The Benefits of Yoga for Mothers

You may feel many ups and downs during the early weeks after the birth – having a small person depend on you for everything brings both joys and challenges. Many women miss their independence and even feel that they have lost their own identity. Although you will cherish your baby, you may find the physical and emotional adjustments of new motherhood draining. Yoga will uplift you, restore you, and make you feel more positive about yourself and your role as a mother. It can be a support on days when you are low and on days when you are high – and most days you will feel a mixture of both!

It is quite common for women to feel somehow “disconnected” from their bodies during the early weeks after the birth. The gentle exercises will relax your shoulders and upper back, releasing the tension that you may feel if you breast feed. The breathing exercises will refuel your energy and revitalize you when you are feeling tired.

Yoga is ideal for strengthening your pelvic floor in the early weeks after giving birth, using exercises that involve the movement known in yoga as “Mula Bandha”, the contraction of the pelvic floor. The practice of “reverse breathing” draws your navel toward your spine as you exhale, tightening your abdominal muscles and toning your deep muscles. This is especially valuable if you have had a Caesarean section.

After giving birth you may feel weak overall, with tightness in your upper back and neck and pain in your lower back and pelvis.You may also suffer discomfort from an episiotomy, or tear. Gentle yoga practice, using asanas (postures and movements) applied correctly, will enable you to build up your strength and flexibility. Before starting any exercise programme, however, check with your GP.

How Will Yoga Help Me If I’ve Had a Caesarean Birth?

Your body may be feeling discomfort and restriction from the surgery of a Caesarean section. Although you will need to proceed gently, yoga will enable you to retrain your abdominal muscles, supporting and strengthening your lower back and abdominal wall – reverse breathing and pelvic floor exercises will promote recovery. You will be revitalized by breathing practices such as alternate nostril breathing, which can facilitate relaxation after giving birth and aid with recovery after surgery. As your strength develops, you can progress to exercises for strengthening your abdominal muscles with the “Fly baby fly” sequence, alternate leg raises, and the “Mini boat” pose. But do not to start any of the exercises before you have checked with your GP.

How Will Yoga Help Me Overcome Stress Incontinence?

Your pelvic floor muscles, which line the pelvis from front to back and side to side, consist of separate layers that work together. During pregnancy and vaginal birth these muscles and their supporting ligaments can become stretched and weakened. This can lead to urinary incontinence in “stress” conditions, in other words when the muscles are under increased pressure, for example when you are coughing, laughing, or straining. Regular pelvic floor exercises can help to restore continence by strengthening these muscle groups and are equally effective Whether you practise them seated, semi-squatting, or lying flat.

Tip

You will need to practice pelvic floor exercises regularly before you will feel any change. If there is no improvement, or you are in discomfort, seek medical advice: there are other treatments available.

What If I’m Experiencing Postnatal Depression?

This condition, which is often under-recognized, can be caused by a combination of factors. Having a new baby carries with it many emotional demands: as a new mother, you will experience hormonal and physical changes, tiredness, and adjustments to your home life and family relationships. It is important to know that feeling low or “having the blues” is perfectly normal in the days after giving birth. Many women feel sad, irritable, tearful, tired, or even worthless at this time. It is only when the symptoms last for weeks or months and are more severe that we might describe a mother as having clinical depression. There is no shame or blame in feeling like this, so seek professional medical help if such symptoms continue.

Yoga, although it is not a “cure-all” remedy, can offer great support to other treatments for postnatal depression. Gentle physical exercise, such as that found within yoga, is a positive counter to depression. And practising yoga with your baby brings mutual contact and interaction that will increase mother and baby bonding. Yoga routines will help you to release tensions and recharge your energy, leaving you with more to give to others and yourself. Practising yoga with your baby will bring you pleasures from small and personal moments with your baby, such as mutual activity, togetherness, and smiles, and will give you “time out” to focus on each other. If you join a local baby yoga class in addition to practising at home with your baby, you will also benefit from the friendships and support networks that you will form with other mothers.

 

Tip

Don’t struggle alone if you feel low after having a baby. Many women “have the blues” at this time and networking with others may help you. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if necessary.