Once you’ve been cleared for gentle exercise postpartum, yoga can be an effective way to rebuild muscle tone, maintain the integrity of your spine and pelvic floor, and lift your mood. Especially for breastfeeding mamas, though, getting out of the house to a public yoga class can seem like a daunting prospect! Luckily, there are lots of simple poses that can be done at home without special equipment or props. Do one pose, or fit in the whole sequence to give your hardworking postpartum body a little love.
1. Belly Breath
Begin to reconnect to your core after giving birth. Lying on your back, place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Take a full breath in, and as you slowly exhale, draw your navel toward your spine. Avoid creating tension around the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Repeat 10-15 times, each time inhaling and exhaling fully as you draw in around the belly.
(A note about diastasis recti: Abdominal breathing techniques such as this one can help heal mild abdominal wall separation, but is not advised for more severe cases. Your healthcare provider can help diagnose and measure diastasis recti.)
It’s nearly impossible to maintain good posture while carrying, nursing, and simply holding an infant! Cat/cow brings gentle movement to the spine and can stretch the hips, abdomen, and back.
From all fours, exhale and round the back, pulling your navel toward your spine and tucking your chin to your chest. With your inhale, reach your chest forward as you lower your spine toward the floor. Move slowly, connecting your breath to your movement, through several rounds.
3. Locust Pose
Many new mamas complain about shoulder and neck pain from looking down at their newborn. Locust pose can help release tension in the upper back and rebuild strength in the spine, hamstrings, and glutes, while stretching the upper chest and back. Plus, it can feel lovely to finally lie on your belly again!
Lie on your belly with your arms alongside your torso, palms facing up. Engage your arms and legs and gently lift your chest, chin, and legs. Move your shoulders in toward your spine. Hold for several breaths and release. Repeat 3-5 times.
4. Bridge Pose
Bridge pose strengthens the hip flexors and opens the chest and shoulders, all of which can be tight from pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing. The gentle backband can also help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet as wide as your hips. Bring arms alongside your torso until your fingertips touch your heels. Lift your hips, move your shoulders in toward your spine, and either interlace hands behind your low back or keep hands on the floor. Press down through the inner edges of your feet and gently squeeze your inner thighs in. Hold for a few breaths and slowly come down.
5. Child’s Pose
A gentle, iconic yoga pose, child’s pose is a wonderful way to stretch the hips, thighs and ankles. It also lengthens the low back, which can be a wonderful counterbalance to the pressure of carrying a baby. From hands and knees, lower your hips toward your heels with knees wide and big toes touching. Walk your hands forward and rest your forehead on the floor or a rolled up blanket. This pose can be held for several breaths or for several minutes.
6. Legs Up the Wall
This is a delicious restorative pose that can reduce swelling in the feet and ankles, send blood back to the heart to encourage recirculation, and relieve lower back pain. It also calms and soothes the nervous system, which is huge for new mothers!
Move close to the wall with your right hip against the wall and a pillow or bolster under both hips. Slowly lower to your side on the floor, supporting yourself with your hands. Roll onto your back and swing your legs up the wall. Bring your arms to your sides. Take deep breaths to help open your chest. Rest fully in this pose for 5-10 minutes.
Whether you are an experienced yogi or a beginner, yoga is a great way to bring gentle movement to your fourth-trimester body. You and your baby will both benefit from its calming, grounding effects.