Postnatal Restorative Yoga
Let’s talk about the 4th trimester. By weeks 4-6 you are likely getting your footing and starting to adjust to this new life. At this point you may have checked in with your care provider and gotten the clearance to start to add more physical activity back into your life.
Postnatal yoga is an amazing and mindful way to start to reconnect with your body as you restore lost strength and address tightness and tension of new parenthood. Who knew feeding a baby could be such a literal pain in the neck?!
Plus, postnatal yoga can be a place to connect to your community. Sitting among other parents who are moving through the same stage of life as you can feel incredibly supportive!
What is restorative yoga?
Restorative yoga is yoga that is focused more on the ability to get quiet, slow down and relaxed. Students are well supported with props so the long holds in the poses don’t strain or pull on the joints. This offers the body a passive way to stretch and open.
How does postnatal restorative yoga help?
At Prenatal Yoga Center, our postnatal yoga classes are 90 minutes which always includes 8-10 minutes of restorative yoga at the end. It’s funny, because I get two reactions when students learn that restorative poses are incorporated into the class. They are either immediately excited for the chance to have a long rest at the end of class. Or disappointed that some of their yoga practice will be “less of a workout”. But the funny thing is, it is always the students who walk in wanting to power through and work hard that most appreciate the chance to be still and quiet at the end.
Postpartum is a time of huge change. Whether this is your first child or adding another family member to an already established family, there is transition and the demands of a newborn. Postnatal restorative offers the rare moment to rest and replenish before heading back into the demands role of “parent”.
The poses I choose for postnatal restorative are to help with chest opening, release the upper back and neck and relax the lower back and hips.
What poses offer the most benefit in postnatal yoga?
There are so many individual poses that are incorporated into postnatal yoga. When organizing a postnatal yoga class I make sure to include poses that address the psoas which is often overly used and tight, poses and breath work to balance the pelvic floor, transverse abdominal exercises, strengthening and releasing the posterior chain (think hamstrings, hips, glutes, back muscles and neck tightness), chest opening poses and of course, a myriad of restorative poses.
If you only have a few minutes and want to create a quick postnatal yoga flow, I would recommend:
- Cat/cow and rocking cat/cow to address chest opening and lower back muscles
- Passive psoas stretch on your back with a block under your sacrum and one leg extended forward
- 360 breathing
- Bird dog
- Support fish if there is no diastasis
- Supta baddhakonasna
- Figure 4 on your back
When should you start postnatal yoga?
In general, for a vaginal birth, I recommend students wait until their bleeding has stopped, which is 4-6 weeks. For a cesarean birth, students should wait until 6 weeks or they get clearance from their care provider.
On the flip side, there is no cut off time when you need to leave postnatal yoga. I have had students stay for years simply because they like a well rounded vinyasa class focused the strains on a parent’s body. We strengthen areas that tend to be weak and relax areas that tend to be tight and strained. Our classes also always include work on the transverse abdominals and pelvic floor balancing which is not something you see in general vinyasa classes
Can yoga be good for postpartum?
Yoga can be such a nutritioning and balancing practice for the postpartum person. During pregnancy, there are enormous changes to the body- exaggerated spinal curves, the pelvis and ribcage widen, pelvic floor muscles have been affected by pregnancy, lengthened abdominal muscles, often tight, strained and weak back muscles. All these changes need to be addressed in postpartum. The body for many, does not just simply “bounce back’.
So in postnatal yoga, we focus on safely and effectively addressing all these areas that need strengthening and releasing tension from the areas that are now tight and overused during early parenthood.
Conclusion - Why Postnatal Yoga Is Right For You
I’ve always thought of my time on my yoga mat as my mental vacation. When I focus on the details of the poses and create an awareness of my breath, all the many tasks on my to-do list fade away. I emerge feeling more grounded and ready to pick up where I left off in my day and with my family.
As a new parent with new responsibilities, your time on the mat can be about giving back to yourself, truly taking care of your mental, emotional and physical needs. So when class ends you will have so much more to give to those who need you.
Deb Flashenberg is the founder and director of the Prenatal Yoga Center in NYC. Along with being a prenatal yoga teacher, she is also a labor support doula, Lamaze childbirth educator, mother of two and self proclaimed "birth and anatomy geek”. For the past 7 years, Deb has also greatly enjoyed being the host of the podcast, Yoga | Birth | Babies, where she speaks with some of the world’s leading experts in pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenthood. Currently, Deb is knee deep in Dr. Sarah Duvall’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist program and pursuing the Spinning Babies Parent Educator certification and loving every minute of it!