Post Natal Yoga: With and Without Baby
I often say to mummies when they come along to mum and baby yoga, that practicing yoga with your child is the most yogic thing you will ever do. Suddenly, you realize it’s not all about you anymore. Mums come along, yoga mat in one arm, baby in the other looking forward to lovely rewarding stretch and a nice deep relaxation at the end – maybe even a much needed afternoon snooze. But as anyone who has tried yoga with baby will know, it doesn’t always work like that
Yoga with baby takes patience and acceptance that you may not manage the physical yoga practice you want to do. Baby could be feeding or sleeping or crying. The most important lesson we learn from yoga here, is that it’s all okay. It IS possible to relax with baby, it just may not look the way it used to.
Why would I do yoga with my baby?
Post-natal yoga is has been proven to help minimize post-natal depression, helping you adjust to life as a parent and helping you communicate better with your new baby. As well as emotional and physical improvements, you will be able to focus on rebuilding your weakened pelvic floor; strengthen your abdominal muscles and even help alleviate any back or neck pain.
For babies, yoga can help with common complaints such as digestion and colic; help to strengthen their tiny limbs, improve sleep patterns and enhance their ability to interact with mum and other people.
What’s the difference between post natal yoga for mum and baby yoga?
Post-natal and baby yoga are two distinct areas of yoga that are often muddled up or mis-sold. They actually work best when practiced together. As you will very quickly come to realize, every activity from now on will involve baby, and what better an opportunity to embrace this than in your yoga class?
Post-natal, baby yoga and mum and baby yoga classes are now widely available across the UK, although yoga with baby is no new thing. Baby yoga and massage have been practiced for thousands of years in India and even today in India, yoga and massage with baby are as important as a daily bath.
The benefits of post-natal yoga (yoga for mummy post-birth) have been widely recognized in the past twenty years in the western world as the practice of yoga has been adapted to work with the female body. Just as during pregnancy, you have to be kind to your body and take things at a gentler pace. You need to gradually build up back to your normal level of activity post-partum.
When can I Start post natal yoga?
In YogaBellies for Mum and Baby classes, I always advise mums to wait until 6-8 weeks after the birth for a normal birth or at least 10 weeks for a C-section. The most important thing is that you listen to your body and are guided by how you personally feel post-partum. You should not exercise the pelvic floor muscles until there is no pain in that area: bruised muscles should never be exercised and the same applies to your pelvic floor.
Many post-natal exercise classes today advise mums go directly into intense physical exercise regimes in order to regain their pre-pregnancy shape and lose their mummy bump. This really is the worst possible thing you can do.
Many mothers neglect the rebuilding of the pelvic floor, and return to sit ups and strenuous work out regimes as soon as possible. This results in a weakened pelvic floor, abdominal muscles which have not recovered (if you jump into sit ups you could end up with a ‘six pack’ and protruding lower abdominals) and very often on-going lower back pain also. By strengthening the pelvic floor and lower abdominals, we also help strengthen the lower back and integrity of the spinal cord.
My Baby Can Do Yoga?
‘Baby yoga’ is when mum gently manipulates baby’s little body in yoga postures or ‘asana.’ Now this sounds scary, but it’s actually a very lovely and gentle practice. We don’t hold babies upside down or swing them about: that is NOT baby yoga, I believe that is called child abuse
Thousands of years ago, yoga masters based adult yoga postures of the movements that new babies make naturally as they begin to move about (think about Happy Baby Pose: where the yoga lies on their back and grabs their toes – something babies do a lot!)
New babies today are often physically restricted in ways they were not in the past. Babies spend a lot of time in buggies, cots and car seats or bouncing chairs or swings. Babies can actually become stressed and stiff just like adults. One of the reasons we practice baby yoga is to help strengthen baby’s body and encourage flexibility. The best thing is that by practicing yoga with baby, and demonstrating deep breathing and relaxation with baby, we are actually teaching them the principals of relaxation at an early age.
Baby yoga sessions also help stimulate baby’s brain development using a range of movement – making them aware of things like their toes (think about how excited a baby is when they realize they have toes! It’s big news.)
Baby yoga also teaches your baby to self soothe and how to become calm and still. At the end of a mum and baby yoga session, you will often find that baby is happily exhausted, relaxed and fast asleep: always a bonus if you are heading home to attempt making a family meal.
What does a mum and baby yoga session involve?
There are many variations to the structure of a ‘post-natal’ or ‘baby yoga’ class. It is important that you understand the differences in these classes, to make sure that you get as much as possible from the sessions. A post-natal yoga class will focus on post-partum mother. Your baby is usually left in the buggy or placed to one side, while the focus of the session is concentrated on you.
