I’ve been practicing yoga for over ten years now. I have never been much for team sports or high intensity fitness regiments. Yoga is definitely my jam. It keeps me grounded and helps me manage my tenacity to quicken to anger when I’m rundown, which is kinda my permanent state as a new mom and small business owner. Those who know me, know I’ve got a fiery spirit that requires some reigning in. This fieriness certainly comes in handy in some scenarios but it does not serve me well in the competitive sport environment. I generally play well with others, as long as there are no frisbees, bats or balls of any sort present. My theory is that my ego tries to make up for my lack of skill, needless to say it isn’t pretty.
So needless to say, yoga is good for me. My commitment to a regular practice however comes in ebbs and flows. I’m learning to embrace this and be gentle with myself when my practice falls off the radar for a while. I tend to find my way back to it and land somewhere a bit different but it’s always reflective of my needs at the time.
For most of my pregnancy, I had a pretty consistent home practice going, plus I was attending a weekly class on the weekends with a girlfriend who was also expecting. We had a lovely ritual going where we would grab brunch at a local diner after the class and stuff our faces with delicious eggs benny and homefries. Then the babies arrived and messed it all up. Haha j/k!
But in all seriousness, I was eager to get back to yoga postpartum. Once my husband returned to work and the visitors began to dwindle, I fell into a bit of a baby blues slump. The ‘around the clock’ demands of a newborn really make you appreciate your “me-time” and I was definitely craving some time to myself.
Yoga has always been an important self-care act for me. So, with my midwife’s approval, I found a gentle, postpartum video on YouTube, from Rachel Gaffey of My Wellbeing.ie and I started doing yoga daily, when my son went down for his morning nap. This particular video is only 20 minutes so I could usually fit it in, even if my son’s nap was short. I started this around 6 weeks postpartum, which is typically the earliest you’d want to do any physical exercise post-baby, based on doctor’s recommendations. You usually have to wait a little longer with a cesarean. It’s probably best to check in with your doctor or midwife before starting any postpartum exercise or yoga practice, just to be safe.
Below is the postpartum video I followed and I would highly recommend it to anyone who just had a baby. Rachel’s flow is very gentle and focuses on stretching and soothing the body. She is very conscientious of the postpartum body. She’s also Irish so I enjoyed her accent. For me, it felt like just the right level of intensity to ease my way into stretching again. I kept up with this practice for a few months and it definitely helped me with my energy level, mood and build my strength back up. It also felt really good to do something for myself. After awhile, I began craving something more from my practice. Coincidentally, this coincided with a transition in my son’s nap schedule (aka “the great nap strike”). It became harder to maintain a home practice during this time because he would only nap in a carrier, on me. At this point, I was motivated to have some time, out of the house, and on my own, so I thought it time to find a class to attend.
My massage therapist recommended, based on my specific post-baby body needs, a local yin yoga class that would keep things relatively low intensity for me but also continue the healing work I required. This class was really great for me and I still attend it periodically when I can. For those who may not be familiar, yin yoga focuses on stretching the connective tissues of the body (i.e. ligaments, joints and bones). In simplistic terms, yin yoga is about holding restorative poses to achieve a deeper stretch than you typically get in more active styles of yoga. Yin yoga is a great compliment to other forms of yoga. Many of the poses in yin yoga target the hips, pelvis and lower spine, which is why it is such a great choice for postpartum. I personally struggle with lower back and hip tightness and pain so I find yin yoga so wonderful for relieving that tension and strain. It’s also really easy to do at home when you have a few minutes.
In my recent obsession with yin yoga, I came across this great reference chart from Santosha Society. They are a group of surfers, yogis and adventurers who organize epic travel excursions around the globe for other surfers, yogis and adventurers. How cool is that!? I am definitely putting their yoga/surf camp retreat on my bucket list.
This chart demonstrates some of the popular yin yoga poses. I’ve even printed off a copy from their website and posted it on my wall in the spot where I do yoga. It’s a super helpful reference tool. There is also a great article that accompanies the chart.
Even if you didn’t just have a baby, yin yoga is a deeply satisfying practice that can fit easily into any busy schedule. Feel free to give these poses or the above video a try but also, find what works best for you and your body.