The miracle of life does not come cheap. Giving birth takes a significant toll on a woman’s body. A lot of women worry about getting back into shape after their pregnancy. This brings up the questions relating to postnatal exercise: when is a good time to start? What are the best exercises? Is it safe to exercise? Many women turn to yoga because it is not effort intensive, and is a low-impact exercise.
Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy. This is why exercising improves your mood, puts you in a better frame of mind and is very good for your physiological being. Exercising will also increase your aerobic fitness. Being a mother is not just mentally but physically demanding as well. Postnatal exercises will make you fit enough to deal with the physical demands of motherhood.
Benefits of Post Partum Yoga
The most common reason why many women turn to yoga for their post-partum fitness is that it is a low-impact exercise. This means it does not put excessive pressure on any part of the body. Here are some of the other benefits of post-partum yoga.
- Yoga acts not only on your physical but also your mental health. It is a relaxing form of exercise that lays a lot of emphasis on slow and deep breathing. This makes it ideal to calm down a nervous newmom’s mind! This will also build your patience.
- Yoga helps improve your posture and strengthens the spine. This is especially important in the postnatal stage; pregnancy alters your posture, stance, sleeping position and walk. It will take time for your body to ‘forget’ that it is no longer pregnant, and to come back to its original, natural posture. Yoga will help you do this.
- Unlike many weight-loss exercises that focus only on reducing ‘weight’ and ‘inches’, yoga also brings about muscle toning. So all those stretch marks can potentially disappear with regular yoga. Your muscles will also develop stronger and more flexible.
- You will see that along with weight-loss, yoga will also work on your metabolic processes. Yoga focuses on improving and optimising body processes, which in-turn automatically lead to improved overall health. And with improved metabolism, comes steady and sustained weight-loss.
With so many benefits, what’s the catch? Consistency.
Because yoga works on a deeper level than just your ‘size’, the weight-loss benefits of yoga are seen only after a couple of months of exercise. However, it is of utmost importance that you be consistent in your pursuit.
Consider yoga analogous to brushing your teeth. It takes only a few minutes to brush your teeth every day, but if you keep missing out on it, you are sure to incur teeth problems. So, good teeth health comes from brushing your teeth every single day. Similarly, the benefits of yoga for postpartum weight loss will be seen only if you practice yoga consistently, without missing a day.
Yoga Tips for Postpartum Weight Loss After Normal Delivery
If you had a normal delivery, likely you have no physical restrictions. The body tends to cope better and faster in the postnatal period following a vaginal or normal delivery, rather than a C-section. With respect to exercise, this translates into more freedom to do different kinds of exercises, and better momentum in increasing duration as well as the difficulty level of your work-out.
Irrespective of what kind of delivery you have had, every woman is advised to wait for a period of 4 to 6 weeks before she starts with a fitness routine. It is also important that your fitness regime get the green signal from your doctor.
If you have been an active woman who was regularly exercising during and before your pregnancy, your body will come out of the nine-month pregnancy limbo faster, allowing you to start exercising as early as within a month. However, if you are a novice to exercising, it is best you give your body some time to heal itself, before again pushing it to work hard.
Postnatal yoga focuses on three main regions of the female body:
- the pelvic floor
- the uterus
- the core
These are the three main body-parts that have undergone a tremendous transformation during your pregnancy. Yoga will help you restore the former size, shape, functionality and health of these parts.
Some of the yoga poses you can try after a normal delivery are listed below.
The Crescent Moon Pose (Anjaneyasana)
Get into a lunge position. Make sure the foot of your forward leg is pointing straight. The foot of your back leg should be at a 90-degree angle to your front foot. Turn your torso to the right, away from your forward leg. Raise your arm above your head and arch your back to the side, towards your back leg. This post will help you stretch out your abs.
The Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
The camel pose will help you stretch both your shoulders and your abs. Get down on your knees. Keep your hips straight and directly above your knees. Then arch backwards and put your palms on your ankles. If this feels too intense you can try one hand at a time.
The King Pigeon Pose (Raja Kapotasana)
Sit on the floor, with one leg folded, and the other stretched behind you. Fold the stretched leg to raise it above the floor. Arch your back, extend both your hands above your head, and hold the raised foot.
The Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Stretch your legs apart. Turn one of your feet through 90-degree, so that it is pointing away from your body. Stretch your arms out, such that they are in straight line with your shoulders. Now bend on the side of the turned foot, and touch the ground. Finally, tilt your head and look at the arm above your head.
