Soothing Postpartum Depression With Yoga

When I was becoming a yoga teacher, a workshop on Prenatal Yoga overwhelmed me with the desire to give moms-to-be relief. I didn’t realize then how crucial it is to continue to serve these women, post-pregnancy.

I now teach a Toddler & Me class in which moms can bring their little ones (newborn to toddler) with them. At the beginning of class, we huddle in a circle around a parachute. The kids introduce themselves and tell everyone how old they are (or hold up how many fingers they are). Then, the moms and I shake the parachute up and down while the toddlers run underneath – laughing, jumping, and screaming under the colorful waves. Once parachute time is done, the kids settle into play and snacking while the moms settle onto their mats.

In a cross-legged position, eyes closed, the moms prepare for this special opportunity to administer self-care. Many of the women have at least two small children, so these classes offer the chance to get out of the house and exercise without the pressure of finding or affording childcare. During class, moms alternate between practicing yoga and caring for their children in a non-judgmental environment.

While we don’t go around the room and discuss it, I’m aware that in this moment, any of these moms may be experiencing the effects of postpartum depression. As a teacher, it feels good to know that the intrinsic effects of yoga can serve to ease this pain.

Yoga’s physical practice helps foster a healthy relationship between a woman and her own body after the complex physiological shift from pregnancy to nursing. Yoga exercises both the body and mind, helping bring new mothers balance and peace, especially if done in tandem with eating well and sleeping whenever the baby is sleeping. Yoga is also excellent for calming one’s nerves and relaxing the body, creating a more restful sleep when those precious moments become available.

The exhaustion and stress that many new mothers feel can tax the sympathetic nervous system, releasing stress hormones and creating the “fight or flight” mechanism. Yoga’s focus on the breath can help shift the balance of hormonal messengers in the nervous system, allowing the body to switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of digestion and relaxation.

In addition to the impact yoga’s physical practice has on the brain, these classes also provide new moms with community, combatting the isolation that often accompanies postpartum depression. This is an empowering opportunity for new moms to build a supportive network and express feelings about their shared experience.

At the end of my Toddler & Me classes, I invite each mom to thank herself for taking the time to administer self-care, knowing that by doing so, she’s made herself even more available to care for her little one. Through yoga, a mother can be inspired to nurture herself in the same selfless way she nurtures her baby.

Photo credit:  actively.natalie


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Chelsea Nenni

Chelsea Nenni is an LA based writer, musician, and yoga teacher. Chelsea teaches for YogaWorks, has got a band called Late Slip, an Etsy shop called Rock n’ Resistance, and a rescue pup named Benicio.