Giving birth to a child changes everything. Obligations, priorities, boundaries, emotions, what you thought you knew about love and other big “life” concepts, and of course, your body. Whether it’s your first baby or seventh, introducing a new person into your family who needs you 24/7 requires a shift and can be a very emotionally challenging and demanding experience.
With the mental and physical stress of new parenthood, it makes sense that a yoga practice (asana, meditation, pranayama/breath work, and philosophy) can be helpful and add to quality of life. But especially if you already had a yoga practice before having a baby, it becomes clear right away that the yoga is different post baby.
First of all, there is the issue of time. Taking care of a little one is demanding, and when you barely have time to sleep, who has time to do yoga? And then there is that body that can sometimes feel like a stranger’s body.
Here’s the thing about time, with a shift in perspective, we can realize that time is actually on our side. It took your body 10 months to cook your precious little one, and however many hours/days to get them out. So how can we possibly expect our bodies and minds to completely adjust or go back to “normal” (whatever that means) quickly? The key to shifting your perspective on time is patience. Consider these basic body facts:
Before pregnancy the uterus is the size of an orange and sits deep in the pelvis. By the end, it is the size of a watermelon and fills up the space from your pelvis to your lower ribcage. Everything else has to just shift up and out of the way. It takes a uterus about six weeks to shrink back to orange size, which is pretty incredible considering how long it took to turn into a watermelon.
Your body secretes hormones like relaxin to soften the ligaments in the body, specifically to soften the ligaments around the sacroiliac joint (found in your low back) and the pubic joint (at the front) so that the bones can shift to make space for baby. This can cause low back, pubic, and hip pain and discomfort. Your body continues to produce these hormones until 4 months after breastfeeding is stopped. So say you breastfeed for six months, that means your body is making hormones to loosen everything up for 20 months in total, almost two years!
During pregnancy your abdominal wall stretches (duh) and to compensate your body makes new muscle cells to make the abdominal muscles longer. It can take your body up to two years to recover from that process.
To recap, a lot of shit goes on in your body to make that baby! And for all of that to happen, it takes time on both ends. So yeah, patience is a virtue.
Not only patience though, but this: KINDNESS. And that’s where yoga comes in. The first yama (from the yoga philosophy of an eight limbed path) is ahimsa - which translates to mean non-harming, non-violence; aka kindness, compassion, and all that good stuff. The yoga practice teaches us about the importance of ahimsa towards all living things, and you yourself, a living thing, is not exempt from that!
So when practicing yoga in your changed body, a useful lens can be that of ahimsa, abstaining from violent and harmful actions and thoughts. That includes how you treat your own body. When a baby is born, it is normal feel an overwhelming desire to want to protect them, take care of them, keep them from harm. They are brand new and vulnerable, and of course that is essential. When a baby is born, so is a mother. And during that process, you too are vulnerable, raw, and new. So why not baby yourself too? Practicing kindness towards yourself is a part of in turn being kind to your baby.
On the mat, go slow. Pay attention, do what feels good. Sometimes it can take a while to start listening again after such dramatic shifts, but remember, time is on your side.