10 Postnatal Exercises To Help You Return To Yoga (And to Feeling Like You Again!)

It will have taken me much longer to get back into shape after my second pregnancy than it ever did after my first baby. I was one of the lucky ones the first time around, back into yoga and my clothes within a few weeks, without really much effort (now I know, it was magic! 🙂 ). 

This second time has been much different! My partner can’t be around as much as we have since gotten into the restaurant business.

And I also have my beautiful and toddler son to look after :)!toddlerrun_661

As opposed to prenatal practice which aims at opening and relaxing the body, in postnatal rehabilitation, we’re looking to recenter, realign and find inner tone.

As with all yoga, we still want that feeling of creating space in the body and mind, which can be achieved through breathing and breathing some more with your movement.

Smile at each advancement, you will feel your body « return », maybe not exactly as it was before pregnancy and birth, but you will feel it once again. Be full of love and patience with yourself, know that it takes time for your body to heal.

Love yourself, you are beautiful and infinitely wonderous! You have given birth!

So here they are. There are so many to choose from, but these are just a few that I always seemed to come back to and that helped me along during those first few weeks after birth:

10 Postnatal Exercises To Help You Return To Yoga (And to Feeling Like You Again!)

(It is recommended to start exercises once you’ve gotten the ok from your doctor, usually around 6 weeks postpartum)

 

#1: KEGEL

rest1_otherwayWe do Kegels to exercise the perineum. The perineum is made up of the musculature and tissues surrounding and including the space between the anus and the vagina up to the urethra.

Keeping this part of the body toned is essential in global well-being, to support the abdominal organs, and to give a sense of lightness, and even life to the body, kind of like an uplifted feeling.

Kegels can also help prevent and heal incontinence (ah-choo!) during and after pregnancy. As we know, this region of the body goes through so much during pregnancy and birth.

Here are 6 exercises for the health and maintenance of the perineum that you can do all throughout your pregnancy and within a few days after birth. 🙂 !

 

#2: DOLPHIN TO DOWNWARD DOG

One of my favorites!!

This one just lights up upper body strength and stability, so good for the baby holding, breast and bottle feeding mamas we are! It’s also just so nice to feel that strength in the body returning, (or appearing!).

1. Dolphin Pose – Back and forths


Find your way to Dolphin Pose. Inhale your weight forward over the elbows, exhale back into Dolphin Pose. Back and forth, following the breath, inhale forward, exhale back.

3-10 repetitions.

*Press into the ground through your lower arms and keep the legs firm and strong. (the heels are looking to “stay put”, try not to let them move forward with the rest of the body).
*Think of aligning the body as you would a Downward Dog).

 

2. Come into Child’s Pose


Pause here for a few (delicious!) breaths.

 

3.  Exhale into Downward Dog


Separate the hands to shoulder-width apart or even a little bit wider, ground the toe mounds and exhale into Down Dog.

Oh the feeling!

The shoulders and upper body feel so strong, so stable. I just love this progression and it’s a nice one to add to any Sun Salutation sequence.

 

* This will be a good way to get some upper body strength back, in a symmetrical way, especially needed for the baby-propped-on-same-shoulder-(or hip)-all-the-time mamas we are! (guilty as charged!)

If you have the patience, try to change which shoulder or hip you carry baby on once in a while (a challenge indeed!), this should help to create a bit more balance in the upper body.

 

#3: MODIFIED PLANK

This is a great way to feel like you’re getting back into your yoga routine, without overdoing it.

It is recommended to use the modified plank for the first 12 weeks of your postnatal recovery, to protect and help heal the abdomen wall, Diastisis Recti or not.

(You can also use this variation when you start doing Sun Salutations again, making it a postnatal-friendly way to get back into your yoga.)

1. Place the knees (rather than the toe mounds) on the floor to find your plank.


Align the knees to the shoulders, all the way through to the top of the head. Hands are shoulder-width apart, fingers firm and spread, press into the ground so as to keep the arms and shoulders strong.

2-5 full breaths.

This in itself is a great way to strengthen the upper body.

*Lengthen through the torso, gently pull the belly button towards the spine (this will help keep the abdomen and lower back safe and strong).
*You can use the « tips of the hips toward each other » image, which can help ensure that you activate the core properly.

Note: If you feel that your abs can’t hold properly, that your belly is straining to hold, that your lower back is arching, or if you have Diastisis Recti, I recommend letting the hips be a bit higher so as to avoid undue pressure on the front abdomen wall (even with this variation, you’ll still be working your upper body!).

It’s worth taking all the time in world to get your abs back into healthy, healed shape. (Pushing it will just make it either worse or longer to heal!)

 

#4: GARUDASANA ARMS HIGH LIFT

1. Bring the arms to Garudasana.


Sitting in a comfortable position with your back tall, either on a chair, a block or a bolster, bring the arms to Garudasana.