A baby yoga class focuses on yoga for baby, aiming to help baby grow strong and healthy, often an extension of a baby massage class. This is a not a post-partum yoga class and the focus in on your baby rather than you.
The best post-partum yoga classes, involve a mixture of yoga for mum AND baby. Ideally the class should involve post-natal yoga postures helping to strengthen mothers mind and body as well as incorporating your baby into your yoga practice, including asanas to help their little bodies too.
Mum and baby yoga classes of this format are superior in that they encourage you to bond with your baby and help you understand that your baby must now be incorporated into every aspect of your life. I have often said that yoga with baby is the most yogic thing you will ever do as you quickly come to realize that it’s not all about you anymore.
From time to time, baby will cry or want to feed during the session and so you may not have the active session you hoped for. Yoga breathing techniques and relaxation are also taught in class which can help you relax with baby (yes it is possible) and to embrace this new responsibility.
What should I look for in a mum and baby yoga teacher?
It is vitally important that your teacher has had specific training in these areas. Ideally, those teaching post-natal yoga have completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training qualification accredited by organizations such as the IYN (Independent Yoga Network) or Yoga Alliance in the first instance. The teachers should then have had subsequent training in the areas of post-natal yoga and/or baby yoga depending on what they teach. You should always make sure their teacher is associated with and supported by a reputable organization. They must be able to work safely and sensitively with you and your baby at this special time.
Some Signs that You’re Not Ready to Practice Yet
Whether you like it or not, after birth, you will be in a somewhat fragile condition and need time to rest and recover. Even if you were in great shape prior to pregnancy, even if you had a dream birth, the changes that your body has gone through over the last nine months will definitely have had a huge impact and you need time to recover.
After childbirth, those changes are going to continue to have an effect for a few weeks, or even months. Bearing this in mind, you will need to limit any strenuous activity. Pushing yourself as hard as you can is definitely off the table, and you can’t train as if you’re trying to compete in the next Olympics. I once had a student in a YogaBellies for Pregnancy class tell me that she was planning to run a marathon three weeks post-partum. Aside from being unsafe and being entirely unrealistic, I imagine this venture would have required a whole lot of TenaLady. Thankfully, once baby arrived, she decided to honour her body and not to run the marathon.
Even if you’re not pushing yourself, you should still pay attention to signs from your body that you’re not getting enough rest and that perhaps you have to slow things down a notch.
Some of these signs are the kind of thing you would expect to happen when you work out, such as a shortness of breath. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it is a sign from your body that it has had to strain itself, and you should avoid going even this far, within the first few weeks after birth.
More importantly however, you should be aware of any cramps, muscle tenseness, and other ‘painful’ muscle related symptoms. These are more telling signs that you’re moving a little too fast, and if you find yourself facing any of these symptoms while practicing asana, you should stop whatever you’re doing and rest for a while. Just pop yourself into Balasana (child’s pose.) Once you have rested and the cramping s gone, try another postures and see if the pain has subsided. If it has, feel free to continue, but if you persistently have the same problem, then you need to see your GP or your health visitor.
All said and done, you should basically just pay attention to your body, and how it reacts to your yoga practice. Start with gentle but firm post-natal yoga, and work back up to your arduous Ashtanga practice, if that is where you were at pre-pregnancy. Do that, and you should be just fine.
At this point, we’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know before you begin your post-natal yoga practice… so all that is left now is to actually start!
Bringing Movement Back Into Your Life
Until you’ve had your first postnatal check-up, you can ease yourself into simple exercise by starting off with brisk walking. If you were very athletic previously, or in great shape, you could even consider short jogs. Take baby out in his sling or buggy and enjoy the fresh air.
Try some gentle pelvic floor exercises or ‘engaging your Bandhas’ (more on this soon) to start off with. Remember not to exercise bruised muscles, so if you’re still sore down below, wait until there is no pain. Do these when breastfeeding or driving.
Get Your BAP’s Back In Shape!
Once you are at least 6-8 weeks post-partum after a vaginal birth or 8-10 weeks post C-section, then you can begin to practice again and tart to focus on your BAP’s: Your Back, Ab’s and Pelvic floor.
Post-natal yoga will ease any lower back pain; start to tone those abdominal muscles and strengthen that pelvic floor. We know how precious your time is so I put together some 10 minute YogaBellies BAP’s routines that you can practice daily post-partum. I am going to show you a safer, gentler yet stronger and more effective way to strengthen those BAP’s and ease any post-natal discomfort and aches and pains you may be experiencing.
To find your nearest YogaBellies for Mum & Baby class click here or to check out our amazing new BAP’s Kit for New Mum’s available for £19.97 from our PeaceLoveYoga store click here.