Yoga with Fiona
Supporting natural recovery after childbirth
- an article about postnatal recovery from birth onwards -
Giving birth can be incredibly demanding both physically and emotionally. This is followed by what can be an intense time of little sleep with a combination of confusion and celebration, despair and delight! For those who experience a particularly difficult birth or postnatal health issues, this period of recovery can be even more challenging.
Yoga gives much-needed support at this time, increasing women’s feeling of wellness and their ability to cope with the huge changes they are part of. Yoga helps women to grow stronger, more confident, calmer and better able to nurture their baby.
“Start with the mother, for the wellbeing of the baby depends on the wellbeing of the mother.”
Most traditional societies have a solid support structure for the new mother, with other women coming in to bring food, cook, clean and take care of mother and baby for several weeks if not longer. All the mother needs to do is nurture and feed her baby, and rest her own body and mind.
In modern times we have lost much of this. Women can feel under huge pressure to cope and ‘get back to normal’. I hear this frequently from my students, and I remind them over and over again: it took 9 months to have this baby, and it takes at least 9 months for your body to recover. There is no rush! The body and emotions are very delicate after giving birth and need a great deal of nurture and patience to recover and strengthen. Forcing against this can lead to injury and disappointment.
The journey of pregnancy and birth is one of great expansion and opening. The focus postnatally is on bringing the body back together, and helping to nourish and revive body and mind. Mum and Baby Yoga classes play a key role in supporting this recovery process for women, but I have found that many women need more specific support and much earlier – even in those first days and weeks after the birth. This is where postnatal recovery yoga comes in with its gentle yet powerful approach. This includes specific practices that can help pelvic pain, separated abdominal muscles, back pain, c-section recovery, haemarroids, after pains, feeding discomfort, exhaustion and depression.
What is postnatal recovery yoga?
Françoise Barbira Freedman, founder of Birthlight, has pioneered the field of yoga for early postnatal recovery. A medical anthropologist at the University of Cambridge and yoga teacher of many years, Françoise has drawn on ancient wisdom about what nurtures women’s bodies, minds and emotion in the days, weeks and months after birth. Her practices are now being taught all over the world.
Postnatal recovery sessions involve gentle, small movements using breath and body awareness to nourish and re-energise body and mind. They are done at your home, even from your bed in those early days. Your baby can stay with you throughout (and some soothing baby massage can be included!).
These practices are unique because they can be done as soon as 2 hours after birth (or as soon as the drains have been removed for caesarean births). These are not “get fit after birth” type exercises like those in many popular media – my emphasis is on honouring and nurturing the woman and her body as it is in that moment. Sessions are respectful and empowering, helping women to tune in and listen to what their body really needs.
What are the specific benefits of postnatal recovery yoga?
It helps to:
- release tension, relax, nurture mind and body, and boost energy levels
- regain good posture after pregnancy, re-align and stabilize the pelvis, reduce back ache
- close up the abdomen, help the uterus to contract, heal the uterine wall and release any small clots, reconnect nerve endings after birth, discard residue through the lymph nodes, help internal organs to find their place again, gently regain tone, and support healing of caesarean scar
- regain tone in the pelvic floor to help to prevent stress incontinence and uterine prolapse, and to help heal haemarroids
- release tension in the upper back and shoulders, learn relaxed feeding, and do gentle movements to stimulate the lymph around the breasts and help avoid mastitis
- gradually reclaim your body, tune into your own instincts, and enjoy your baby
For women turning to yoga at this time it can often become a lifelong habit, a steady friend there to support you through all the changes of life, to keep your body healthy, your mind alert, and your emotions in balance. The lessons learnt from yoga are a gift for life.