There are situations when modified asanas become extremely important. Few things will place you directly back in the role of a new yoga student – To return to the practice after birth is one of those times, and especially so after a cesarean birth (C-Section).
However, as a new student you had no expectations, no markers and no past experience to measure from. Everything was bright and shiny and new, whereas a postpartum ‘new’ yoga student, there is a stronger chance the ego may come out on the mat.
Movement the First Six Weeks
Understand that giving birth vaginally versus a C-Section makes a huge difference upon when a woman may safely enter a yoga class. While the former may return to yoga a week or two after birth, the latter must wait around six weeks.
Cesarean birth is major abdominal surgery. Many layers of scars must heal, organs have moved and muscle and skin have been cut through. Your abdominal strength will need to be rebuilt in order to do daily activities like walking up stairs or lifting objects.
Many women say they felt like themselves about nine months after giving birth. Patience will allow you the most growth after birth. Insure this is a major component of your practice and healing; you don’t want to prolong the healing process by tearing incisions or strain healing muscles.
With the green light from your health care professionals, begin to walk as soon as you can after surgery (as soon as three days after) around 10-15 min each day to help out your body normalize as the organs can shift during surgery. Add to your practice the habit of walking around up to 30 minutes a day, but slowly add a few minutes each time. Patience is key the first few weeks of your return to exercise and movement; slowly add in more time and more movement each day.
In the first few weeks after surgery, yoga Nidra is something you can easily practice from bed, along with meditation. It can combat the feeling of helplessness or restlessness from extended bed rest.
Feel-Good Postures with Purpose After the Six-Week Checkup
After you receive the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife four to six weeks after surgery, begin your practice with acknowledgement and acceptance of your ego. Know that it will be there to challenge you – your goal will be to quiet it as much as possible to allow yourself the space to grow and experience an entirely new practice.
Know that back bends and anything with legs wide apart is difficult at first, so stick to the postures that will give you the most benefit towards your ailments at first.
Include chest and shoulder openers to ease soreness of the upper body from breast feeding, picking up and holding the baby. One example is with Opposite Arm Stretch – lift your right hand above your head, bend at the elbow, and wrap your left arm around your back to reach your left fingers up towards your extended right fingers. Use a towel if you can’t quite reach and grip your fingers.
Try Legs Up the Wall posture for anywhere from 1-5 minutes to strengthen abdominal walls and stretch the back nicely and gently. There is a reason this asana is a classic for postnatal women!
Stretch out in Downward Facing Dog anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. This is extremely beneficial to the uterus, abdominal wall and pelvic floor. Everything is lifted, strengthened and stretched in this posture. Many yoga leaders say if there is one yoga posture to practice daily, it is this one.
To improve, just be persistent about your regular practice. Ask the teacher to watch you, but you know your own body. Remember, showing up to your practice is half the battle already.
Your Lifetime Practice of Yoga
Remind yourself that every pose is exactly where you are supposed to be in that moment. The need to measure yourself from past experience is human, but challenge the ego to create a whole new practice. Your body is a new one, while your mind is from the former. Improvement goals should be new as well, and the process of accepting the present moment is part of that.
Set very small goals to feel the accomplishment and growth again. Challenge yourself to have fun with the new body you now have, and see where you can take it. If every day were the same on your mat, you would not return to your practice. The reason we fall in love with yoga each time we practice is out of the challenge and the art of acceptance. Love yourself enough to grow from this experience, to emerge the other side stronger and even more capable.
About Your Practice After a C-Section
There are few life events that will challenge a woman physically and mentally in her yoga practice as much as a birth will.
A cesarean birth pushes the body one step further in the healing process, which can be taxing both mentally and physically. Some women wait one to two weeks to return to yoga after a vaginal birth, while most women must wait at least six weeks after a cesarean to begin a movement practice.
The art of allowing will never be more important than after a life-changing event such as this. Give yourself the gift of patience, self-love and self-acceptance.
Directly After Surgery
This art will begin the first time you get up out of bed after surgery. Many mothers describe how difficult and surprising this task was for them the first time, and offer a few nuggets of wisdom for new mothers. Make sure someone is there to help you up, and know you have the option to press a pillow against your stitches to lessen the weird feeling that your tummy will fall out. A lot of mothers experience this odd sensation at first, and the pillow makes that movement and transition feel more comfortable.
