This article is part of a series of Seattle Yoga News articles focused on interviewing local yoga experts in the Seattle area on a variety of yoga topics that are relevant to our readers. This week’s article is focused on Postnatal Yoga and features Anne Phyfe Palmer.
Seattle Yoga News: How are postnatal yoga classes different from regular yoga classes?
Anne Phyfe Palmer: Well one big difference in most postnatal classes is that babies are not only allowed, they are welcome! Babies can cry, nurse, feed and have diapers changed. There is sometimes a check-in circle, like in prenatal yoga, where new parents can share how they are doing and get support from the teachers and others in the class. I learned some of my best parenting tips in postnatal yoga!
The poses themselves are not all that different from a “regular” yoga class but the classes are geared to the postpartum body, which typically has soreness in the neck and shoulders, and sometimes low back, wrists and knees.
Abdominal work is done very mindfully to gradually rebuild abdominal muscles without creating further separation of the rectus abdominus, called diastasis.
SYN: What are the benefits of postnatal yoga?
Anne Phyfe Palmer: My goal in a postnatal yoga class is that the parent walks out feeling less pain (from carrying and nursing/feeding baby) and more relaxation. I want the new parent to feel nurtured and rested, but also have an opportunity to use their bodies strongly and safely. The increased blood flow and deep breathing practiced in yoga will help them to manage the stress of parenthood and sleep more soundly.
Another main benefit, again, is community. New parenthood can be very isolating. In postnatal yoga, parents meet others in the same phase of life and can receive and offer companionship, support and presence.
SYN: How early after birth can one start postnatal yoga?
Anne Phyfe Palmer: This again depends on the woman—her physical activity level before and during pregnancy and her experience of birth. With a vaginal birth, a very active woman might attend postnatal yoga within two weeks of delivery, while a woman who births via Cesarean will need a minimum of six weeks recovery before joining class, and even then will need to modify some postures. When in doubt consult your care provider.
SYN: Can you recommend a few yoga poses that postnatal women can easily do at home?
Anne Phyfe Palmer:
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and hands over your low belly. Inhale, allow the breath to fill your hands and appreciate the part of your body that held your baby for nine months. Exhale move your belly towards the floor to renew the strength in your abdomen and provide support for your back. You don’t need to reduce or remove the curve in your low back, but move your navel towards your lower back. You might feel with your fingertips for a hardening of the muscles. Repeat with your breath. Follow with bridge pose, then knees to chest.
Come to your belly with your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders. Forearms are parallel, legs are strong. Inhale draw your chest forward, slight tone in the lower belly to protect your low back. Exhale look towards your navel and lift it away from the floor. Rest on your belly with your arms folded under your head (or shoulders if the breasts are too tender). Follow with downward dog or dolphin (forearm dog) pose.
HIGH SQUAT WITH EAGLE
Walk feet apart for a high squat. Bend your knees until they are over your heels and point the same direction as your toes. Inhale and reach your arms wide, exhale cross your elbows and either hold your shoulder blades or weave your arms till your palms touch for eagle arms. Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades. Straighten the legs as needed. Switch the fold of your arms.
Follow with wide-legged forward bend. This sequence is also good for pregnancy, and can be done with your back touching a wall for extra stability.
All of the prenatal poses offered for pregnancy in this prenatal yoga article are safe for postpartum as well.
Anne Phyfe Palmer, 500 E-RYT, RPYT, is the Founder of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers. She is the primary teacher in the 8 Limbs Pre/Posnatal Yoga Teacher Training along with Jodi Boone and Susan Grote, PT. Anne Phyfe (that’s her first name) has two daughters, Lily, age 15, and Coco, age 9.
[Photo by lululemon athletica – CC BY]
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