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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