Have you ever seen a newborn baby do a backbend? Where they arch their back and open their chest while their legs are crossed in swastikasana or extended? A perfect Setu Bandha-heart full of openness and love. The pure light that shines when our babies practice yogasanas is astoundingly natural and beautiful; and the ever watchful mother bathes in the rays of Samadhi as she looks adoringly at her new child. Guruji speaks of this “Cosmic Energy” coming into the body when we practice yogasanas for babies and mama’s alike. Particularly for the postpartum woman, returning to the mat with gentleness is a crucial step to facilitate healing and to support the hormonal demands of this tender time.
The postnatal time is governed by Vata energy according to Ayurveda, the 3,000 year old medical practice of India. Vata energy is quick, erratic and drying. Vata is the mind of a new mother, overcome with waves of extreme joy and wonderment, and times of deep worry and fear. These dualities make for a delicate mental state that, when not supported and nourished, can quickly turn towards sadness and depression. In addition to our minds-fullness, the postpartum body undergoes its most rapid and extreme hormonal changes than at any other time in a woman’s life. From pregnancy, to childbirth, to lactation; finding homeostatis is paramount to sustained peace and calm for the new family.
“We often see women who want to do yogasanas immediately after delivery to trim their [body] and get back to shape. Both of these attitudes – negligence and overenthusiasm – are bad. After delivery, you must be ensured of mental and physical rest, even with your infant keeping you busy most of the day.” Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood, Co-authored by Geeta Iyengar (B.K.S. Iyengar’s daughter)
Yogasanas support a woman’s ability to cope with these extreme changes by providing space for the breath to quiet the mind and to speed recovery from labor with pranayama, supported backbends and inversions. By encouraging the process of involution of the uterus back to its pre-pregnant size, these asanas ward off problems that show up for many women, even years after birth. Standing asanas build strength in the legs and spine and help the pelvic bones move back together with proper alignment. But of all the asanas, rest is the most important medicine for a postpartum mother.
Geetaji warns us that “too much activity may not cause an immediate problem, but later on, you could suffer from body pain, bulky uterus, and loose organs.”
My newest yoga class for mama’s and their babes, Postnatal/Baby Yoga, is a combination of restorative asanas that calm the mind, support lactation and purify breast milk; as well as asanas that rejuvenate and build strength in the body. This class is dedicated time to rest and nurture the mother; it is space to share our experience and to build a community of like-minded women who are dedicated to self-care healing. Mama’s are encouraged to bring a baby carrier to be able to “hold” your baby; hands free while practicing. Sometimes in class, the babies are awake and making sweet noises, while others are nursing or sleeping. It is recommended you wait two-weeks post-birth to rest before initiating your yoga practice and come back to the mat. Babies are welcome from birth to pre-crawling. Class is offered Tuesday Mornings from 9:15am-10:15am at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver. I hope to see you in class!
Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver, 770 S Broadway, Denver, CO 80202. www.IyengarYogaCenter.com
German chamomile: Chamomilla recutita. Roman chamomile: Chamaemelum nobile
Chamomile has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. It is used to treat to chest colds, sore throats, abscesses, mouth sores, gum inflammation, anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis, acne, eczema, hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, rheumatic pain, hemorrhoids, minor first-degree burns, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, diarrhea, gas, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach ulcers, chickenpox, diaper rash, and colic. It is available as dried flower heads, tea, liquid extract, essential oil, capsules and topical ointment.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine studied the antidepressant properties of chamomile versus a placebo. They noted that anti-anxiety properties had already been observed. Using the Hamilton Depression Rating questionnaire, the researchers observed a significant reduction over time of depression in the participants of the chamomile group vs the placebo group. They concluded that chamomile may provide clinically meaningful antidepressant activity that occurs in addition to the anti-anxiety properties.
- To relieve colic: 1-2oz. of tea per day. Children under 5 years old should not take more than half a cup of tea per day.
- Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 – 3 tablespoons of dried herb, steep 10 – 15 minutes. Drink up to 3 – 4 times per day between meals.
- Mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired. You may also make an oral rinse with 10 – 15 drops of German chamomile liquid extract in a cup of warm water, and use 3 times per day.
- Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water and breathe in the steam to calm a cough.
- Bath: Use ½ cup of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 – 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
- Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
Amsterdam, JD., Shults, J., Soeller, I., Mao, JJ., Rockwell, K., Newberg, AB. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploraty study. Altern Ther Health Med. Sep-Oct 2012;18(5):44-9. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894890
Ehrlich, SD. German chamomile. (March 17, 2013). University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/german-chamomile
In 2012, researchers inMashhad,Iranstudied the efficacy of lavender essential oil inhalation for treatment of migraines in a placebo-controlled clinical trial. 71% of participants in the lavender group had a reduction of migraine severity, compared to 47% in the placebo group. It was concluded that lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.
Lavender is used for a range of ailments from insomnia and anxiety to depression and fatigue. Research shows that it has calming, soothing and sedative effects when the scent is inhaled. It is also used for stress, hair loss, postoperative pain, and for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It may be used topically in diluted concentrations to treat skin infections and injuries, such as minor cuts and scrapes. Lavender is our favorite essential oil for burns.
Recommended use- Inhalation: Add 2-4 drops of lavender essential oil to 2-3 cups boiling water. Inhale the vapors. Topical external application: Add 1-4 drops per tablespoon of base oil (such as almond or olive oil) and apply to skin. Lavender may also be applied neet (i.e.) directly to the skin for burns, bug bites, and acne.
Lavender oil may be toxic if taken orally so only use externally or by inhalation, unless working with a knowledgeable health care provider. Also, avoid contact with eyes or mucous membranes, such as the lips and nostrils.
- Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91. doi: 10.1159/000335249. Epub 2012 Apr 17. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298
- Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD. (2013). Lavender. University of MarylandMedicalCenter. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender
Latin name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
Licorice Root is known for its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant, antidepressant, demulcent, and expectorant activity. It is used for coughs, sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis, mucus congestion, teething, colic, canker sores, high cholesterol, heart disease, menopause, PMS, menstrual cramps, skin disorders, shingles, herpes, low energy, depression, and for calming down and relaxing. It is also used for digestive system complaints such as ulcers, heartburn, and chronic gastritis because it stimulates the growth of the natural mucous linings of the stomach and intestines, which soothes and coats irritation caused by acid. It is a good choice for keeping teeth healthy because research shows that it may help prevent and treat tooth decay and gum disease.
In a study done at the University of California School of Dentistry, researchers studied whether licorice lollipops would decrease a bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, that caused cavities in nursing home residents. Participants were given two lollipops per day for twenty-one days. Saliva samples were collected throughout the study and it was found that participants who consumed more lollipops were more likely to have fewer numbers of the S. mutans bacteria.
Tea:1-2 cups of licorice tea a day. 1/2 teaspoon licorice root is steeped in 1 cup boiling water and left to simmer for at lease 5 minutes. It is especially good to drink before or after meals to assist in digestion. Tincture: 1/2 teaspoon twice a day. It should be noted that dosages higher than this that are taken for longer than 4-6 week can cause serious side effects.
Licorice. MedlinePlus. (October 11, 2012). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/881.html
Licorice root health benefits. (January 19, 2013). Herbal Health Care. http://herbalhealthcare-daw.blogspot.com/2013/01/licorice-root-health-benefits.html
Mentes JC, Kang S, Spackman S, Bauer J. (October 2012). Can a licorice lollipop decrease cariogenic bacteria in nursing home residents? Res Gerontol Nurs. 5(4):233-7. doi: 10.3928/19404921-20120906-07. Epub 2012 Sep 17.
McMillen, Matt. (January 2012). Licorice root may cut cavities, gum disease. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20120105/licorice-root-may-cut-cavities-gum-disease
According to the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, a 2006 Russian study on experimental toxic hepaptitis reported that meadowsweet prevented damage to the liver and had an antioxidant effect.
Meadowsweet has natural salicylates, is an analgesic, antirheumatic, gentle astringent, and antacid. It is used to treat colds, bronchitis, headache, fever, upset stomach, cyctits, gout, rheumatism, arthritis, diarrhea, excessive menstrual bleeding, and heartburn.