Postpartum Yoga Sequence to Energize the Body and Mind

Post Baby Yoga

I have several friends who have recently become new moms or are currently expecting.  It’s exciting times with all these precious little lives coming into the world. Recently I had a friend ask me about yoga poses that she could do once her sweet baby boy is here.  It got my wheels churning and I started thinking immediately about yoga poses that could be done in a time crunch or that could be done while your little one is napping or getting in some tummy time. The great thing about yoga is it can truly be done everywhere, so if your little guy or gal decides to take a nap or is content sitting in a swing you can fit in a pose or two. Also, yoga can be a great way to help you get some quality sleep even if it’s just a few hours. Check out this Yoga Sequence for a More Restful Sleep to help.

Once your baby is born, your life will change so much and you will be hard pressed to find some free time. Also, you’ll probably be busy thinking and worrying about the new addition to your family and will likely not be immediately focused on getting into an exercise routine. But let’s face it, that thought will eventually come up.  I found it interesting when I was doing some research on this topic that much of the postpartum information was focused on “getting your body back”.  I can certainly understand that desire, but I encourage you to place the focus first on getting your energy and strength back before worrying about losing the weight.  Yoga can certainly help you get back to a fitter you, but the focus should be on a health mind and body for both mom and baby!  I think it’s important to show your body some respect and to rest because you’ve just done something incredible by bringing life into the world.  So please don’t rush into this practice.  Take your time, bond with your new baby, and love your body as it is. However, when you’re feeling up to it, try out the below yoga poses to tighten, tone, stretch, and relax your body and relieve stress in your mind.

As a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, so while these poses are intended to be accessible before the 6 week clearance for physical activity, please consult with a doctor before attempting this sequence to ensure you are in good physical health. There are different thoughts on when it is okay to return to a yoga practice, so I urge you to listen to your body, and only move as much as feels good to you.  Yoga is all about body awareness, so be in tune with how you feel, and take breaks from your practice.  Maybe just do one pose a day and gradually work up to more.  Check out the below sequence and let me know if you have any questions!

Cat & Cow Poses

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These are two gentle yoga poses that will help increase flexibility in the spine by opening up and stretching both the lower and upper back.  Many new moms complain of back pain and these poses are great to combat pain you may be experiencing.  Additionally these poses can strengthen the pelvic floor in a similar manner as kegels (which by the are something that will really help you gain strength back).

Instructions: Begin in Table Top Pose on your hands and knees.  Stack your wrists, elbows, and shoulders in one line and place your knees hip distance apart.  As you inhale lift your head and tailbone, dropping your belly towards the floor.  On your exhale tuck your chin towards your chest, round your spine and pull the navel in towards the spine.  Push strongly into your hands and the tops of your feet.  Flow through as many rounds of Cat and Cow poses as you feel comfortable with.

Wide-Legged Child’s Pose

imageThis gentle hip-opening pose is also a great way to relax and calm your mind.  Caring for a newborn can be stressful, so while this pose may seem like it’s not doing much, it will be a great relief to you.  As you likely know your mood and stress can impact your baby as well as yourself.  Take a minute or two to relax in this pose.  Not only will it calm your mind, but it will gently open the hips and stretch the low back.

Instructions: From Table Top pose bring your big toes together and stretch your knees out towards the edges of your mat, as wide as is comfortable.  Sink your hips down towards your heels and rest your torso between your legs.  Stretch your hands out directly in front of your shoulders and rest your forehead on the mat.  Remain here as long as you need.

Downward Facing Dog Pose

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This is a pose that may take a little while to feel comfortable again, so practice it with caution.  Your upper body may feel weaker and more tired than pre-pregnancy so if you find it difficult to hold yourself up in this pose, come back to it at a later time.  Downward Dog will strengthen the arms and the shoulders as well as help tone the core muscles.  Additionally it stretches the entire back body, specifically the muscles along the spine and the backs of the legs.  Since this is also an inverted pose where your heart is above your head, you’ll notice that it will help energize  you and wake you up.

Instructions: From Child’s Pose keep your hands rooted where they are and push your hips up and back sending them towards the ceiling.  Keep the feet hip distance apart and push down through the heels.  Keep a long spine here and be careful to avoid rounding the upper back.  You can put a slight micro-bend in your knees to avoid over-stretching the backs of the legs.  Tuck your chin towards your chest and breathe deeply here.

