For the last nine months the body, mind, emotions, home and family of a new mum have been in a state of flux.
A few weeks ago a new baby arrived and a whole new set of triumphs, excitements, stresses and challenges presented themselves.
Motherhood is demanding and so a post-natal yoga class should focus not just on building physical strength, but on providing an opportunity for mums to de-stress, restore and relax.
Women will generally not be cleared for exercise until six weeks after giving birth (longer if they did so via cesarean). This being the case, it is important to make sure your students have permission to exercise before they start. The cervix, uterus and internal organs have undergone huge shifts in the preceding months and weeks and so the body needs some time to recuperate.
In addition to this, women may feel quite emotional as they are tired, their hormones are fluctuating, on top of which they are trying to adjust to the responsibilities of being a new mum.
What to focus on in a post-natal yoga class
Physically, one of the areas to focus on in a post-natal yoga class is the abdominals. This can be done through something as simple as kegel exercises or through backbends like cobra and locust, which bring awareness to the abdominals (through the pressure of the belly against the floor) and build the strength of the back.
During pregnancy the rectus abdominus (the ‘beach muscles’) can separate as the uterus grows. While little can be done to rectify this during pregnancy, post-natally we can begin to repair the muscles. It is extremely important that this is done gradually however, so no navasana, crunches or deep backbends if the separation is more that a couple of centimeters wide. The focus of all abdominal work should strengthening of the transverse abdominis (the deep core muscle that wraps around the waist like a belt).
Chest and shoulder openers
Between breastfeeding and carrying their new baby around mums will, at some point, experience neck and back strain. Another area of focus should therefore be the shoulders and neck. Shoulder openers like garudasana and gomukasana arms, and restorative heart openers like supta baddha konasana (lying on a bolster) will go a long way toward alleviating some of this breast feeding tension.
Fatigue is a common experience amongst new mums. Poses that help them to build stamina, like Warriors I and II, crescent lunge and horse pose should be incorporated into all post-natal yoga classes. These poses are good because they are accessible to most women and great for increasing energy levels in the body.
Don’t forget about relaxation! This might be the only chance a new mum has each week to really let go and restore – think guided meditation, pranayama and restorative poses like viparita karani and savasana.
A word of caution
For a few months after birth, relaxin (the hormone responsible for loosening tendons and ligaments in the body in preparation for birth) is still running at elevated levels in the body. This means women will be more flexible but their joints will be less stable that usual. Caution is required to ensure they don’t over-stretch.
Shades of Yoga is a yoga teacher training company running year-round yoga teacher training programs in Bali and Costa Rica.