Continuing Yogic Exercise after Pregnancy Postpartum

Many traditional cultures honor a period of rest for the newly delivered mother to give her time to recover from childbirth and bond with her newborn. This break typically lasts about four to six weeks; in Spanish, it's known as la cuarentena, or "the 40-day quarantine." Not surprisingly, physicians generally recommend that new mothers wait about six weeks before resuming their usual exercise routines, and a couple of weeks longer if they had a Caesarean section.

&\NG/ When you return to your Yoga mat, avoid all inverted postures for at least six weeks postpartum because of uterine blood flow (called lochia). Also, be careful with sit-ups because the groin area is fragile from its recent stretch. A good way to get started is with short walks and the side-lying corpse posture (see "Side-lying posture" and Figure 16-1 earlier in the chapter). All women have postnatal bleeding for a few weeks after pregnancy. Watch your flow and slow down your Yoga practice a little if the bleeding becomes heavier or turns bright red. If in doubt, consult your physician.

If you can, seek out a postpartum class with other new mothers. A skilled and experienced Yoga teacher can focus on those areas of your body that are likely to need extra attention during this transitional period — neck, shoulders, and upper back from the stress of carrying your baby and leaning over to attend to him or her; gentle belly toners to help you regain your pre-pregnancy profile; and so on. And don't underestimate the value of connecting with other new mothers. Few new mothers are fully prepared for the feelings of isolation and lack of control over their daily lives that are so common in the early postpartum period, especially among women who are used to being in the world and getting things done. The company of other new mothers who are feeling similar things is often comforting and grounding.

Expect your life to change radically after the baby is born. Your Yoga practice will seem like an oasis, even if your practice sessions are short, as you handle the joyful but exhausting responsibilities of caring for your new baby. Don't feel guilty about making and taking time for yourself. You need to recharge. Your hormone levels may make you feel emotional and a little unstable, and your Yoga practice can help you find balance. Final relaxation after your postures helps you feel more rested even though the enjoyment of a full night's sleep may be but a sweet and distant memory.

Your child took nine months to grow inside your body, so give yourself nine months to get back into shape. Set your clock to "mommy time" and enjoy the ride.

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