Updated: May 5
Sleep when the baby sleeps; Yoga when the baby yogas.
Easier said than done! Here is my experience of how I got back into yoga after having my baby.
1. Start with listening to guided meditation as an aid to take a nap whenever you need one. Either you end up asleep, or you get to meditate - win win! (I personally use and love the Expectful app for this; trial it for free, or alternatively search for 'post partum meditation' on YouTube.)
2. Continue with the gentlest physical movement. Gradually try:
lying on your bed or floor, and legs up against the wall.
seated on a chair, or kneeling/cross legged, do some seated cat cows, opening and releasing the hard working shoulders, arms and chest. Release the neck, massage the shoulders with your fingertips and take gentle quarter circles with your neck
walk. It took me a while (around a week) but you do get to walk again and it gets better!
Over the first weeks gradually include any other soft movement that feel good, eg child's pose, gentler cat cow on all fours, calf muscle and quad stretches, etc.
3. Once cleared by your GP, baby yoga was a wonderful thing to join. It was worth trying a few and finding the Baby yoga class that had the best toys and included songs when the babies needed some attention. I learned a lot of random useful things at these sessions, like about baby skin issues, nannies, nappies not to mention songs!, and even a bit of Post-natal yoga for the pelvic floor.
4. Regaining your sense of self. It's tricky juggling looking after a baby, recovering, and maintaining the sanity of yourself and your relationships. However going to some form of activity, even just for an hour a week, by myself, was crucial for my emotional recovery.
Returning to teach my yoga classes was a great way to get out and be with adults just a few times a week. If you are looking to go back to 'normal' (not post-natal) yoga, then ask your local studio to help point out the teachers who have post-natal yoga experience (your average teacher won't know how to support you beyond 'don't do anything that doesn't feel good'). Which brings me to my next point...
5. It's not enough to move mindfully, please also do your research. It takes a whole year after stopping breastfeeding to get your normal levels of calcium back in your bones. While you breastfeed you still produce relaxin which makes stretching easier and thus less safe. My abs are also still separated ('diastasis recti') despite doing physio and being generally strong before, during and after pregnancy - and any stretching makes the situation worse and they won't heal together by themselves. Most general yoga teachers won't know anything about the above. If you can, get a referral to a women's physio from your GP (I have) and/or see one privately (which I have as well). If you want to practice yoga it is good to seek out a women's physio who also has yoga experience to pick their brains on what poses might pose a risk to separated abs for example, and how to modify your usual practice to do you good rather than risk harm.
For me, after the initial weeks of getting over a traumatic birth emotionally, and also the shock to the system of trying to physically recover while looking after a big baby who never wants to be put down, slowly life resumed. After 4-5 weeks I was itching to move again. Here's a 15 min Baby & Me yoga flow that is perfect if you want to move, stretch & strengthen a bit and is suitable for both new Mom & Dad (once cleared to exercise by their doctor). [No pelvic floor or abdominal separation exercises included as those are best discussed first with your women's physio.]
Move & Enjoy! Maggie x