To do so, bend your right arm in front of you at a 90 degree angle, then pass the left arm underneath it, wrapping it around until the hands join – either back of palm-to-back of palm or front of the palms pressing against each other.

 

Let the eyes close and breathe fully here for a few breaths, filling belly and lungs on the inhale and letting go of tension on the exhale.

*Arms remain at a 90 degree angle
*Shoulder blades slide down towards the hips (away from the ears, thus creating lots of space around the neck and throat).
*See if you can feel your breath reaching the shoulders and space between the shoulder blades on the inhale, and releasing any tension there on the exhale, already so delicious!

2. Then we add a bit of movement


On the inhale, shoulders/arms and head move up and arch slightly back, exhale come back to facing front.

3-5 times. Inhale up, and exhale back down.

 

You should feel a wonderful and much needed stretch in the shoulders and upper back. Repeat on the other side.

*Imagine you want to look towards the sky with your heart on the inhale up
*Keep the belly button moving towards the spine, this will help support the lower back
*Relieves tension in shoulders and upper back.

 

#5: HEELS UP IN DOWNWARD DOG

A simple way to get a lovely stretch in the back of the legs and the back, and to build some lower leg and upper body strength at the same time.

1. In Downward Dog, inhale and raise the heels up towards the sky

*Keep the lift in the hips, the legs strong and the hands securely and firmly pressing into the ground.

2. Exhale to lower the heels back down.

5-10 repetitions.

I like to do a slow, gooey version, as if my feet were in a molasses or something, bringing me that feeling of creating lots of space in the back of the legs.

*Try to keep the shoulders “in place” as best you can, don’t let them move forward when the heels come up!

 

#6: PARSVAKONASANA (Extended Side Angle Pose) WITH ELBOW ON FRONT THIGH

This one made it to both the postnatal and late-pregnancy yoga list!

I have a tendency to say Hallelujah when I get into this pose. I just love Parsvakonasana. I think that this is my personal Warrior Pose as I always feel strong and vibrant in it.

A wonderful side body stretch, it also allows for deep breathing into the lungs and ribs.

*Keep the back leg and foot strong
*Front knee doesn’t bend too far over the heel, and if this is the case, move the front foot forward a little. This will protect your knee! Also make sure it’s aligned with the middle toes.
*Breathe into the entire body, all the way to the tips of the fingers and toes, tasting the stretch, such a welcome one in our postnatal bodies!

 

#7: DIASTISIS TOUCH-DOWN

I call this the Diastisis touch-down because it’s a great exercise to help begin healing Diastisis Recti.

This is a “long-ish” point, so you might want to grab a coffee. 😉

Before Starting #1 : Finding and keeping the natural curve in your lower spine

Lay down with your back on the floor:

logroll_275

(as always, go down on your side first, then roll onto your back, this helps to protect and repair the abs, even if you don’t have diastisis recti, I like to call it the log roll!)

..it’s a log!

Once you’re on your back, bend both knees, feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart and place your hands under your lower back.

Scoop the sacrum (triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine) up, so that the lower back presses into your hands.

findingcurve_264

Then, do the opposite movement: press the sacrum towards the ground, arching your lower back away from your hands.

These are actually called pelvic tilts! Remove your hands, and repeat again a few more times

Finally, let the lower back relax and try to settle into your « neutral » spine position:

This means that you will still have some space under the lower back, (so the lower back is neither touching the ground, nor “over-arching”), thus finding the natural curve in your lower spine.

Once you’ve found it, gently pull the belly button toward the spine to activate the abdominal muscles, making sure you don’t lose the natural curve in the lower back!

Before Starting #2 : The front torso rectangle

Keeping the action from point #1 (we’re multi-tasking here), imagine your front lower torso has 4 corners: lower ribs (right and left)-to-hip tips (right and left).

You can even place thumbs on the lower ribs and little fingers on the hip tips and visualize that these 4 points create a rectangle.

While doing your touch-downs, the aim is to keep the rectangle the same, without letting the length of the sides change in any way.

..And now the Diastisis Touch-downs!

..it’s Barbie’s foot!

Making sure this rectangle does not change and that the lower back keeps its natural curve (belly button towards the spine helping), lift the heels off the ground so that you’re on the balls of your feet, the Barbie foot as some like to call it 🙂 !

Keeping your front torso strong (the rectangle stays as it is! don’t let it move!) and without changing the lower back  (so much to think about!), exhale lift your right knee, inhale the toes return lightly to the ground. Same thing with the left leg.

See if the toes can hardly touch the ground.

Then, notice how the body will want to change and compensate by swaying, or collapsing to one side and do your best to keep the front torso rectangle as it is and your lower back secured by the belly-button-to-spine action!

