25 May Postnatal Yoga – How it really feels
I had my little boy just over 16 weeks ago and my yoga journey has been a very eye opening, humbling experience. Nobody tells you about how postnatal yoga feels. Here’s my experience…
I write this post with my 16 week old bundle of joy laying on my chest having a nap. Before he came into my life I loved fitness and keeping healthy. I got up at 5:35am (5:30am just felt too early) and practice half an hour of yoga or meditated. After work I then spent an hour in the gym. It was not that I felt that I had to do it, I just really enjoyed it. When I stepped onto my mat or walked into the gym, I felt motivated, strong and powerful.
When I became pregnant with my little man I continued to workout and do yoga but adapted it so it was suitable for each trimester that I was in. As well as feeling strong and motivated in the gym and on my mat, I also felt a sense of purpose. I was not just working out my health and wellbeing, but also for my unborn child. Every time I worked out or stretched on the mat I knew I was helping to make him strong and healthy as well as helping with our final marathon – the birth, that little bit easier.
Baby is Born!
Once my precious baby was born everything changed. My body had been through a very big event and it felt a little more fragile than before. Where with pregnancy, my body had changed slowly day by day over 9 months, giving birth is something that happens in a matter of hours and the sudden change causes shock on the body. Despite this, the first feeling I had after giving birth was amazement that my body had grown this tiny thing inside of it – a living, breathing human being with finger nails and everything – what a clever body!
The first couple of weeks my whole body ached. I felt like I had just done the most intense workout of my life. When I said to my midwife about it she said to me “Your muscles will feel sore, it’s like you just ran a marathon” – yup, that’s definitely how I felt! I messaged my friend who had run the marathon before and said “I now know how feel!!”
Along with, I was breastfeeding which was totally new to both me and William. This meant hours of focusing on the task, slouching over to help him get in the right position to feed and not hurt me. This then brought on lots of upper back and neck pain. I was so stiff and sore all over I just had to rest and focus on my baby.
First Practice Back
After 6 weeks had passed, I was in a little routine with William and my body wasn’t feeling so stiff, so I decided to get back on my mat. When I first stepped onto my mat, it felt ever so strange. I stood there for a while wiggling my toes and looking at the baby sleeping beside my mat and wondered what to do. I didn’t really know this body anymore so how should I treat it? What did it like to do? What poses could it do and not do? I knew that you had to be careful with your body after having a baby and I had been given the all clear from the doctor. I decided there was only one thing I could do – start from the beginning.
I started with a forward bend. Not too bad. Into a Downward Facing Dog – relax the shoulders! Down into Childs pose – ahh relax! Everything felt strange because I no longer had a big bump in front of my which prevented me from doing a lot of things. I moved through a series of gentle movements to warm my body up. When I moved myself into plank I realised just how much my body had changed. As plank is one of the poses you need to avoid during pregnancy yoga I hadn’t done it for around 10 months. My arms were so shaky and my core felt weak. I knew that Chaturanga was completely out of the question so lowered my knees. When I tried to move into Upward Facing Dog my back felt as stiff as a board and my shoulders immediately rose. Straight away I knew this was something to work on so not letting my ego get the better of me, I graciously moved into Cobra and eased my back into the back bend.
Over the coming weeks I moved slowly and with care into different poses that felt good on my body. I had no need to do anything fancy and no interest in it either! I enjoyed taking care of my body and allowing it time to mend and heal. I moved in and out of plank, building up my arm and core strength but remained in Cobra and always put my knees down before performing the Chaturanga.
My Healing Journey
Slowly over time I began to move more, stretch more and workout more. My body stopped feeling so tense and it got used to caring for a baby that it relaxed when feeding and holding my beautiful baby boy. I knew that I had made massive progress when after a little abdominal strengthening sequence my body told me it wanted Upward Facing Dog as a counter pose. I held that pose and it felt glorious. My arms felt strong, my shoulders were relaxed and it eased out the abdominal work I had just done.
I knew at that point that my healing journey had come on along way. There had been no forcing it, holding upward facing dog for hours, willing my back to bend. I had not kept going even though my back ached and my shoulders raised. I had just left it alone and eased into a different pose. Over time my body had healed and released which allowed me to go into Upward Facing Dog when it was ready.
It is important to be kind on our body. We cannot achieve the poses we wish with force, anger and tension. We must remain gentle, patient and soft. When we let go of the ego and listen to what our body really needs it can surprise us and reward us in many ways.
My new yoga journey has just begun and I am excited to see what new things I can achieve with a kind and gentle approach to my practice. I have learnt a lot in this postpartum experience that I will hold dear in my heart forever. This experience has affirmed my belief that yoga really does heal.