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Yoga for Postpartum Moms

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar
Postpartum yoga poses by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

Postpartum yoga can be challenging and different for every new mom. Yoga is an excellent tool to have in your kit as you navigate this tricky, tiring, but an awesome new journey in your life. Most women only look at prenatal yoga classes to aid with a healthy pregnancy and the promise of easier labor. Even doctors recommend prenatal yoga and hardly any postpartum yoga but I’m not going to get into the reasons here in this blog. The truth is, postpartum yoga is most helpful to new moms in this stage of life. It’s often overlooked as a new mom has a million things to do in a single day. Newborns change quickly in the first year of their life which is hard on a mom, but postpartum yoga can be mom’s new best friend. I strongly believe women will find tremendous support with postpartum yoga provided it’s done right. It’s commonly said: Knowledge is power, but in the case of yoga, practice is power. So, here are my top reasons for new moms to practice postpartum yoga. 

Why choose postpartum yoga as a new mom?

  • It helps to restore your energy 
  • Gives you a deep sense of grounding when everything is changing 
  • Helps to connect with yourself and heightens self-acceptance 
  • The most efficient form of self-care with minimal fuss 
  • Assists with emotional stability and improves mood 
  • Helps to cope with postpartum depression and regulate emotions
  • Assists in better sleep even with short spans 
  • Speeds up the process of healing the body post-birth 
  • Brings joy and acceptance of the new reality 

When is a good time to start yoga postpartum?

Typical recommendations are that you wait several weeks before resuming working out or yoga but the best time to begin depends on what kind of labor and birth you had.

Natural vaginal birth: Wait 6 to 8 weeks to resume a gentle yoga practice or other gentle to moderate workouts. This gives the body time to heal naturally. 

C-section birth: 12 weeks before resuming yoga or working out. It’s better to wait a little longer if you’ve had a cesarean. The body has been through surgery and would need a little more time to heal and get back to normal. 

Don’t rush but don’t wait too long…

As tempting as it is to hit your yoga studio or your gym right away, please don’t. In yoga, we recommend you wait it out for the time mentioned above. If we push ourselves back into working out too soon, this can affect long term abdominal muscle tone. Rushing the healing process can negatively affect this and working out too intensely can overly fatigue your body instead of energizing you. This would be like trying to drive a 100 miles with barely any fuel in your tank. 

What does yoga look like in the postpartum stage?

  • The first month of resuming yoga in your postpartum phase should be gentle even if you think you can do much more. Don’t fight your brain and intellectual side. 
  • Your focus should be on restorative and gentle yoga poses. 
  • Avoid intense core work, hot yoga, and hardcore vinyasa.
  • Focus on poses that are centering and grounding.
  • Breathe! Work on long, slow, and steady breaths to help give you a better sense of balance. 
  • Most importantly, don’t be discouraged. Remember you can go back to everything you did earlier but with time.

How long does postpartum yoga last?

It’s hard to say as every woman is different and everyone’s experience is individual to them and their circumstances, but I would say after the 4th-month postpartum one can easily resume all activities fully with regard to yoga. 

I recommend slowly easing back into hot yoga, core work, and kapalabhati around 6 months postpartum at the very least. 

Top 5 recommended postpartum yoga poses

1. Legs up the wall

This is one of the best poses a new mom can do. It’s easy, suitable for all levels, and all types of birth. Also, it’s extremely accessible (I mean who doesn’t have a wall at home) and zero fuss. 

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Arundhati doing a variation of legs up the wall in this picture. If you don’t have a block, just find a wall and prop your legs up on it

When to do it?

You can do this literally any time of the day or night. I recommend doing it at least twice a day if you can or make it a routine with your baby’s nap time, especially when you feel drained and are wanting energy. 

Duration of the pose?

Postpartum moms don’t have much free time, but this pose is a real gem. Recommendations are 15 to 20 minutes. I promise you it will be worth your time and effort. 

Anything else?

  • Find a quiet spot to do this if possible.
  • No TVs or cell phones around or other children.
  • Cover your eyes with a towel if possible or dim the lights.
  • Keep warm and throw a blanket over your feet.
  • Stay for as long as you can and come out of it quietly and slowly.

2. Gomukhasana

I chose this pose for two reasons- it’s zero fuss and available to do anywhere which is my number one priority with postpartum yoga for new moms. The second reason is a more physical yoga-related reason. New moms are overworking their arms and shoulders breast-feeding and carrying their new baby. This accentuated curve in the thoracic spine is a result of poor use of the shoulder joint. It can reduce confidence, causes inefficient breathing, and hinders your mood. A simple pose like this (the arm part of the pose) is a gentle shoulder and chest opener and feels great for the new mom. 

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An easy and accessible shoulder opener for nursing moms

When to do it?

Again, do it anytime you can fit it in, day or night. Use a strap, a towel, or whatever you can find if you can’t get your hands to connect. 

Duration of the pose?

Hold for 30 seconds on each side and repeat twice or thrice in one session. It’s best to do after nursing or putting the baby to sleep. 

3. Cat pose (variation)

This pose brings movement to the spine. A new mom’s posture is compromised with the physical demands placed on her in her new lifestyle. Simple poses like this bring’s the movement to the spine and the entire body, helps get rid of stiffness, is zero fuss, and you don’t need anything additional to do this pose. It will leave you feeling great so it’s a win-win on all fronts.

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A simple cat pose modification that gets the whole body moving with minimal energy expenditure

When to do it?

Anytime you can fit it in, but if I had to choose, I would say do it in the morning after you wake up is most beneficial as that’s typically when your back is stiff. The next best time would be to do it before bed to release any strains built up from the day. 

Duration of the pose?

2 rounds of 10 repetitions each, once a day. Add your breath to make this extra rewarding! Inhale and hold, exhale when switching.

4. Downward facing dog

This pose is one of my all-time favorites because it is so versatile. In the context of yoga for postpartum moms, this pose helps to combat fatigue which new moms have an excess off. Apart from this, it helps rest the heart and brings about a deep sense of calm and control that every postpartum mom will love to experience. 

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Downward dog is excellent for energy restoration and calms the mind down

When to do it?

Anytime. Remember postpartum yoga needs to be zero fuss for it to be successful. Try avoiding this pose right after a heavy meal though. 🙂

Duration of the pose?

Depends on the capacity of the person doing the pose. Hold for 3 to 5 slow rounds of breath and do this pose twice or thrice for a full experience of it, if possible. If you’re skilled enough in yoga to put a block under your forehead correctly, this would be even more beneficial. 

5. Wide leg standing forward fold

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This mild inversion relaxes the mind and the nervous system

A grounding yet simple pose. A mild inversion that helps with energy restoration, removes fatigue and worry. Improves mood, enhances circulation and slows down respiration. Just stand with feet wide apart, ground your feet and fold at the hips. Let the head hang effortlessly. Use support under your hands with blocks if knees bend.

When to do it?

Anytime! Anywhere! Really that easy.

Duration of the pose?

If you’ve got 5 minutes, that’s great. If you’ve got 10 minutes, even better! Once a day is plenty. 

So, there you have it. My favorite postpartum yoga recommendations for new moms. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve tried these or if you have something else that’s worked well for you. 

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