What makes postpartum yoga so different from other types of Yoga practices? I often get this question from new moms and my answer is never short.
I answer by first explaining emphasising why a postpartum mother should not go back to her pre-pregnancy practice, or even her pre-natal yoga practice, after she gave birth. After giving birth a new mom’s body is delicate and needs a very gentle and specific physical movement to help heal and prevent any further damage.
I also explain that there are different stages of postpartum, such as 0-3 months postpartum, 3-6 months, 6-12months and so on. So, in order to heal and maintain her health, a mum’s yoga practice should be planned according to her postpartum stage.
What is Postpartum Yoga?
Simply put, Postpartum Yoga is a yoga practice that is focused on the female body after giving birth. A postpartum body is a fragile body that needs to heal. The best recipe for healing in the early postpartum period (first 6 weeks) is rest, meaning no exercise at all, and a very gentle specific physical movement.
My Postpartum Yoga is a combination of gentle physical movements of the body and mindful practices to support your emotional state.
These gentle physical movements are targeting the specific areas of your body that need support the most, like the pelvic area, lower back, shoulders and the whole core.
You may also be experiencing certain ailments after birth, such as diastasis recti or pelvic floor dysfunctions, so a careful approach to exercise with Postpartum Yoga can help you improve your body’s condition through gentle natural movements.
In my sessions I use proper breathing as a foundation to all movements. Breathing is an effective way to support and strengthen your body, while also improving your emotional condition too.
Mindfulness and meditation also help to sooth your emotional state in postpartum. I know emotions can be overwhelming for a new mom and postpartum yoga can really help and give you needed support.
Why can’t I just go back to my pre-pregnancy workouts?
Your physiologic design is made to bring life and continue the human race. And in order to do that your female body goes through a lot of physical and mental changes in pregnancy and in postpartum.
Physical changes include:
• Dramatic changes to your hormonal system. • Rearranging of your internal organs to give space for your baby. • Your muscles, ligaments and all connective tissues changing their structure and elasticity to support and give birth to your baby.
When thinking about what kind of postpartum exercise to do it’s important to be mindful and kind with your body and keep in mind the physical changes you’ve gone through.
During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called relaxin, it helps your ligaments and connective tissues to be elastic so that parts of your body can expand. Your hips, pelvis and spine adapt to your growing body and so inevitably, they become fragile. Then after birth, as long as you’re breastfeeding, your body still produces relaxin, which means your ligaments and connective tissues are still elastic.
So, it’s important to have a safe yoga practice to prevent injury or dysfunctions (e.g. pelvic floor dysfunction, pee leaking when you sneeze, pelvic organ prolapse, hemorrhoids, etc). Even if you had a healthy birth and do not have any dysfunctions after birth, you should still be careful and not rush yourself to intense exercises or weight loss diets, as these can lead you directly to developing injuries or dysfunctions.
To have a safe postpartum yoga practice you need to be mindful with the load you put on your body and stretches that you do. (You should also be mindful about your body alignment when you’re off the mat too, during your regular day activities, read more about it here).
When can I start postpartum yoga?
You can start any time. The better question is what exactly can you do?
Yoga is not only physical body movements and poses. Yoga includes many other practices like breathing, meditation, chanting, gentle touch and restorative practices.
What kind of Yoga you need depends on many factors. For instance:
• How far are you in postpartum?
• What was your birth experience like?
• Do you have any injuries?
• Do you have any pains, tension or pelvic floor dysfunction?
Those are the details that your yoga instructor must consider before planning your yoga session. I believe that every woman is different, every body is different, every body has had different experiences prior to pregnancy and is in a different condition. So, I strongly recommend you to talk to your instructor individually prior to the class and let them know.
If you are early in postpartum (0-3 months) and don’t have any major pathologies, I recommend you start with breathing techniques, restorative poses and meditation. Your main focus should be on letting your body rest, so that it can recover and heal.
Once you are around 3-6 months postpartum, you can start bringing more physical movements into your yoga practice – the ones that help with core strengthening and offer support to your pelvic floor. If you have any kind of pelvic floor disfunction, for example incontinence, prolapse, pain or tension in pelvic floor, hip or lower back, postpartum yoga can be very helpful. (Disclaimer: if you have or think you might have a pelvic floor disfunction I strongly recommend that you see a pelvic floor physio therapist before committing to any fitness plan).
After you are 6 months postpartum and everything goes well, you can start adding more poses or exercises to improve mobility and strength into your body. But still you should be mindful of what kind of exercises you do. Any exercises should be suitable for a postpartum body, as there can still be a lot of contraindications.
What is the difference between prenatal yoga and postnatal yoga?
Some people ask me why they can’t do the same yoga poses as they did while they were pregnant. My short answer is that your pre-natal yoga practice supports your growing body and prepares you for birth. While post-natal or postpartum yoga focuses on the recovery and healing of your body after pregnancy and birth.
Your body is in a different state when in pregnancy and when in postpartum. That’s why your yoga practice should be different too. For example, in a prenatal session we would focus on natural hips “opening”, while in postpartum yoga all the attention goes to “closing” and restoring your hips. But as I mentioned above, any postpartum yoga plan should be individually developed to meet the needs of your body.
Once you give birth you are considered to be in postpartum for life. It’s important that you take a good care of your physical and emotional body so you can recover after giving birth and maintain your health for many years.
Pregnancy and postpartum is a huge change to your body. Ligaments, connective tissues, muscles, blood vessels, internal organs, hormonal and nervous systems… your whole body changes dramatically. Regular exercises and a weight loss diet can lead to injury as well as add to your emotional stress and slow down your recovery.
Being mindful with your body’s needs is your priority number one. Because if you don’t take proper care of yourself now, you’ll be depleted later which can lead to a dis-ease. Remember, healthy mama – healthy family!
Call me to discuss your specific postpartum issues. I ‘m happy to help you develop your self-care plan, it will cost you nothing.
Besides, I’m always happy to hear your pregnancy and birth stories. 😉