Plank Pose

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Like Downward Facing Dog, Plank Pose is one that may feel challenging at first.  If it is challenging you can modify by dropping your knees to the mat.  This pose is all about strengthening and toning the body.  The key is to keep the core engaged by drawing the navel in and pressing the heels away from each other.  This is one that you can gradually build upon by maybe starting with only holding it for 10 seconds and then each time holding it for a greater length.

Instructions: From Downward Facing Dog, drop your knees to come into Table Top Pose.  You can stay there for the modified Plank or step your feet out behind you with your feet hip distance apart.  Form a straight (but diagonal) line with your body from your heels to your head.  Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders.  Draw the navel in and gently push your heels away from one another to engage the core.  Gaze down and slightly in front of you. Hold for as long as you can, working up to holding it for 1 minute.

Cobra Pose

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Cobra Pose is very effective at mitigating back pain, so it is a must for new moms.  In addition this pose will tone the glutes, arms, shoulders, and legs.  It will also open the chest and prevent roundness in the upper back.

Instructions: From Plank Pose lower yourself all the way onto your yoga mat.  Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and press into the hands and the tops of the legs to lift the chest off of the mat.  Draw the shoulder blades back towards each other to open the chest and gaze forward.  Hold for 5-10 seconds and then lower back onto the mat, repeating as many times as you wish.

Warrior II Pose

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This is an incredible pose for the entire body as it will strengthen and tone your feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, quads and core.  It also stretches and opens the hips and groin, improves balance and focus as well as endurance.  New moms are often extremely exhausted and their bodies may feel weak and tired.  This pose will help you regain your endurance while also strengthening your body.  You may also feel off balance after months of having extra weight on your front side.  This will help restore your balance and give you the focus you need to take care of your baby and make it through late night feedings.

Instructions:  From Mountain Pose, step your right foot back about 3-4 feet turning the toes out towards the long edge of your mat.  Line up your front heel with the arch of your back foot.  Point your hips and your torso towards the right and bring your arms to shoulder height on either side of your body.  Make sure your left knee is directly over your ankle or slightly behind. Gaze out over your left middle finger and intend to hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then repeat on the other side.

Triangle Pose

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If your goal is weight loss, Triangle Pose is effective at helping to tone and reduce excess fat in the belly and around the waist.  It also strengthens the lower body, stretches and elongates the side body and helps reduce symptoms of digestive distress.  Triangle Pose has also been shown to help relieve stress and calm anxiety.

Instructions: From Warrior II Pose stretch your left arm and your torso over your left leg and then drop your left hand to the mat, to the inside of your ankle, or the inside of your calf.  Stretch your right arm directly overhead stacking the shoulders on top of each other and then straighten the left leg.  Keep the chest open and lifted and gaze up towards your right hand.

Modified Boat Pose – Two Options

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In addition to helping to improve balance, Boat Pose is going to be incredibly effective at toning the abdominals and strengthening the core.  These are modified poses of Full Boat Pose in which the legs are straight and lifted.  This is a perfect beginning core exercise to reawaken your abdominal muscles and tone your muscles.

Instructions: Begin seated on your yoga mat with the legs bent and the soles of the feet on the mat.  Grab the back of your thighs with your hands.  On an inhale lean back slightly lifting your feet off of the mat, coming to balance on the back edge of your sitting bones.  Exhale and lift the feet further to bring your shins parallel with the ground.  Relax your shoulder blades back towards one another.  You can stay here or you can release your hands from your thighs bringing them on either side of your body.  Keep your core engaged by drawing your navel in towards your spine and keep the chest lifted.  Remain in this pose for as long as is comfortable.

Seated Spinal Twist

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This pose will help restore or bring flexibility to your spine.  During your pregnancy you would have avoided twisting motions so now is the time to bring them back.  In addition to relieving back pain, this pose tones and strengthens the core and back muscles.  The twisting motion helps release toxins from your body and improves blood flow.  Additionally, this pose is very effective at relaxing and calming a tired and stressed mind.

Instructions: Begin seated on your yoga mat with your legs bent and the soles of your feet on the mat.  Slide your left foot underneath the right leg and bring that foot towards the outer edge of the right thigh.  Step the right foot over the left leg and bring the sole of that foot to the mat on the outside of the left thigh.  Intend to keep both sitting bones on the mat.  Stretch your right hand back behind you bringing it several inches behind the tailbone.  Inhale your left arm overhead and on your exhale twist to the right, bringing the right arm to the outside of your left thigh.  Gaze out over your right shoulder or down towards the mat.  Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

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