In the book Doing Work You Love, Cheryl Gilman says “Yoga is meditation in motion. It is an ancient Indian discipline made up of a series of gentle movements and postures (held positions) that release endorphins (the “bliss” hormone) and rid the body of muscle tensions. Endorphins create a sense of well-being and centeredness.” Sounds like the perfect practice for the postpartum period, doesn’t it? Releasing endorphins during the postpartum period through yoga will help reduce a mother’s risk of becoming overwhelmed and the chance of developing postpartum depression. After a mother’s body and joints have been stretched, compressed, and shifted during pregnancy yoga is a great way to gently realign and regain strength. Practicing yoga also allows
new mothers to take time out of their busy day to focus on their bodies and breathing. During a time when all the focus in the home is likely placed on the newborn, yoga creates an atmosphere in which the new mom can focus on herself.
Note: Postpartum mothers should of course receive approval from their doctor before beginning a yoga routine.
On the same note, yoga can be wonderful for fathers during the postpartum period as well. Often times when a new baby is brought into the home, dads feel neglected and as though everything now revolves around the new member of the family. Just as yoga allows mothers to focus on their bodies and their breathing, fathers who practice yoga also receive a good dose of “me time”. New fathers may be feeling overwhelmed by new responsibilities that come along with the arrival of a new baby. Yoga allows the time-out parents need to gather their thoughts and put everything in perspective, while doing something beneficial for their body!
Just as new parents benefit from yoga, so do babies! According to Karma Kids Yoga, “babies are natural yogis. They develop through natural yoga poses which can aid in their gross and fine motor skills.” Karma Kids Yoga also states the following as benefits of yoga for babies (some state benefits for the parents practicing with their baby, as the baby cannot practice yoga on their own J):
- Yoga helps to improve sleeping patterns both in duration and frequency, as well as encourages sleeping through the night
- Yoga poses and stretches for infants aid in digestion, and relief of constipation, gas, and colic
- Yoga promotes bonding between parents and babies
- Soothing techniques teach parents to help babies calm themselves
- Yoga increases body awareness, both for parents and babies
- Yoga reduces stress, both for parents and baby
- Baby Yoga creates balance between strength and flexibility in developing bodies, so they grow strong and maintain the flexibility they are born with
- Initiates social interaction in a non-competitive environment for both babies and new parents – it’s a great way to meet other new Moms and Dads.
Throughout the country, many Mommy and Me Yoga and Daddy and Me Yoga (these classes may be a bit harder to find, but trust me they do exist!) classes are offered at local yoga centers and recreation centers. Take some time to explore classes in your area today! Even if you have never practiced yoga before, after reading the benefits of yoga for both parents and babies, why would you hesitate to give it a try!?
If you cannot find a class in your area, here are a few poses you can practice at home, as described on www.babyzone.com:
- Half Wheel Pose (Setu Bandhasana): Lie on your back with your knees
bent and your feet on the floor, your knees in line with your feet. Sit
your baby on your abdomen and support her under her armpits with your
hands (her seat should be at your belly button). Keeping your feet firmly
planted, press your shoulders into the floor and lift up your hip bones.
Hold, then slowly roll back down until your spine is on the floor. Repeat.
Be sure to keep your abdominal muscles active and tight throughout the
pose. Half Wheel Pose is especially good for relieving backaches and
strengthening the abdominals.
- Flying Child Pose: Begin by lying on your back with your feet on the floor
and your knees bent. Rest your baby on your shins (facing you) with your
hands around her ribs, fingers spread. Slowly bring your knees in towards
your face until you can kiss her on the forehead, then extend your legs
back away from your body; try to keep your legs parallel to the floor
throughout this exercise. You can add gentle bounces and swings to this
pose as you and your baby become more confident. Another variation is to
extend your feet up towards the ceiling and guide your baby in a
controlled “slide” down to your abdomen. This exercise is great
for soothing a fussy baby, strengthening your abdominal muscles, and
relaxing a tense or sore back.
- Baby Press: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees
bent. Rest your baby on your chest so that you both are belly-to-belly.
Firmly, but gently, grip her torso with your hands and lift her off your
chest until your arms are extended. (For an enjoyable variation, add
figure eights to this exercise.) Bring her back down to your chest and
repeat. This exercise strengthens your arms and shoulders.
- Navel Sweeps: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the
floor. Place your baby belly-to-belly on your chest or sit her on your
abdomen (as in Half Wheel Pose). Extend one leg outward, just off the
floor and hold a moment; then raise it slowly toward the ceiling. Bring
the leg slowly back down until it reaches the floor, and then draw the leg
in until your knee touches your chest. Repeat three to five times. This is
another good exercise for strengthening the abdominals and getting rid of
the dreaded jelly belly.
There are also a variety of DVDs available for parents who would like to practice in the privacy of their own home including:
Puma Yoga – Lakewood, Ohio
Prenatal Yoga – http://www.pumayoga.net/prenatal
For a description of all classes provided by Puma Yoga – http://www.pumayoga.net/class/descriptions
A quick look at some basic Mom and Baby Yoga moves and poses – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfUVMFdkCJ4
Prenatal Yoga – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xukpu9Ls3As
Daddy and Baby Yoga Classes (see, they exist!)
Encinitas, CA – http://www.zenbabyyoga.org/Zen-Daddy.html