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Welcome, new mothers! You’ve been inducted into the land of sleepless nights, nonstop laundry, and the most addictive snuggles. In the first few weeks after you’ve given birth, the most important thing you can do is rest as much as possible. When you feel the desire to start moving again, and you have the “all clear” from your doctor or midwife, you can rekindle your connection to your breath and your body with a simple and gentle yoga sequence.
A gentle postpartum yoga practice
Remember to move slowly, carefully, and with a lot of kindness. Your body just did something incredible and it deserves to be treated with love so that it can continue to show up for you and your baby. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and revel in this time to replenish.
Marjaryasana (Cat) and Bitilasana (Cow)
Come to your hands and knees. As you inhale, gently arch the spine. As you exhale, gently round the spine. Take a few rounds of this, breathing fully and deeply. Return to neutral.
Now invite a circular motion into the spine as you arch and round. As you inhale, arch the spine and move it to one side. As you exhale, round the spine and move it to the other side, completing a circle. Take a few rounds of this and then switch the direction of your circle. Return to a neutral back.
From hands and knees, widen your knees and sit your hips back on your heels. Breathe into the spine and the hips. If it feels good to you, clasp your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows on the ground. This will give your shoulders and upper back a nice sensation of opening, which may feel especially good now that you spend so much of your time holding and feeding your baby. After several breaths here, bring your hands and arms forward again and walk them over to one side. Breathe here for as long as you like and then walk the hands to the other side. When you feel ready, return your hands to center and take a few more breaths here or with your hands clasped behind your head.
If you feel ready, from Child’s Pose, extend your arms forward, lift your knees, and press your hips up and back, coming into a Down Dog position. I still remember how glorious it felt to do my first Down Dog after giving birth to my first child! You may wish to explore a little movement here by coming up on your toes as you inhale and bringing your heels back down to the ground as you exhale. Repeat that as many times as you like, being mindful not to expend too much energy.
From Down Dog, bring your knees down to the mat, cross your legs, and lie down on your back. With your arms by your sides, lift your hips. If it feels good, interlace your fingers behind your back and roll your shoulders underneath you to open your chest. Stay for a few breaths and come down. You could try this again, this time raising the arms up and overhead. You could make this more dynamic by lifting the hips up on each inhale and down on the exhale. Repeat just a few times so that you can feel the breath and blood flowing but maintain your energy reserves.
From here, gently hug your knees into your chest. Give yourself a loving squeeze for a few breaths, then take your arms out to the sides. Allow your knees to drop toward one side. If your legs don’t touch the floor comfortably, place a pillow or folded blanket beneath them. Take several deep breaths here, and then use your hands to help the legs come back to center and then to the other side. Repeat this twist a few times on each side, if you like.
Gentle Forward Bend
After completing your twists, find your way onto one side and use your hands to help bring yourself to a seated position. Take any position with your legs that feels good—a loose diamond shape or extended straight in front of you hip-distance apart or quite a bit wider. Fold forward as much or as little as is comfortable and remain there for several breaths, supporting your torso with a rolled up blanket or bolster beneath your chest if you need.
Slowly find your way to a reclining position and place a rolled up blanket or bolster underneath your upper back, horizontally or vertically. Place the bottoms of your feet on the ground and allow your knees to rest against one another. Remain here for at least a few minutes. Then gently slide the blanket from beneath your back and place it underneath your knees. Allow your body to surrender completely to the ground. Close your eyes and rest for as long as you can until the work of mothering calls for you.
Pranidhi Varshney is the founder of Yoga Shala West, a community-supported Ashtanga Yoga studio in West Los Angeles. She is also mother to two children who she describes as “courageous and wise little beings.” The thread that runs through all her work is the desire to build community and live from the heart.