10 Yoga Poses To Get You.. Upside-Down! (and why it’s so darn good for you)

10 Yoga Poses to get you upside-down_smallpin1

Especially for the postnatal mama, inversions are a wonderful way to finding energy again after months of child-bearing while being in the first few tiring weeks with a new baby.

I am an upside-down devotee! I have loved inversions ever since I was a little girl, and I still try to go upside-down at least once a day.

There are so many benefits to inversions:

– Develop strength and stability
– Change our outlook on life!
– Refreshing
– Develop confidence
– Invigorating
– Natural anti-depressant (Bye Bye Blues – they turn your frown upside-down!)
– Reduce stress
– Help keep you alert
– Boost creative thinking
– Reduce PMS symptoms
– Boost the immune system
– Revitalize internal organs
– Anti-aging effects
– Glowing skin
– Boost your brain
– Aid digestion
– Promote a sounder sleep
– Improve posture
– Improve flexibility
– Improve joint health
– Help to calm and relax..

… to name a few!

Just crazy.

Inversions are just as beneficial for the prenatal mama too. If you have never done full inversions before, it is not recommended to start a new practice while pregnant though, but if not, they are a healthy part of any prenatal practice, full of invigorating benefits.

Here are 10 yoga poses to get you upside-down, which means getting your head below the heart level. ♥

A few tips:

*Start slow to build strength
*Avoid making adjustments while inverted
*If you’re breastfeeding, some inversions may bring a sensation of fullness to the breasts. If this is uncomfortable, don’t stay too long, or just try another pose!
*Warm up properly

Please consult a licensed physician before beginning any new exercise program. Inversion should be avoided if you are experiencing high or low blood pressure, neck pain or injuries, headaches, glaucoma, diarrhea or asthma. Also, if you are menstruating, it is recommended to avoid full inversions during the heaviest days of your period.



 

1. FORWARD FOLD, WITH OR WITHOUT DANGLING (Uttanasana)

With or without your knees bent, fold over from the hips towards your legs, while thinking of bringing the abdomen close to the upper thighs.

In Uttanasana, the legs will remain straight, shoulders raised away from the ears.

You can also dangle, kind of like a raggedy doll, by bending the knees, holding the elbows with your hands and letting the head and shoulders .. dangle!

Feels absolutely fantastic. A great way to start inverting again after baby!

*Stay 3-10 full belly breaths

 

2. EXTENDED PUPPY POSE (Uttana Shishosana)

This wonderful pose isn’t considered to be a full inversion, but does give many of the same benefits. And it’s another great pose to use when you’re just easing into your yoga practice after baby.

*Keep the arms active
*Stretches out the shoulders and upper back which can be soar and tight while breastfeeding
*Creates space in the rib cage, especially for the pregnant mama (hallelujah)
*Stay 30-60 seconds

 

3. DOWNWARD DOG

Not considered to be a full inversion, this yoga pose is safe all throughout pregnancy and is another invigorating way to get back upside-down once you’ve had your baby!

*Push the floor away with spread fingers and palms.
*If you’ve had a procedure to flip a breech baby, this pose is not recommended.
*Stay 5-15 full breaths

 

 

4. DOLPHIN POSE

Start to prepare full inversions with this pose. By pushing into the ground with the forearms, this pose prepares the upper body and strengthens the core in preparation for full inversions. It’s also a wonderful shoulder opener!

*Add-on: Following the breath, inhale the weight forward and exhale the weight back to develop mobility and strength in the shoulders
*Stay 5-15 full breaths

 

5. HANDSTAND PRACTICE (against the wall)

In preparation for full inversions, find a wall. Start with Downward Dog, heels pressing into the wall. Keeping the upper body strong and head in line with the arms, start walking one foot onto the wall, then try the other, until the hips align over the shoulders. This is always a super exciting pose for me!

*Lift one leg at a time for added fun
*Stay 5-10 full breaths

Start with Downward Dog at the wall,
Walk one foot after the other onto the wall, hips over shoulders,
Press both feet onto the wall for handstand practice!

 

6. FEATHERED PEACOCK (Pincha Mayurasana)

Both Dolphin Pose and Handstand practice will to start build the strength needed in the upper body for this intermediate pose. From Dolphin Pose, gently kick legs to vertical position.

*Press into the forearms
*Stay 10-20 seconds

 

7. FULL HANDSTAND (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

This is my favorite of all yoga poses. It absolutely fills me with joy! Feeling alignment and strength throughout the body, as the core engages to make it all come together, is magical!

