head. Bend your knees, soles of the feet coming to the floor once more, take a breath in, and as you exhale let your knees come down to the right. Arms open all the way up to the sides in line with your shoulders, and your gaze falls over your left hand. Chest stays neutral, which is probably naturally being done to avoid disturbing your little one. Twists are a great way to end a practice. They promote healthy digestion, detoxification, and calm your nerves. Nothing beats wringing any leftover tension in the body before we end. Inhale and bring your legs back up to center, exhale and switch, gaze moving over the right hand.

TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO LET IT ALL SINK IN

Savasana

SavasanaAt the end of practice you always want to give yourself some time to let everything settle. All the work that you did, both mentally and physically, should be given a break to seep in. Keeping the blanket underneath your spine will allow a gentle heart opener even here. Let your legs straighten, and your feet flop out. Close your eyes. Do a final scan of your body, finding anywhere that you are still holding on, and bring softness. Tune into that little being on your chest and hold them in your arms. By giving yourself the gift of dedication to your mind and your body, you are giving that gift to your baby as well. The more we can clear the cobwebs out of our minds, the more present we can be for our children. And that’s the real goal, isn’t it? To be able to be with them, and there for them, fully and unconditionally, hearts wide open.

Stay here for as long as your heart desires.

In gesture of an open mind, and in gesture of an open heart.

Please use caution when attempting any of the carries, exercise or activities highlighted on this blog.  Please use common sense and caution when using a Carrier or Wrap.  You should consult a physician before starting any diet or exercise program.  For more information, see our Disclaimer.  For some of the exercises, it is important for your baby to have good head control, modify or skip exercises as needed to keep things safe for you and your baby.

Post updated 2019.  These photos feature an older version of the Ergobaby wrap.

Jacqueline Smyth

Jacqueline Smyth is a Los Angeles based proud mama, 500 hour certified yoga instructor, and writer. Her love of travel and adventure led her on a trip around the world throughout her pregnancy, eventually having her son in Bali. Follow Jacqueline on her Instagram , Facebook, or Twitter to stay connected!

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