How does a new mom have time for yoga? As a psychotherapist/yoga teacher who works mainly with moms this is a question I am asked a lot.
A new mom is overwhelmed by changes in hormones, sleep deprivation, and role changes. It might not seem you have time to go to a class let alone unroll your mat on the floor. My answer tends to be something along the lines of… what better time to set aside time to self-soothe and take care of yourself!
Now I’m not advocating that any new mom carve out a 3-hour block of time and arrange childcare to go to a studio. I believe expectations should be lowered during this time period. Let me share an alternative: a small sample of yogic techniques that can be done quickly at home in between tending to the crying baby, the mountain of laundry, and a much needed nap.
A cautionary note must be included. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety then meditating alone is not advised in some cases. In fact, unless someone has a previous meditation practice I never suggest a client take up meditating on their own; guided meditation is much more suitable. Meditating can confront you with a bunch of feelings and thoughts that can be overwhelming. Yoga, however, can serve as a buffer from this flood because by moving the body and breath we give the mind a (brief) distraction from the whirlwind.
Yoga is absolutely dose dependent and the more often we place our body in postures or change our breathing patterns, the more benefits we will see. That’s why we call it a “practice”… the more you do it, the more results you see.
Our breathing patterns are intimately connected to our mental state. We tend to hold our breath when we are anxious and not take full enough breaths when we are sad. From a yogic perspective, extension of either inhale or exhale is the key to mental balance. For someone experiencing anxiety, we work to increase the time of exhalation, which sends a signal to the brain to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. For someone experiencing depression, we work to increase the inhalation, which activates our body and creates more energy.
Here are some ideas to get started on taking deeper breaths for more calm.
Taking about ten slow, deep breaths just like this can make you feel more relaxed and refreshed, can ease anxiety and depression, and can help you think more clearly.
- Come to a comfortable seated position, or lie down on your back.
- Rest one hand on your belly, and the other over your heart.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your belly rise, and then your chest rise, and then maybe feel your collarbones lift slightly. These are the 3 parts to the breath: belly, then chest, then collarbones.
- As you exhale deeply, let your mouth fall open, and feel the collarbones drop, then the chest drops, then the belly contracts.
- Try to make your inhalations as long as your exhalations. Inhale for a slow count of 3, and then exhale for an equally slow count of 3.
- Repeat this at least ten times. To see maximum effects, set your timer for 3 minutes of slow breathing.
A female’s hormones go on a huge roller coaster ride after birth. These hormone fluctuations continue with a vengeance if the mother is breastfeeding. Through yoga postures, we can nourish and rebuild hormonal imbalances. Here are two poses to try for balancing hormones:
This pose stimulates the relaxation response, massages abdominal organs, kidneys, and adrenal glands. Make modifications to this pose to achieve as much comfort as you can. This pose doesn’t feel comfortable for every body type: if you don’t feel comfortable, then forget this one.
- Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
- Lean forward and drape your body over your thighs so that your forehead rests on the floor and your belly is between your knees. If you have tight or sensitive knees, put a blanket or thick towel between your calves and your thighs to relieve any stress on the knees. For some, a large bolster or pillow and feel comfortable under the chest.
- Reach your arms out in front of you or you can leave your arms along your sides or bent with your hands near your face. Try both and see which feels best to you.
- Breathe deeply. Release any tension you might be feeling in your back, neck, or hips. Give this exercise time to work. It can take a few minutes to allow your body to deepen into the stretch.
- Begin kneeling. Grab your heels with thumbs on the outside, fingers on the inside.
- Roll forward until your forehead is close to your knees.
- Pull on your heels, lifting hips high, putting very little weight on head with heavy knees.
- Keep 25% of weight in head, and 75% weight in the knees.
- Keep shoulders away from ears, stomach tight and heels together.
- Try to get your forehead and knees closer and closer together.
- Eventually you should pull on your heels so much that your arms straighten.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
- Come out of the pose slowly, vertebra by vertebra, and rest in child’s pose.
Ideally, this practice is done in a lying down position. While it is encouraged not to sleep, falling asleep and taking a nap would also benefit a new mom! Scientific research studies have shown that 45 minutes of a yoga nidra practice is equivalent to 3 hours of REM sleep for the brain. This is such a bonus for the sleep-deprived mom!
Lie down, get comfortable, and try out this great mp3.
Yoga Nidra for Sleep