*Start by practicing against a wall or with an experienced teacher
*Stay 5-60 seconds

 

8. SHOULDER and HEAD STAND

I cannot do shoulder or head stands, as I sustained an important neck injury during my dancing career, but with proper technique, these are powerful inversions to add to any daily routine!

Shoulder and Head Stand

 

9. BRIDGE POSE (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

I include this gentle inversion at the end of most of my yoga practices. Lying on your back, bend the knees bringing the heels close to the sitting bones. With the arms stretched along the body, palms facing down, press into the feet to lift the hips off the ground.

*Feet and knees are hip-width apart
*Chest bone (Sternum) lifts up and towards chin
*For a restorative version, place a yoga block under the sacrum
*Stay 30-60 seconds

Bridge pose, or..
Supported with a block under sacrum

 

 

10. LEGS-UP-THE-WALL (Viparita Karani)

Could there be a more calming pose. Restorative and rejuvenating,

There’s a general consensus among modern yogis that Viparita Karani or Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose may have the power to cure whatever ails you. -Yoga Journal

Lying on your back with the hips against the wall (they don’t need to be touching), bring both legs up the wall.

*Arms can rest over the head, to the side, or on the belly
*You can also prop a pillow or bolster under the hips for elevation
*Stay 5-15 minutes

When our heart is higher than our head, we place our bodies in an unconventional configuration. By shifting our relationship with gravity, inversions counter act the effect of gravity by delivering a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to the brain. Inversions allow us to develop strength, balance and stability. They challenge our perception, and may even evoke fear, but by conquering our weaknesses, we will develop a rewarding sensation that is highly motivating and re-energizing.” 

~ Mr Yoga.

 

Whether prenatal or postnatal, may an inversion light up your day 🙂 !

Do you have a favorite inversion that isn’t mentioned here? Share below!

10 Yoga Poses to get you upside-down_smallpin1


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 2 and 5. 🙂 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→





More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

14 Helpful Tips To Start Healing Diastasis Recti (“mummy tummy”)

14 tips to heal diastasis recti_square pin2

Numbers vary, but it is said that between 65 – 100% of women experience a degree of diastasis recti during the course of pregnancy. While teaching postnatal yoga, I’ve noticed a number somewhere around 95% of women have some degree of gap.

What is it?

Diastasis recti is the gap or separation of the front abdominal muscles (the Rectus Abdominis) that occurs due to the pressure pregnancy puts onto the abdomen, also known as a “mummy tummy”.

Pregnancy puts so much pressure on the belly that sometimes the muscles in front can’t keep their shape. “Diastasis” means separation. “Recti” refers to your ab muscles called the “rectus abdominis.” – WebMD

 

How to know if you have diastasis recti?

You can test yourself for diastasis recti : 
– Lying on your back, knees bent.
– Place your fingers along your mid line at belly button level, pressing them slightly inwards.
– Then lift the head and shoulders as if to do a sit-up.
– If your fingers  can press down into a space in between your abdomen muscles, this is an indicator of diastasis recti.

Test for diastasis recti

What helped me

I became aware of mine during my first pregnancy. I was about 20 weeks pregnant in my midwife’s office for a routine exam. While coming up from a lying down position (a bit like at the beginning of a sit-up), I saw a sort of a triangular-shaped bulge popping up in the middle of my belly line (super weird!).

view from above

She informed me that it was diastasis recti.

“That’s diastasis recti!”

I definitely had no idea what she was talking about,  but seeing as she didn’t look too worried about it, I hardly looked it up. I was actually quite lucky in my postpartum rehabilitation, and gained strength and tone back within a few weeks, though the gap didn’t entirely close.

With my second pregnancy however, my gap became wider and the healing process was much longer. It took me:

 – 2-3 months to start reconnecting with my abs, or “feeling” them again
 – 12-14 months to get all of my tone and support back

The gap has never completely closed, but I have learned to use my abdominal muscles in a functional way and consider myself to be “healed”.

Diastasis recti takes time to heal. These are tips that helped me, but there is an unbelievable amount of quality information online regarding the subject. For exercises specifically made to heal your diastasis recti, the MuTu system is an incredible resource.

14 tips to heal diastasis recti_pin4

Here are the tips and exercises that I used (and still use daily) to help me with my diastasis recti.

14 tips to heal diastasis recti_square pin2

*As always, please consult with a licensed physician before beginning any new exercise program.

14 tips to heal diastisis recti_square pin1_mummy tummy

#1: NO MORE CRUNCHES

It’s a basic one, but any crunches (or classic sit-ups) should be avoided as they can impede the healing process and possibly make the gap worse by putting pressure on the abdomen wall. To build core strength, you can start with exercises like #3, “Diastasis Touch-Downs” (see below).

no more crunch-tips to heal diastasis recti
No more crunches!

