Many expectant moms eventually slow down their regular fitness routines and incorporate a pre-natal yoga practice into their daily or weekly exercise, in preparation for the arrival of their baby. Pre-natal yoga helps to encourage safe movement, relaxation, breathing techniques and an overall openness of muscles and joints. Following baby’s arrival, it is important to rest and only resume activity after clearance from a doctor or medical professional.
You may see a lot of pre-natal yoga classes available, but how does post-natal yoga differ? Should you just join a regular yoga class not specifically designated for post-natal yoga students if a specialized class isn’t available? If so, which classes are best or safe? What about mom and baby yoga? These are normal questions to have, with all of the sometimes confusing options available.
There are a few important aspects to consider when returning to a fitness routine after giving birth:
- Allow appropriate time to heal. Returning too soon can cause lengthier healing times and actually slow your progress.
- You will still have hormones in your system from pregnancy that make you more flexible, especially around major joints so it is important to not go too deep into poses or over stress your body during any exercises.
- Your body has experienced changes in a short period of time. Have patience with yourself and your fitness progress and you transform.
If you are lucky enough to join a post-natal class that works with your schedule, you can expect to work on poses that bring stability back into your pelvis and core, strengthen and release tension in the shoulders and arms, and build strength in both the abdomen and pelvic floor. Additionally the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers points out that, “mindfulness of body alignment, correct breathing, and focusing on correct movement patterns will have an effect on interabdominal pressure essential for increasing strength and recovery [for postpartum women]. This translates into simply standing, sitting, nursing or holding a baby.” The overall positive impacts are countless.
Mom and baby classes are a specialized type of post-natal yoga that encourages you to bring your baby to class, as the name suggests. This allows you more flexibility in fitting some exercise into your day and provides a supportive, social environment that can be beneficial for both mind and body. Having baby join yoga has the added benefit of developing their motor skills, helping with sleep patterns and finding new ways to bond.
If you don’t have any specific post-natal options for yoga, what should you do?
- Go to yoga anyways! Join a beginner class (even if you aren’t a beginner), gentle yoga or vinyasa flow if you are ready to start moving somewhat faster in your practice. Regardless of the class you choose, inform your yoga instructor that you are postpartum and discuss any modifications available and goals you have for your practice.
- Take it at your own pace! Your body will still be experiencing changes day by day, so one exercise that feels good today may not serve your body best the next. Give yourself permission to take breaks and rest during your practice. First and foremost, listen to your body.
- Ask for advice from professionals! Talk to your yoga instructor and consider hiring a personal trainer specialized in post-natal exercise. These instructors can be a wealth of information and valuable resource for exercise and pose ideas to work towards your optimal fitness after giving birth.
As with anything, make sure to do your research about classes, get recommendations from other moms, and ask if your yoga instructor or personal trainer has formal training for post-natal care. The NCCPT reminds personal trainers that, “our job as fitness professionals and educators is to know better, do better and assist people in creating not just a foundation, but a progression toward optimal strength and recovery. Each person is different and will have a different path postpartum.” Make sure to work with a supportive professional that will tailor a fitness routine to your exact needs. You can also find more information and personal trainers through the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers at www.nccpt.com.