Baby Om: Yoga for Moms & Babies

This is vital: Work carefully and steadily, especially at first. You probably won't have the same energy level that you had pre-pregnancy for quite a while, and you'll need to conserve and replenish the energy you do have. Remind yourself that yoga is not a race: the pace should be calm and measured rather than frenetic or strenuous. You don't need to force yourself to sit in the lotus position for an hour; nor do you need to attempt challenging or vigorous practice. There's no need to exhaust yourself (the baby will do that for you in any case). If you find yourself getting tired, slow down. Breathe more; do less. Remember, you just had a baby -- you deserve a little rest!

When we talk about breaths we mean a full cycle of breathing that includes inhalation and exhalation.

Inhale and exhale through your nose. Your lips should stay relaxed.

Generally, you inhale in an upward or arching motion and exhale into a forward bending or downward one.

The more you can coordinate movement with breathing, the better and more internal your practice will be.

Always think about drawing the navel toward the spine (unless otherwise instructed) and lifting from the pubic bone to the navel. This slight contraction engages the lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor and corrects a forward tilting pelvis. It will also help overtucking and/or overarching in the lower back.

Lifting of the pelvic floor, called mula bandha in yoga, is akin to the lifting action of Kegel exercises, which are suggested during pregnancy. An advanced practitioner keeps mula bandha lifted at all times throughout the practice. Notice the connection between lifting the pelvic floor and feeling lighter, alert and energized.

Remember that your body is three-dimensional, with a front, back, and sides, which expands in all directions as you breathe. It is common to think only of the front and back, which can make your posture stiff, so keep this image in mind as you practice.

Lengthening the front of your thighs and lifting the hips will help your pelvis shift into a more vertical alignment after having been in a forward tilt for months during pregnancy. This will also help you stand up straighter.

Lift the front of your armpits higher than your back armpits; this will open the chest and lift breast tissue that may weigh down the chest. Sliding your shoulder blades down the spine will have a similar effect of lifting the chest. Another way to find this position is to stand with your arms loosely by your sides. Then rotate your hands so that your palms face front and then out to the side. Notice how your chest opens and your shoulder blades slide back and down.

Your arms, fingers included, should be relaxed and extended. Think of your arms as an extension of your heart.

The part of the body that contacts the floor (feet, hips, knees, hands) supports the weight of the body. Make sure that weight-bearing part is receptive and steady or your pose may feel unstable.

Pay special attention to your ankles and the alignment of your feet. The ankle ligaments may be overstretched, so be very aware of your ankle and foot placement. Imagine that there is an X on the sole of your foot and each complete line of the X has equal weight. When you do this, the ankle will become naturally aligned. Another image to try is to always keep the ankles stacked vertically over the heel, especially in wide legged poses.

When the hands are weight-bearing (as in Downward Facing Dog) the fingers should be spread comfortably to support your weight. Your wrists should be parallel with the front of the mat and the middle fingers parallel to each other, and the pressure should be evenly distributed across the palm of the hand.

The rule for coming out of a pose is to retrace your steps. Come out of the pose the same way you went in to it.

Since you have spent the last nine months with your stance getting wider and wider, it will take time before it is comfortable to stand with your feet together again. We suggest you begin to work with your feet hip-width apart in tadasana, or Mountain Pose, for the first three months. Move them slightly closer for the three-to-six-month class, and by six months, work with the feet either touching or up to two inches apart. Your pelvic structure has been affected by your pregnancy and it may take a long time, up to a year, for you to stand comfortably with your feet together. If this is true for you, work where it feels stable.

This is also true in Downward Facing Dog. You may start with your feet almost mat-width apart, and by six to twelve months, work with feet hip-width apart.

The opposite applies for wide-leg standing poses like Warrior I and II, Triangle, etc. Take the first six months to gradually widen your legs to the recommended 4 to 4½ feet apart.

If your breasts are large or tender and make it difficult for you to do a pose (Lunge, for example), place your foot outside the hands (instead of between the hands) to create additional space. Other poses that may be affected by large or tender breasts are those done lying on your stomach. Place a pillow under your lower rib cage or rest your forearms if you are uncomfortable.

If it hurts to sit on the floor due to hemorrhoids, an episiotomy, or a tear of the pelvic floor due to the birth process, sit on a pillow.

Yoga practice should be an addition to your life, not something punishing or something you feel compelled to do. Relax and enjoy!

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