Saturday, 14 February 2015

Simple yoga for new mums

In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.

Pregnancy and birth can take an enormous toll on your body. Returning to full strength and health after the birth of your baby can be daunting, especially when you are expected to get back to your normal life as quickly as possible.
I help new mums to restore their health and adjust their bodies back into healthy, strong posture. Here are some of my favourite yoga exercises that are ideal for you after your GP check at 6 or 8 weeks postpartum.
To relieve "nursing" shoulders
Carrying and feeding a small baby takes its toll on your upper back and shoulders, as mothers tend to hunch around their child. Prevent this problem by using a nursing cushion and sitting up straight.
Open up the chest and release the shoulders with this namaste-to-reverse-namaste sequence. Begin standing, or sitting up straight (don't do this on a chair with a back though). Place your hands in prayer position over your heart. Inhale. Exhale and push your hands forwards, as if starting a swimming breastroke. Sweep your hands out tracing a circle around your body right to the back.

Hold your hands behind your back at bra strap level, by holding your wrists in the opposite hand. Use a belt between your hands if you can't reach. Stay here for a few breaths. Roll the shoulders back, lift the heart forward and sit tall. Inhale. On the exhale reverse the swimming motion and return to your starting position. Repeat for 2-3 times. As your range of movement improves, you can work towards using a reverse prayer position (with your hands behind your back).
Lie on the floor, with knees bent and your weight evenly distributed across your back. cross your arms across your chest as if to hug yourself - Or lie your baby tummy-down on your chest and hug him! Inhale. Exhale and press your shoulders down to the floor, flattening your upper back. Inhale and release. Repeat this 5-10 times.

To align the back
The shape of your spine changes dramatically during pregnancy, it is important to restore the posture and strengthen the back.
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend the left knee lightly and keep the right leg straight. Raise the right arm above your head. Inhale. As you exhale, push through the sole of your foot, stretching the leg away from you. Simultaneously reach away with your fingertips. Release. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
For a gentle twist, repeat the above exercise, but cross your bent leg over your opposite thigh, placing your foot on the outside of that thigh. If you have recently had a caesarean, you should not attempt twisting exercises.
To restore the lower abdominal muscles and strengthen the back
Lie on your back on the floor, bend your knees and hug them to your chest, stretching the lower back. Breathe in deeply, engaging your abdominal muscles and pulling your knees to your chest. Exhale and push your knees away. Repeat for 5-10 breaths.
As you become comfortable with this, begin drawing up your pelvic floor as you inhale, and do not release it completely on the exhale. Retain the lift in the pelvic floor throughout the exercise and release on the last breath.

After a few weeks you may want to round this off with a more intense exercise..Straighten your legs, facing your soles to the ceiling; pressing your feet up and your lower back to the floor. Hold for 1-3 breaths.
Lie on your back on the floor, palms down, arms by your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, comfortably close to your buttocks. There will be a small gap where your lower back does not meet the floor due to the natural curve of your lumbar spine.

Gently tuck your pelvis - as though you were trying to fasten a tight pair of jeans - and press your lower back to the floor. Release. Repeat 5-10 times, breathing in as you press your back to the floor, and out as you release it. If you are recovering from a caesarean birth, you will need to go very gently here, and be even more conscious of only doing what feels comfortable.When you are confident with this, the next level is to start lifting off the floor. Begin as before, curling your tail under and pressing your spine into the floor. Then slowly, one vertebra at a time, from the tail up, peel your spine off the floor, rolling up the spine until your weight is on your feet and upper back in bridge position. At first only try one or two repetitions than this. Keep the lifting motion smooth and steady. As you become more confident, you can try more repetitions and slow the movement even more. Allow several weeks to build up to this.
For the ultimate challenge, you can move your feet closer together, which requires more core muscle control for balance.

At this time more than ever, it is important that you do not push your limits. Please stop if an exercise is uncomfortable, do not attempt these exercises before your doctor has cleared you to exercise, take it slowly and consult a qualified perinatal yoga teacher for advice and support.

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