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Yoga Stretches and Breathing for the First Six Weeks Postpartum

The first six weeks postpartum are an essential time for your recovery as a mother while also bonding with and caring for your sweet baby. While it's not recommended to exercise during this time, your body is likely in need of relief from the physical demands of birth and motherhood.

These poses will allow the body relax and release with calming breath work and safe, gentle stretches.

As always, if you've had any pregnancy or birth complications or concerns, please consult with your doctor prior to practicing these. If anything feels uncomfortable for your body, back out of it and find a more comfortable position.

If you'd like take the free 15 minute class to complete these practices, click here.

Side Body Stretch

You'll see this pose featured in many of my yoga classes because it's a staple in my routine no matter what stage of life I'm in. It helps to release the muscles in the side of the body (lats) as well as smaller muscles in the middle and low back which can help reduce and prevent back pain.

Start in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine and both sit bones planted into the mat. Release one hand to the ground then extend the other arm up and over the head to stretch the side of the body. Keep the sit bones down, shoulders away from the ears and chest open. Take a few deep breaths in this position then switch to the other side.

Child's Pose

Another great staple pose for all stages. This pose stretches into so many areas at once while also being very restorative. This wide leg variation of child's pose helps to open up the chest, shoulders, back and hips. A perfect pose to counteract all of the rounding forward and sitting that we can get in the habit of while caring for our babies.

Get into the pose by taking the knees wide apart, reaching the hips back to sit on the heels (it's ok if they don't touch), stretching the arms forward as you release the chest and forehead onto the mat while lengthening the spine. Take slow, deep breaths here and allow the body to release further into the pose with each exhale.

Seated Forward Fold

This pose offers a gentle way to stretch through the back of the hamstrings and low back. After months of having a baby bump, it can feel so nice to forward fold again and get into these muscles that we haven't been able to stretch into for a while.

Start by sitting up tall with the legs straight out in front of you and the feet flexed. Depending on your flexibility, it may feel more comfortable to stay upright here. It's also ok if the knees need to be bent here and a rolled up blanket can be used to provide extra support under the knees.

If you'd like to stretch further, you can hinge from the hips to fold over the legs allowing the arms to fall where they naturally reach. The pose can be done more actively with a straight spine or more passively by relaxing over the legs as above. Focus your breath and attention to the space you're creating in the back of the legs and low back.

Reclined Figure Four

Our hips can become very tight during our pregnancy and into postpartum and as it's a back laying posture, it's probably not one you were comfortable getting into during the last few months of your pregnancy. These two variations of the posture offer a great way to open up the outside of the hips and glutes, which can also assist in reducing and preventing pain in the low back.

Start by laying on the back with the knees bent and the feet planted down. Lift one foot to cross over the opposite knee with the foot flexed. Focus on keeping the knee out to the side moving away from the body. You can stay here with one foot on the ground or lift the legs towards the body reaching the hands to clasp under the knee to deepen the stretch. Take long, slow, deep breathes here while being mindful not to let any other areas of the body tense up in this position.

Reclined Heart Opener

As mentioned above, taking care of a newborn is very physically demanding and can leave us feeling very tight through the chest and shoulders, especially if you're breastfeeding. This posture is a wonderful counterpose to open these areas back up and help us maintain good posture.

Using a bolster, foam roller, rolled up blankets or thick pillows, lay the back down over the prop you're using. It may take some adjusting up and down to find where it's comfortable for this to sit on the back. Once you've found a good position, take the arms in different positions to see what feels best for you. They can come down by the side, straight out from the shoulders as above, in goal posts or over the head. Allow the heart to open as the shoulders fall to either side of your prop. The legs can be straight or bent. Stay here connecting with your deep yogic breath for as long as it feels good or until your baby starts crying.

Heart Hold Breathing

This relaxing breath work is a quick way to connect with your body and breath to come into a more calm, relaxed and grounded state. You're probably finding very little time for yourself in the early stages of motherhood, so having quick and affective ways of relaxing and making time for yourself can be essential to your mental wellbeing. This is one of my favorite techniques to maintain my own sanity.

This practice can be done in any position - seated or laying down. Once you've found where you're comfortable, place one hand on the heart and the other on the belly. Begin to breath naturally for a few breaths then come into your deep yogic breath. Inhale deeply through the nose feeling the low belly, mid belly and the chest rise as the body presses into the hands. Exhale allowing the breath to fully release from the chest, mid belly and low belly while feeling the hands come back into the body.

Aim to complete several rounds of this breath work for at least a few minutes and take notice of how you feel before and after.

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