After giving birth to two beautiful babies, getting back into my yoga practice presented with different challenges each time. My first baby was a dream, she slept for a long stretch from a young age and birth was pretty rapid and straight forward. I still felt more tired than I ever had and my energy stores were low for much longer than the usual 6 week recovery time. I did start a practice at home, a very short and often interrupted one at around the 12 week mark.
Important differences I felt in my body were a general weakness in my abdominal muscles, pelvic area and hamstrings. I noticed while I was carrying my little girl around, that my lower back would often get sore. I knew I was dumping into my back as a result of my soft, weakened core (hey, that rhymed). I began to really focus on trying to activate my core during regular activities, which was more tiring than I could recall it ever being, LoL.
When I first began to practice, trying to locate the place in my pelvic floor muscles to lift was basically non-existent. I needed to be very careful with my hamstrings as well because when there is weakness in the core, the hamstrings can be overworked and over stretched as a result. There are so many poses that require forward folding in the primary series. These are helpful for building back strength, but practice must be with focus and care. I just didn’t fold very far. I concentrated on bringing the chest forward and low belly back.
I really took my time and only did what I felt able to do because it wasn’t like I could just take a nap whenever I felt like it. Healing from birth and making breast milk requires a lot of energy. Lack of sleep and a majour change in my sleeping pattern made me tire easily at first. According to yoga, there are some additional explanations for the loss of energetic stores in the body after birth.
In yoga there are five vayus or “winds” that govern the movement and function of prana or energy flow in diffrerent areas of the body. The apana vayu is located in the root chakra or pelvic floor and is responsible for the outward movement of energy from the body. When a woman gives birth, the apana vayu is very active. There is a large concentration on the energy moving out of the body as the birthing process occurs. Afterwards, it is important to care for the body and attune this vayu. The pelvic floor is weakened and I most definitely had an awareness of this process in my body. There are Aryurvedic diets that can be followed as well to aid in the process of recovery but I didn’t know too much about that at the time. Poses which are good to rebalance are part of the Ashtanga primary series, lucky for me:) These are standing poses and forward folds which help ground and calibrate energy in the root chakra.
Key Practice Points
In forward folds, I bent me knees. Trying to activate my pelvic muscles and inner thigh muscles became an obsession. I mean, this area is the basis for all yoga poses and so working hard to build strength here was a necessary tribulation. I sweat into every pose, each like it was a new one. So many new sensations and feelings in many poses that I once felt were so familiar.
I really breathed into each posture and became very comfortable with how far I was from my pre-baby practice level. Suddenly some aspects of what I focused on in my practice, such as pose depth, became like a joke to me. I felt like I had it all wrong!
I knew that having a baby was going to teach me many things, but the most poignant lesson for my yoga practice was about perspective.
I began to understand yoga as a lifelong journey with many fluctuations and cyclical movements forward and back. Not just a linear upward arrow! Just as practice has minor variances from day to day according to energy levels and mindset, on a larger scale, practice will have adjustments as my life and body change. I don’t feel like I was fully tuned into that prior to having my first baby.
Practice became more sacred. I felt like each time I could get on my mat was a gift. I became much less concerned with anything but getting on that mat and breathing my way through. I was truly humbled by the complexities of life and how they evolved much of how I understood the world and the transformations I saw through the lens of yoga.
The conclusion being:
There is no conclusion in sight, just a vast number of layers appearing for me that I didn’t notice before. So interesting and inspiring!
After my second baby, I expected many of the body changes that came after my first. I had natural birth and healed well. I still didn’t practice until about 5 months had passed. My son was the kind of baby who would wake up and want to party for a couple of hours in the night. We co-slept until he was 10 months old. He basically slept on the boob, LoL. I had a much different experience and having a toddler and a baby put asana on the back burner for a longer time. My body yearned for it though and I got away for classes a couple times a week at first. I did some strength training as well because my pelvic floor was noticeably less toned than after my daughter. I really worked on that part the most until I could reach those muscles again. I didn’t want to risk injury by underestimating the weakness present in this area of my body.
At ten months, my son was napping consistently and I could get a good practice time in. Either early mornings, nap time or evening after the babes were in bed. I learned how to be super flexible in my routine. Once a rigid, unstoppable train, I became a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal, LoL. Yes, more life lessons that having children have brought to me. I know there are many more waiting for me as they grow, but I can wait;). Now my practice is back and has moved forward with regards to the number of asanas that are in my Ashtanga series. I found that by working basically from scratch, two times over, my “spidey-sense” for what is happening in my body has been heightened significantly.
I am very grateful for the many humbling, stressful, happy, crazy, tiring, joyful, difficult, messy, etc!!!! experiences that I have had with my little ones.
My advice for any Yogi moms-to-be….
After having a baby, enjoy the time and let practice find it’s way back to you. Relax into your squishy body, enjoy your new life with all the smiles, tears, joy, intense LOVE and everything in between! There is so much time to find your way back and so many things that will happen in life before that time may come. Yogis work hard to become strong and flexible in body, in mind it is life which teaches us this gift.