Carrying a child is life-altering. Unexpected and varied emotions perpetually arise, while our hormones shift and fluctuate almost constantly.
There’s deep joy in child birth, but what happens when that ecstatic feeling goes away? Or what happens if you don’t immediately feel bonded to your baby? It is certainly not what people talk about. We’re told that women are supposed to be overjoyed and delirious with love after having a baby, but often this is not the case.
What then? I struggled with postpartum depression with both of my children and I found that yoga was a huge component to my healing. It was through the practice that I was able to sit with myself and understand the crazy current that was coursing through me. When struggling with the ‘baby blues,’ or postpartum, women tend to get closed off and despondent. These yoga poses can help sweetly bring a new mother into a comfortable safe place while allowing for some heart opening. The sequence of poses below is designed to generate a feeling of calmness and protection; forward folding poses elicit tranquility and relaxation, heart openers relieve pain and swelling which come from breast feeding as well as holding the baby. Shoulders will tend to roll inward because of the natural urge to protect our little one, and many of the poses here remind the body to hold fast to its strength and structure.
Sit with bent knees allowing your torso to fold forward towards the knees, let your arms rest on either side with the palms facing up and your forehead on the ground.
Come to your hands and knees make sure that your hands are underneath your shoulders then begin to round the spine like a cat, pressing into the upper cervical spine to get a nice stretch throughout the neck.
Staying on your hands and knees, arch the spine and gaze up at the sky, stick out the tail, and kiss the shoulder blades together.
Press through the hands and feet lifting the knee caps, making a V shape with the body. Make sure that your hands are shoulder-width apart and that your index fingers and hands are pressed firmly into the ground. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your heels reaching down to the ground. It’s nice to peddle push the legs to open up the backs of the thighs. Bend the left knee then the right knee. On an exhale extend both legs backward trying to lengthen through the fronts of your thighs.
Hang down over both legs, you can soften the backs of your knees and allow the sit bones to begin to tilt towards the sky. Grab opposite elbows allowing the weight of your torso to fold you forward. Allow the belly to remain soft, make sure that you are not holding any tension in the neck or head. Relax your jaw.
Related: Care for You
Forward Fold Variation
Stay folding forward with the knees soft, interlace the hands behind you and begin to reach your fists away from your spine opening up the heart center. This stretch is particularly good if you are breast feeding.
Mountain Pose Variation
Stand tall like a mountain, bring your toes and heels to touch. Firmly plant your feet on the ground. Lift your knee caps to firm up the legs. Place your hands on your heart center, close the eyes, and breathe into your heart for four deep breaths.
Keeping your feet firmly planted into the earth, reach the arms over head as palms press in a prayer. Gaze up at the hands and elongate through the sides of the body.
Take the soles of the feet to touch and recline backwards over a bolster or pillow if you have one, or simply rest the spine long on the mat. After birthing a baby the lower back is often tight from the hours of pushing through labor, and the hips can experience all sorts of pain and tightness from the process. This posture is restorative and nurturing on both an energetic and physical level. Try not to muscle through it, just let the body relax into it.
Head to Knee Pose
Extend the left leg forward, draw the right heel deeper into the pubic bone with the right knee open to the side. Fold over the extended leg, and relax. Repeat to both sides.
Related: A Yoga Sequence to Balance the Body
Seated Forward Fold
Fold forward over both straightened legs, let go. Stay here for at least 10 breaths. This pose will also aid in stretching out your lower back. It is also calming, a nice way to work on your breath and begin to slow down.
Take rest, laying with a blanket over you and something to cover the eyes. This is quintessential, you are taking care of another human being, you need time for you, to let go. Rest and give back to you.
Photos by Matt Roy