Benefits of Yoga for Postpartum Bodies
Postpartum body, what does that mean? Like a lot of things, it depends on who you talk to. One misconception is that to be postpartum you must have had a baby within the last year. However from what my community of moms and my own experience, postpartum means you had a baby, period.
The condition of a postpartum body depends on the person, of course. Some people heal faster or for some it takes months or years to feel fully healed. This can also depend on the shape prior to and during pregnancy. It can also depend on any injuries during or after pregnancy and how long a woman breastfeeds. With the excess of prolactin surging through the body it makes the joints and ligaments more pliable.
In my case, I’m almost four years postpartum and still have some issues with my joins and bones cracking or feeling more wonky than my pre-baby self. I haven’t been able to train for a full marathon (something I did pre-baby) and have struggled with my running training in general. Yoga has been my saving grace. I’ve been able to work on strength and flexibility, which helps my running and sanity. haha
Yoga is a practice most people see as beneficial, unless of course you've been hurt doing yoga. Let's face it, doing almost anything throughout your life can hurt you if the exercise, position, lift, etc. isn't done with thought and attention. What I mean is, sitting all day can hurt your muscles too. Doing strenuous exercise can sometimes hurt your body. See where I'm going with this?
I've realized with my postpartum body especially, that some movements can cause pain. If I move in a certain way my hips feel jammed or sometimes my shoulders are super tight. Why though? Have I suddenly aged my body by ten years? Just from having a baby? Or is this how my “mom” body will be forever?
No way. That's crazy talk!
Healing my postpartum body has been an ongoing process for almost four years now. I've gone through bouts where I feel so sore and stiff just getting up from a chair. To being able to train and run a half marathon with a pace very similar to my pre-baby running pace. What gives?
For one, I didn't realize that after getting the 6-week "okay" from my midwife it didn’t mean everything on the inside has healed. I also didn’t realize how common it is to have pelvic, hip and abdominal issues after pregnancy. It’s super common. That’s where the old “mom body” phrase probably came from, besides feeling frumpy. However, it is possible to heal all these things and have a body similar to your pre-baby body.
I’m not an expert and don’t have a specific training certificate in this area but I do have life training and experience. I’ve gone to see a pelvic floor physical therapist at two different periods, for multiple therapy visits, in the 2 and a half years post baby. I researched on my own by reading some great books (referenced below) and many many blog posts.
One reason I found myself with pelvic floor and rectus diastasis (abdominal separation), I believe, is I jumped in too fast with strenuous exercises including abdominal exercises a couple weeks after having my son. I didn’t learn about rectus diastasis until four months postpartum. No one talked about it. Once I received pelvic floor and abdominal separation therapy, I thought I was fully healed, however ended up with more of a separation gap than the first time. These set backs can be so frustrating.
You might be interested in this Quad & Core Strengthening Yoga Video.
Yoga can be a great way to add mild core and whole body strengthening and flexibility into your normal routine. Yoga By taking things one day at a time, after you’ve received the green light from your health care practitioner. Because yoga uses body weight in many of the poses, it helps improve muscle tone. Adding light weights or resistance bands to your practice can also help continue to build strength when poses become “easy”.
First things first though. When you’re just getting back into yoga after having a baby or even a longer period of time with little to no activity, it’s best to start slow. Try starting with 10-15 minutes of more basic yoga poses (suggestions found below). Build up to a flow by adding some warrior and standing poses.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Downward Facing Dog with knees bent or more straight (Adho Muka Svanasana)
Plank or Modified plank pose
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Important Note: The most important thing is to check if you have an abdominal separation before starting any core type exercises. Click here to see how. IF you discover a separation, please consult a pelvic floor therapist or get a recommendation from your doctor or midwife.
Remember, be gentle with your body and work up to a sustainable practice. Tap into your breath and really be present during each exercise (yoga or any other you choose) so you can feel what’s happening in your body. If you are unsure about the poses, try this beginner yoga video or this video to start building more strength.
Please let me know if you have questions or comments.
Disclaimer: The information on this website (Alt Yoga Vibe) is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical treatment or hands on instruction. If you are experiencing any severe pain or symptoms, please consult a healthcare practitioner.