10-15 repetitions.

Lots of work, but so nice when you feel the heat it starts to create in the lower abs! (“Yaay, i can feel my abs again!”)

Such a fantastic and safe way to access your lower core muscles and to start lighting them up again. You can even try using a gentle version of Ujjayi breathing while you do this, warming you up from the Inside. It really feels great.

*Adding a Kegel to the exhale (while the knee lifts) will build even more heat to the lower core.

 

#8: WARRIOR I TO FRONT FOLD

1. Step one foot back, take Warrior I and place the back heel onto the floor.

*Make sure your front knee stays aligned over the front toes (the tendency might be to sway it inward, especially as we begin to move, so try to keep it strong and stable!)

2. Inhale arms and gaze to the sky, filling the lungs with air, exhale lower the body and arms until he body is aligned with the back leg, as the arms continue to swing gently all the way behind you, until your body looks like a human dart, a wonderful strong arrow!

Inhale gently sweep arms and gaze back up to the sky, exhale to sweep back down.

3-5 times.

*Keep the hips and legs solid, creating a stable and grounded base, over which the upper body can move with ease, and grace!
*Keep the back leg long, lean and firm
*Helps build strength back into the legs
*Fills the lungs with wonderful air while opening the shoulders and chest.

*Invigorating, gets some movement going in the body as well!

 

#9: MODIFIED CHILD’S POSE

Big toes touching, knees apart to leave room for your boobs and to feel the breath in your belly and rib cage as they press into the thighs. Let the arms and hands extend and release above your head and breathe here.

This pose grounds me quite instantaneously, helps me surrender and sometimes brings upon a good cry. Just letting the tension go can do that! (Generally speaking there will have been accumulated tension following a pregnancy and birth, and releasing that tension is part of the healing process.)

 

#10: WALKING!

When you’re ready, start walking! Walking is a wonderful way to bring your body back into itself after a pregnancy and birth. Gentle on the joints, walking, particularly if you engage certain parts of the body, can help you regain your core strength!

Start with very gentle, slow and short walks. And when you’re feeling like you can walk for longer periods of time, put on your walking shoes (comfy ones!) and see how it feels to start to integrate these simple tools into your walk :

*Engage the pelvic floor, not continuously, but see how it feels to incorporate a few Kegels into your walk.

*Here are 10 Fun Exercises you can do while walking to help you find healthy posture.

*Think of: « bringing the front tips of the hips toward each other ». At the same time, also engage your belly button in (towards the spine).

*”Tips of the hips” is actually referring to the right and left Anterior Superior Iliac Spine, the pointy parts at the front of the pelvis that you can press with your fingers 🙂

This will most likely give you the sense that you are activating your lower abdomen, or lower core, which is in fact what is happening and what we’re aiming for!

“Igniting” this part of the body is something we all need and can’t wait to feel after pregnancy.

*Tip – As a little challenge, try engaging the tips of the hips toward each other first, then bringing the belly button in. Then, try the other way around! Start by bringing the belly button in, then while keeping this action, tips of hips move towards each other.

Walking is a simple way to finding our bodies again after pregnancy and birth.

Try doing some of these exercises outdoors. It is a true gift to give to ourselves. And have a try with your shoes off too!

It can be a fulfilling and grounding experience to feel the earth on the skin and soles of the feet, can make you feel connected to the life within and the life that is all around too… Cosmic! 🙂 Find a park with some grass and don’t worry about what you look like! (who knows, you might secretly inspire someone else to do the same thing:)

It is so fantastic to finally feel our bodies move again after months of child-bearing. Take as much advantage as you can of these moments, even if you get just a few minutes in a day.. “Yaaay, i can feel my body again!”

10 Postnatal Exercises To Help You Return To Yoga (And to Feeling Like You Again!)


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. 🙂 I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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RECOMMENDED: A Bolster

Bolsters are an essential part of my at-home yoga practice. Because of their length, they can support the entire upper body in reclined poses, offering optimal relaxation. I use this one .


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2 thoughts on “10 Postnatal Exercises To Help You Return To Yoga (And to Feeling Like You Again!)

  1. This is great!

    I’ve been looking for some gentle core-strengthening exercises to do postpartum, and this will do the job nicely.

    It would be amazing if you had a 15/20 minute guided practice video to go with this. It always feels helpful having someone show you and talk you through each of the moves when you’re a beginner to yoga.

    1. Hi Lucy! Thanks for this suggestion! I had thought of adding in some video even if just with my stick figures to give more detail, I will look into doing that! So happy if these exercises are helpful for you. They’re indeed gentle and safe core-strengtheners and were the ones that helped me along my first weeks postnatal. I have some fun exercises you can do with baby too here Best of luck xx

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