Yoga Tips for Postpartum Weight Loss After C Section
If you have had a C-section, it is important to take due precautions while exercising in the postnatal phase. As mentioned before, a rest period of 4 to 6 weeks is crucial, especially post a C-section delivery. While it is good that you are motivated about doing yoga, you may have to start slow with just walking. On your doctor's approval, you may also consider swimming.
Only after your stitches have healed completely will you be able to switch to a complete yoga routine. However, don’t be discouraged by this. It is a good idea to start with simple asanas to ease your body into the workout.
While you would want to work on the same three body parts as listed above (viz. the pelvic floor, the uterus and the core), you will have to take due precaution for your stitches. The following yogasanas are safe from this point of view and can be performed post a C-section delivery.
The Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This postnatal yoga pose is similar to the downward dog. Set your feet apart and put your hands on the floor with your palms flat and facing down. Let your forearms also touch the ground. Lift your hips and keep your back straight. You are forming a triangle with your legs, torso and the floor. This pose will help you increase the strength of your upper body.
The Forward Bend (Padangusthasana)
Take a wide stance and then bend forward from the waist. Stretch your arms out behind your back and bring your palms together. This pose will help you loosen your hamstrings and also targets the lower back and shoulder. Lowering your head below your hips will also make your feel very refreshed, thanks to all the blood rushing to your head.
The Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Lie down on your stomach. Place your palms near your chest. Pressing your palms down, lift your upper body on your hands, to the point that your waist is off the floor. Look straight ahead.
The Mountain Pose – Raised Bound Hands (Tadasana Urdhva Baddha Hastasana)
Stand straight with your feet joined. Raise your hands to join the palms over your head. Stretch your entire body, such that your spine is completely straight.
FAQ's on Postnatal Yoga
When can I start doing yoga post-pregnancy?
The minimum period you should wait for after your delivery before you start any kind of exercise regime is 1 month. Depending on your case, you may be able to start exercising within a month, or you may be advised by your gynaecologist to take some more rest.
How long should I do yoga every day?
To begin with, you may practice 2 repetitions of each asana mentioned above, lasting 30-seconds each. As your endurance and strength increases, you may increase repetitions, duration of each repetition, and may even consider doing other asanas.
What should I wear while doing yoga?
It is important to wear clothes that can stretch, and will not restrict your body movement in any way. Also pick clothes that will allow your skin to breathe and are not too tight, especially around your chest, and waist.
What diet should I follow while doing yoga?
Since you have just given birth, it would be ideal to follow a healthy postnatal diet consisting of fresh home-cooked meals and lots of fresh fruits. Make sure you don’t skip breakfast post-pregnancy
and stay away from processed foods, colas, caffeine, fried foods, and alcohol. Also Read: Detox Vegetable Soup Recipe
What other precautions should I take while doing postnatal yoga?
- Invest in a good yoga mat.
- Do not exercise on an empty stomach. If nothing else, have a fruit, or some dry fruits or nuts.
- Keep sipping on water and do not allow your body to get dehydrated during the workout.
- Do not push your limits! Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
- If you plan to wear shoes, check the grip of the shoes on the floor on which you will be doing yoga to minimise slipping accidents.
- Do not hold your breath at any point (unless it is the specific requirement of the asana). Remember to keep breathing in and out.
- Ensure you get enough sleep to reap complete benefits of your exercise routine and to also control urges to binge-eat.
Yoga to Cope Up with Postpartum Depression
Yoga is part of ancient wisdom in India. Many great sages have documented and propagated the umpteen benefits of yoga. While we may not understand what they wrote in their ancient languages, science has, over past several years, taken a keen interest in yoga, and is confirming what our sages and saints have been saying since a long time ago!
The physical benefits of yoga – or any kind of exercise for that matter – are pretty evident and measurable too. But according to recent research, yoga can help significantly reduce baby blues and can help mothers cope with postpartum depression. Not only that, it has also been discovered in several other studies that yoga can help combat prenatal depression as well.
The most pinpoint discovery made, however, is the fact that yoga can be used as a method to control and curb ruminative thoughts in depressed women. Depression tends to set people in a state of ‘brooding’ where the mind gets latched onto negative thoughts and keeps ruminating on them. However, ‘mindful’ yoga and meditation can help you work on bringing this situation under control.
There lies promise in exploring yoga to treat other mental disorders too, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and many more, based on several preliminary and extensive trials and research carried out.
Indeed, yoga seems to be good not just for pregnant women and new mothers, but for all of us! If we all practised at least 25 to 30 minutes of yoga every day, we would all be able to live a fuller life! We wish you all the best, and cannot wait to hear your 'yogic' stories in the comments below - do tell us what results from you get! With inputs from 1, 2, 3.