Congratulations! You made a human! With your body! That’s amazing. Maybe you’re even feeding them with that same incredible body. Either way, you’re officially a superhero. And now you’re looking at getting back to yoga after a baby.
Yoga after a baby
The problem is, you’re exhausted, your boobs are sore (still no front lying – ouch!), your brain can’t focus on anything apart from this new tiny human and its needs, you’re emotional, your body is suddenly a stranger (and possibly healing from major surgery), and oh, you have no time at all. I’ve been there. I’m still there. My boy is one year old now. I still have no time, and my body, who I knew so well before I had him, still catches me off guard with its newfound, very real vulnerabilities, and reminds me to take it slow. I used to think that when people said pregnancy changes your body, they were talking about stretch marks and sagging. Now I know it’s more profound than that. We really are postpartum forever. Our pelvic bones have widened, we’ve stretched and swollen, maybe we’ve undergone surgery, or painful tearing. That stuff leaves a mark! Our bodies remain a living tribute to the tiny beings who wrap themselves so tightly around our hearts. And it takes time to get to know this, amazing body.
If you’re missing your mat, through the night feeds and blurry mornings, here are five tips to help you (slowly) find your way back to yoga after a baby.
That’s right. Just don’t. Your mat will be waiting whenever you’re ready to get back on it. Don’t push it, don’t rush it, don’t stress about it. You have enough to worry about. Being a mum is basically feeling guilty forever, so don’t add another thing to punish yourself over. It’s a good idea to wait at least eight weeks after giving birth before starting to practice physically again, twelve after any kind of intervention – c-section, episiotomy, forceps or ventouse. And if you feel more comfortable waiting longer, do it. Listen to your body. If what it needs is to slump on the sofa while someone hands you snacks and massive glasses of water, that’s really fine. You’ll get back to your mat in your own sweet time. You’ll get to yoga after a baby. For now, this your time with your baby. Enjoy it.
2. Try a yoga nidra
When my boy was tiny, people used to say ‘sleep when he sleeps’, but any new mum knows that this is just not even slightly realistic. For the first few weeks you can’t actually let them sleep without nervously eyeballing/prodding them every five seconds to make sure they’re still breathing. And as soon as you get used to their naps, the list of things you could do while they’re conked has grown as long as your arm. My lovely husband/mum/sister would hold him/watch our baby while he napped so that I could go and lie down elsewhere. But I found I just couldn’t relax with my baby in another room. They don’t call it the fourth trimester for nothing. I still felt painfully, physically attached to him. During this time, Nidra was my sweet relief. I couldn’t switch off by myself enough to take a regular nap, but I could listen to someone else guiding me into a restful state. This nidra from Dan Peppiatt got me through the early days, and there are more in the Nidra section of the site. Way before I was ready to be physical again, Nidra was my lifeline.
3. Start small – and take it slow
Let’s be real. Unless you have a nanny (in which case, good on you), the days of being able to shut yourself away undisturbed for an hour are probably gone. You’re lucky if you get five minutes to yourself. I count a wee without a small person following me into the bathroom as valuable me-time. So start small. And focus on the areas that need it the most. I found that I could manage some gentle cat cow stretches over my baby as he lay on his back smiling up at me (*melts*). He was happy because I was right there, and it felt sooooo good to introduce some movement to my poor spine, which was all over the place from carrying my little one around, and sleeping curled up around him. Try some seated cat cows too, or gentle seated circling with your baby in your lap, or some shoulder and neck rolls, especially if you’re breastfeeding, and spending a lot of time hunched over. You don’t need to spend an hour in a dynamic vinyasa flow class to feel the benefits of a well-chosen stretch.
When you do make it back to your mat, don’t rush straight into one of your old favourite classes. Take. It. Slow. Focusing on a gentle recovery is much more sustainable and better for your body. Forget bouncing back. The postnatal body is vulnerable and tender, and needs steady, slow care and work. I’ve also put together some of my favourite classes into a movelist, so I can get to them quickly without lots of scrolling. They include classes from Sally Parkes, Mollie McClelland Morris, Lucy McCarthy, Uma Dinsmore Tuli and my favourite nidra.
4. Bring your baby
I mean, alone time is just not a thing right now is it? So bring your baby! Although (when you’re ready), it is also important to focus on your postpartum body in a class that’s all about you, why not try one of Sally Parkes or Lucy McCarthy’s mum and baby classes? That way, you don’t need to carve out magical time or worry about childcare. And especially when they’re little, it’s lovely bonding time. Be realistic, they’re probably not going to last the whole class, but that’s ok. Do what you can, hit pause for feeds/inevitable distractions, and carry on when you’re both ready.
5. Light a candle
I found this tip really handy once I was able to take the occasional extended period away from my son as he got a little older, and didn’t need to feed ALL THE TIME. I’d shut the door, sit on my mat, close my eyes, and immediately be distracted by the long list of things I knew I should be doing. I found it impossible to calm my busy, hormonal, strung out mind. So I lit a candle, brought it to the front of my mat, and gazed into the flame. It was so effective for me to sit and watch that flame dance, and absorb myself in it completely. Five minutes or so of focusing on that little glowing spot was enough to quiet my mind enough to ready me for a nourishing practice.
Have you had a baby recently? What did you find helped you get back on your mat? We’d love to hear!
About Hannah Marsh: