6 Stress-Busting Yoga Poses For New Moms

Health & Wellness on 05.03.11
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Photo: brad.coy/Creative Commons

Does this sound familiar to you? In the weeks after giving birth to my first child, I found myself exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to adapt to the enormous demands of taking care of myself and my newborn. By week two or three, I fell so sick that I required antibiotics. In fact, as the winter days blurred into one another, I realized I was slipping into depressive funk brought on by the huge changes in my life.

Combatting the ‘baby blues’, postpartum depression & fatigue

According to studies, the so-called transitory ‘baby blues’ affect up to 80% of new mothers, with 5% to 25% suffering more serious forms of postpartum depression (PPD) past the first couple of months. 

Though there’s many ways to fight postpartum depression, what can be most helpful for new moms is to incorporate a few time-outs throughout the day (or whenever they can) to consciously relax and do some simple stretches, even if you are just sitting. 

To combat postpartum blues and fatigue, here are some quick and easy stretches that you can try. You can mix these up or add more for a combination of your own. Keep in mind however, that in the early weeks after giving birth, your body is still recovering -- especially after a C-section -- so strenuous exercise is not recommended. So be gentle on yourself and keep connected to your body awareness by allowing your breathing to flow rhythmically. Any sign of discomfort or labored breathing is a signal from your body to ease up a bit. The key is to focus consciously on each movement, without straining.

And of course, always consult your health practitioner before beginning any exercise program. Now, drumroll, please...

6 Simple Stress-Busting Poses

1. Neck Rolls

This is an easy one, allowing you to relax areas that may be tensed up from breastfeeding or holding your baby for long periods. You can do this while standing or seated cross-legged on the floor. Begin on an exhalation by bringing your chin towards your chest. Stay there for a couple of breaths, feeling the back of the neck become more open and long. Slowly bring the left ear toward the left shoulder in a slow and smooth ‘rolling’ movement. Stay here a few breaths and repeat for the other side. Do as many repititions you feel are needed.

2. Simple Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

Another great pose for opening up the upper back and easing breastfeeding-related shoulder and upper-back tensions. You can stand or sit with the legs crossed and can omit the hooking of the legs from the original pose. Start by bringing the arms out front, then hooking the right arm and elbow under the left. Remain here for several breaths as the space between the shoulder blades begins to open up. Keep the chin level if you feel any compression in the back of your neck. After several breaths, release your arms to your sides and relax. Switch arms, hooking the left arm under the right.

3. Shoulder Shrugs

This is also wonderful for correcting bad posture due to breastfeeding. Start by standing with the feet hip-width apart, hands near the shoulders but not touching, and elbows open and pointing away from the body. As you inhale, begin doing little circles backwards with the elbows. Try to coordinate with the breath (inhaling with the top of each elbow circle and opening of chest, exhaling as the elbows go down). Do 10 to 15 repetitions forwards and backwards, taking the time to really focus on the movements.

4. Side Bends

These help to increase flexibility of the spine, bring energy to tired bodies while also relieving lower back pain from picking up your growing baby. You can stand or sit for this pose. Begin by inhaling and elongating the spine a little. Raise your right arm overhead (you may have to lower the right shoulder to  keep your neck area feeling comfortable). If doing this while seated cross-legged, use the other arm placed about 12 inches from the body to help stabilize you. Inhale again, lengthening up, and on the exhale, slowly bend your torso to the left. You don’t have to go very far, just make sure you are not collapsing into your bend by keeping both feet ‘grounded’ and pushing the right hip out a little. Stay here a few breaths or whatever is comfortable, and on an inhale, slowly come up to center. Exhale and return the arm to your side. Repeat on the other side.

5. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

This restorative pose helps increase circulation of the lymphatic system, aiding your overall immune response, and also allows the legs, feet and heart to rest, since it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood. Begin by sitting with your back to the wall and legs tucked underneath you. Slowly roll to one side, coming onto your back and simultaneously swinging your legs up the wall. Ensure that your bottom is a few inches away from the wall, with your hands a comfortable distance away from the body and with the palms facing up. Allow yourself to completely relax, staying here for as long as you like. To come out, bend your knees toward the chest, and gradually roll to one side, allowing your body to re-adjust. Stay here for a few breaths, then come back up to a seated posture.

6. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This is a simple and essential pose to end any practice, assisting you in absorbing all the benefits of any preceding poses. On the floor, come to a lying position on your back, with the feet at least hip-width apart and the arms about 12 inches away from the body, palms facing up. The feet are relaxed, and the eyes can be closed. Bring your awareness to your breath, allowing it to flow naturally. Scan your body mentally, and consciously relax any tensions you may find. Stay in this position as long as you feel necessary or find time for.

And the most simple stress-buster there is? Taking a deep breath in and out, centering yourself and remembering that all this, too, shall pass.