 

#2: LOG ROLL

Because we want to avoid “crunching” the abdominal muscles, which can make the split worse, think of using what I like to call the log roll, when going in and out of a lying down position.

To lay down with your back on the floor:
1 – Go down on your side first,
2 – Then roll onto your back, like in this example:

logroll_275
Go onto your side first, then roll onto your back

 

*Inverse when coming up:
1 – Roll onto your side first,
2 – Then press into the hands to come up.

 

#3: DIASTASIS TOUCH-DOWNS

This exercise is a  safe way to access your lower core muscles and to start lighting up the transverse muscles, the muscles that will help to build the corset of support we’re aiming for.

How to:

..it’s Barbie’s foot!

1 – Lie down on your back (with a log roll!), knees bent and feet hip-width apart, hands on hips.
2 – Find neutral spine (there will be a space beneath the lower back, without over-arching) and bring navel towards spine.
3 – Lift the heels so that only toe mounds are touching the floor (Barbie foot as some call it :).
4 – Keeping the torso as stable as possible, lift one knee at a time:
– Exhale lift knee
– Inhale back down
5- Avoid swaying or tipping of the hips and ribs.

Diastasis Touch-Downs

– 10-15 repetitions.
– Adding a Kegel to the exhale (while the knee lifts) will build even more heat to the lower core.
– You can also use a gentle version of Ujjayi breathing while you do this, warming you up from the Inside. It really feels great.

This is an abridged version of this exercise, find the detailed explanation here.

 

#4: BELLY BELT

Belly belts create support , like the one we’re trying to get back, so that the split doesn’t worsen. I didn’t think a belly belt would help me, so I never actually used one. I am mentioning it because it is recommended by some as being a part of diastasis recti rehabilitation, whereas it is also said that it can slow down the body’s natural ability to heal. I actually think that not using one may have slowed down my healing process by a few weeks.

Here is an example of a belly belt. (Amazon)

belly belt - tips to heal diastasis recti
Belly belt (a bit big on her!)

 

#5: DIAPHRAGM (OR BELLY) BREATHING

Belly breathing engages the transverse abdominal muscles which help to support the torso and eventually lessen the diastasis recti gap. Diaphragm breathing also helps to tone and keep the muscles of the torso supple.

Surprisingly, we’re not looking to get rock-hard abs to repair diastasis through strength, but more through proper alignment paired with supple core tone. A healthy muscle is one that can both contract and release.

Here are 4 exercises to help develop belly breathing:

1. Hand on belly breath exercise
2. Ujjayi (or Ocean Breath)
3. “Elevator”, or 3-part breathing
4. Perineum breathing

Diaphragm breathing

 

#6: TIPS OF THE HIPS TOWARDS EACH OTHER

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 Anterior Superior Iliac Spines, the pointy parts at the front of the pelvis that you can press with your fingers.

Tips of the hips toward each other, navel gently in

This will eventually start activating the lower abdomen, or lower core, which is what we’re aiming for.

By engaging the transverse abdominals this also begins to create the “corset of support” that will be part of our healing process.

And it feels great to start to feel this part of the body waking up again after pregnancy!

A very useful tip to use in situations when strain might be put onto the abs, for example:

– While baby wearing
– While picking up baby car seat
– Pushing the stroller, especially uphill or over a curb, or obstacle.

A last idea: Try alternating! This has become a personal exercise I do as often as I an. Try bringing in one tip of the hip at a time, it almost feels a bit like belly dancing (which I get the sense would be great for diastasis recti!) and it engages the transverse abs, our friends.

 

#7: KEGEL

Unless you’ve been advised not to do Kegels (see more), Kegel exercises are such an important part of postnatal rehabilitation, and can help in the healing process of diastasis recti. Why? Because exercising the muscles of the perineum will stimulate the lower abdominal muscles which in turn will help to create the base of the corset of support we’re looking to strengthen.

Here are 6 simple Kegel exercises you can start with.

kegels tips to heal diastasis recti
Kegel exercises

 

#8: DON’T TEST OFTEN

Once you’re on your path to healing diastasis recti, one of the things to avoid doing is “testing” your split, to see if it’s gotten any better, as this can impede the healing process or be discouraging. Try just doing it every so often, maybe once every few weeks if you feel the need to.

diastasis-recti-testing-often-tips-to-heal
Don’t test often!

 

#9: GOOD POSTURE

A healthy posture is an incredibly powerful tool.

In the case of diastasis recti, an aligned body helps the core muscles to function in an optimal way, thus stabilizing the torso which in time allows for the gap to heal.

When we’re slouched, our abs don’t have the room or alignment to function properly!