Once the doctor or midwife Okays it, the best and most healing activity in the few days after surgery is to get up and walk around. Initially it won’t seem like that would feel good, but many mothers describe how wonderful it felt to get up and walk around a bit. It allows the organs to shift back into place, strengthen your incision and allow your body to heal faster. Not to mention the mental boost!
Focus on Recovery the First Month After Surgery
Everything is new in the month after birth – The new role as mother, new body postpartum, new emotions (highs and lows due to the hormones still left in the system during breast feeding), new abilities of the physical body, and new interactions with familiar activities and people.
Remember, you are nurturing your body to heal after major abdominal surgery. In a cesarean, they cut through several layers of muscle between the uterus and skin. Many layers of your body are healing and strengthening after removing a tiny human from your body. Treat yourself gently and realize the healing process involves both mental and physical components.
The next nine months after giving birth are all about the beauty of letting go and the art of allowing – Patience for yourself and what you are capable of in the midst of so much extreme change. Look at the time as a gift to push past mental and physical blocks to come out a stronger and a more resilient mother.
Your Network and the Art of Allowing and Accepting Help
Talk to others about all the different emotions and experiences you are having during this time. Your network will be more important than ever during this time – Midwives, women who have had cesareans before, your partner, and family.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make use of an extended support network. Practice the art of acceptance when people want to help out. If anyone offers to bring dinner, clean or run errands, accept this as a gift and allow them to help – Especially because after surgery you should not be doing anything that will prevent your body and incisions from healing. Ask for help!
Take care of you in order to have the energy to take care of your baby. If you push yourself too hard to heal faster or do normal activities too soon, you could prolong the whole process.
Extra Tips for Healing
Small efforts will go a long way towards healing your body and mind. Increase your water intake to flush out your body back to normal function. Aim for a majority of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains if you are supposed to increase your calorie intake during breast feeding, these foods will leave you and your baby feeling so much better than fatty or fried foods.
Wear comfortable clothes for as long as necessary after surgery. What could be better than that? Yoga clothes, maternity clothes and leggings are great to fit over the incision. Mesh underwear can be such a blessing in the first couple of weeks after surgery. Indulge! Think of it as a gift for your body and the amazing thing you just accomplished.
Set Small Attainable Goals to Work Towards Larger Movement
In the month or so after giving birth, your body is detoxing from the drugs of surgery, the immobility and the change of life. Simply walking up the stairs for the first time will be an entirely new challenge!
Set up tiny attainable goals in the first few months after birth. In the first few days after surgery and the okay from medical staff, begin to walk and increase it by a few minutes each day. Set 10-15 minutes as your goal each day to walk around in the first few weeks. After four weeks and the okay, set your sites towards 30 minutes a day.
Small strength exercise improvements in the weeks just after birth, will build toward more advanced movement in the weeks to come. Begin with pelvic floor stretches first in bed or while walking around, and make it a goal to tighten vaginal muscles and abdomen each time you lift the baby.
Take time with your body expectations; everything on your body adjusted. Once you receive the okay, six weeks after surgery is usually when new mothers may begin a regular exercise and movement program. Yoga is the perfect tool for a new mother to deal with the stress and extreme change of motherhood and all that comes with it externally and internally – depression, mood swings, lack of sleep, and irritability.
Allow Yourself the Art of Acceptance
“And this too shall pass.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
Remember that in yoga as in life, there is a season for everything. Your yoga practice adjusted for the months of pregnancy, allow the same adjustment period for your body after the baby comes. Your practice will change, just as the seasons do. Allow yourself the art of acceptance, patience, love and mending and your practice will soar to new levels. This new situation gives you an opportunity to research, study, and teach modified asanas. As daily life brings us into new circumstances, we are stimulated to learn new information that solves our current challenges. Yoga and life are journeys, which help us adapt to constant change.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Are you interested in more information about Yoga?
by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice
by Rina Jakubowicz.
A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance
by: Gail Boorstein Grossman.
by B.K.S. Iyengar
By Mark Stephens
See our testimonials to find out what our graduates have to say about our selection of online yoga instructor certification intensives.