New parenthood, and in particular new motherhood can be an all consuming time in our lives, and so it should be, a new soul has just entered our existence and will be an integral part of our journey forever more. How can we nurture and support ourselves during this time when often all our energy is being diverted to our children.
It is during this intense and keenly focused time that we need to remember that in order to effectively care for others we need to make sure we are caring for ourselves. More often then not the quiet interceptive time that we previously allocated to yoga practice has all but vanished. It is a time of immense change and feeling time short. This in itself can make the concept of returning to the mat feel impossible; be patient with yourself and with your baby, give yourself a babymoon for as long as it needs, the time availability to return to your mat will emerge eventually if you set the intention. It is important of course to be flexible, understand that time solo on the mat may be significantly shorter then what you are use to and it maybe interrupted.
If you have a local mums and bubs yoga class, check it out, it will be an amazing space to meet like minded mums and pick up some breath (pranayam), asana (postures) and relaxation (mediation) practices that are safe, suitable and focused on where you are physically, emotionally and mentally at this time. For a home practice, consider bringing your baby to the mat with you, maybe not every time, but a couple of times a week. Think of it as a time to nurture both you and bub at the same time while helping to establish your connection and bond.
Take a few deep belly breaths together with either baby sitting in your lap or your hands resting on their belly if they are lying in front of you on the ground. Concentrate on drawing the breath deeply down expanding the belly on the inhale and then contracting and drawing both the belly and pelvic floor up and in on the exhale. To really connect and draw baby into the practice consider starting with a short baby massage before moving onto an practice more deeply focused on yourself.
Spend a few minutes releasing tight shoulders and neck, Garudasana and Gomukasana arms are both fantastic poses for this. Cat - Cow series is a wonderful simple yet effective movement to bring awareness back to the pelvic floor and start to regain strength and integrity to the abdominal muscles - make sure to engage the pelvic floor as you exhale up into cat. Baby can lie between the hands as you flow from one position to the other.
Another simple series that will start to return strength to the whole body is to move from hands and knees table top to adho muka svanasana to a supported plank (knees down) and back down into adho mukha virasana. You can flow through this series or you can take a few breaths in each pose concentrating on building strength. A block can be held between the knees if extra stability is need for the pelvis. Again, baby can rest in between the hands as you move through the poses.
Make sure to remain cautious for at least 6 - 12 months with any deep wide legged or asymmetrical legged poses. In the postnatal period we look to re-stablise and draw in the breadth created in the pelvis through pregnancy and birth. Their is a great deal of relaxin hormone, particularly in breastfeeding mothers, still running through the body making overstretch and strain a very real risk. Sometimes, simply practicing tadasana as a standing pose will be enough to bring awareness to posture (or incorrect posture) that can be squed significantly through the repeated actions of feeding and carrying a baby.
Often Shavasana at the end of a practice with a baby is either cut short or skipped. If bub has had enough and not enthused to lie down with you don’t dismay, take the opportunity to feed a hungry baby (in however that presents for you) and use this time to really tune in with firstly them and then into your own body and breath. If they are tired, take the time help them to sleep and then take 10 mins for yourself to stop, settle and come back to your breath (even if they happen to be sleeping on you)