Here 10 tips for finding a healthy posture.

“Shoulders open, heart shine” (Her ribs are actually poking out a bit too much 🙂

This is Tip #3: “Shoulders Open, Heart Shine” (For diastasis recti, still think of softening the lower ribs downward, to avoid pressing the rib cage out. See all of the tips.)

 

#10: YOGA BALL HIP CIRCLES

Another way to create tone in the lower ab muscles is with yoga ball hip circles. Sit on a yoga ball, (or even just on your chair!) and start rotating the hips in a circle, while keeping the belly button gently activated towards the spine.

You’ll start to feel a little bit of heat in the lower abs with this exercise.

yoga-ball-hip-circles-tips-to-heal-diastasis-recti
Yoga ball hip circles

 

#11: WALKING

Besides being a wonderful way to bring our body back into itself after a pregnancy and birth, walking  can help to regain core strength and be part of the healing process of diastasis recti. As it is a total body movement, walking engages core muscles while moving, which will bring healthy tone to the muscles.

Think of adding some of the tips from this list whilst you walk:

– Tips of the hips towards each other
– Good posture tips
– Kegels
– etc.

Walking, one of my favorite ways to help with diastasis recti

 

 

#12: DURING YOGA, AVOID…

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to getting back into your yoga routine and to start moving again after birth. If you have diastasis recti, it can be a good idea to hold out on the following, for a few weeks and I’d even say months, until you’re well on the path to healing:

1. PLANK:
– Diastasis recti or not, it is recommended to avoid plank position for the first 12 weeks postpartum. In the case of diastasis recti, I personally recommend avoiding it until you’re healed, which can take up to a year, or more.

INSTEAD:
– use half-plank, and don’t be shy to keep your bum a little higher than usual, this will avoid putting pressure onto the abdominal muscles:

plank alternatives for diastasis recti
Plank alternative for diastasis recti

 

2. COBRA TO DOWNDOG TRANSITION:
– This transition can really put strain on the abdomen muscles:

cobra to downdog transition1 - tips to heal diastisis rectiINSTEAD:
– keep the knees bent on the ground, bringing the hips back, to then transition into Downward Dog:

plank to downdog transition3 - tips to heal diastasis recti

 

3. TRIANGLE:
– This asana can also put quite a bit of pressure onto the abs.

INSTEAD:
– bend the front knee and place your hand for support, a version of Parsvakonasana:

triangle pose - options for diastasis recti
Triangle pose alternative for diastasis recti

 

It is tough when we’re looking forward to getting back into our pre-baby routine! But it is worth taking all the time in the world to heal, a moment in which to give ourselves grace and love and patience.

 

#13: USE YOUR HANDS TO BRING THE SIDE BODY + BELLY BUTTON IN

This is an interesting cue I discovered after my first pregnancy. It’s a way to simulate the “corset” action we’re looking to build up again.

side-body-in--tips-to-heal-diastasis-recti2
Bring the side body in to simulate the action of the transverse abdominal muscles

How to:

– Sitting on a chair or in virasana with your back straight,
– Bring your left hand to the right waist, and your right hand to the left waist. Inhale here,
– Exhale move the elbows away from each other. This will bring your hands and waist towards your mid line. At the same time, engage your belly button towards the spine.
– Repeat 5-10- times, holding for a few breaths at the end.

This exercise will help to teach the transverse abs the direction in which we want them to work to help create the corset of support we’re going for.

 

#14: CHANGE YOUR IDEA ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HEALED

As I’ve mentioned, I did not heal after my first baby, nor have I completely closed the gap after my second baby. But, my belly is back to being more or less as before (minus the stretch marks, lol) and I have the sense that I’m working in such a way that my muscles can move and breathe, and are functional while supporting me.  I am so grateful to be back to a regular yoga practice and active life,  during which I keep in mind the need to engage my transverse and core musculature to support my movements and effort.

Healing diastasis recti is a journey that takes time. I wish you grace and love on this journey, and I truly believe you can feel like you again with time!

 

Additional Resources:

For exercises specifically designed to build core strength and help heal diastasis recti:

The MuTu system is a proven resource for thousands of women on their journey to healing diastasis recti that gives you exercises and alignment adjustments to achieve a strong, functioning core (while understanding hormones and their effect on fat storage).

 

Here are some inspiring and very informative personal journeys that I’ve read on living with and healing diastasis recti:

https://diastasisrectified.com/

http://mylifeisaboutthejourney.blogspot.ca/2013/09/overcoming-diastasis-recti-part-1.html

Please share any useful tips in the comment section below!


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→


More from 10ThingsYogaMama:

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