Now that I am two and a half months postpartum, I wanted to share my personal favorite yoga poses for the postpartum recovery period. Being a momma is hard work and rewarding. For those times that it’s exhausting, we need guidance. Yoga helps guide the body back to balance. In this post, we will discuss different poses, how they benefit us, and how to do them. May your postpartum recovery be restorative and may it come with ease.
Virasana (or hero pose)
Virasana is a balm for exhausted momma legs at the end of the day. It is also an alternative to Padmasana (or lotus pose) for seated meditation. Increase flexibility in the knees and hips, tone the muscles in the arches of the feet, and increase circulation in the feet and legs with hero pose. Carrying around tiny humans, standing in front the sink, and chasing the family pet back into the yard gets repetitive and exhausting but proper self care and physical activity can help keep the mind, body, and spirit fresh.
How to Virasana:
Kneel on the floor with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and touch your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, with the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Angle your big toes slightly in toward each other and press the top of each foot evenly on the floor. Exhale and sit back about halfway, with your torso leaning slightly forward. Wedge your thumbs into the backs of your knees and draw your calf muscles toward your heels. Then sit down between your feet. Make sure your sitting bones are evenly supported. Firm your shoulder blades against the back ribs and lift the top of your sternum like the proud warrior momma you are. Widen your collarbones and release the shoulder blades away from the ears. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor to anchor the back torso. Stay in this pose from 30 seconds up to one minute. Gradually extend your stay up to five minutes.
Malasana (or garland pose)
This deep squat can be quite the challenge but if done properly can have many benefits. Malasana stretches the hips, groin, lower back, and sacrum as well as help tone the lower belly. While this can provide some relief from discomfort and prevent strain, exercise with caution. Go slowly, make sure to maintain focus on your breathing, and don’t push your body beyond its limits. Because I am a seasoned yogi, I am safe to practice with my tiny attached because sometimes that is the only way this momma is getting to practice. Garland pose is specifically useful for bringing extra energy when you feel drained.
How to Malasana:
Start in Tadasana (or mountain pose, see below), with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Pivot your feet so your toes are wider than your heels. Bend your knees deeply, sinking down until your hips are lower than your knees and just a few inches off the floor. Bring your palms together over your heart and wedge your elbows one at a time, to the inside of your knees.
Push your elbows into your knees to open your hips, and gently press the inside of your knees into your elbows. Draw your heart forward and up, attempting to lengthen your lower back and spine. Stay here for 30 seconds up to one minute.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (or bridge pose)
Bridge pose offers new momma bodies a phlethora of benefits. Open your shoulders and chest, strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings; stretch your hip flexors and thighs; increase the flexibility of your spine and calm your mind with Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Some of us don’t have gym memberships or even time for any sort of program. That’s why is so gentle, encouraging, and benefifical for postpartum, well any, moms. We can maintain our strength, flexibility, and spirit with a short 15 minute sesh. Being a mom-mager is hard and our systems eventually overload. Calm the 5pm rush hour junction that is your mom mind with bridge pose.
How to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, hip-width apart with your heels directly below your knees. Leave your upper arms on the floor and bend your elbows alongside your ribs, pointing your forearms and fingers toward the ceiling. Turn your palms to face one another. Press your elbows and shoulder heads down into the floor, lift your chest, and bring your shoulder blades onto your upper back, wrapping your outer arms toward the floor. Keep your gaze straight up, paying attention to nothing nearby. Press into your feet and slowly send your knees forward, wrapping your outer hips toward the ceiling; then lift your buttocks away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Straighten your elbows and interlace your fingers underneath you, drawing your shoulder blades deeper into your upper back, keeping the tops of your shoulders in line with the base of your neck. Gently press the center of the back of your head into the floor. Widen your collarbones and lift your chest, bringing your sternum toward your chin. Lightly reach your chin away from your chest, keeping space between the back of your neck and the floor. Simultaneously extend out through your knees as you lift your sternum, opening your chest. Take a few rounds of breath and calm down.
Tadasana (or mountain pose)
Mountain pose is the foundation for a strong and steady practice and momma’s are the mountains of their households. They are strong and their arms hold steady. Tadasana strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles, and tones the abdomen and glutes. Practicing Mountain pose can help to improve posture, reduce flat feet, and relieve sciatica.
How to Tadasana:
Come to stand with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Lift and spread your toes wide, releasing them down to the ground, and root down through all four corners of your feet — the big toe mound, pinky toe mound, and the two outer edges of your heels. Engage your thighs to lift your kneecaps slightly (without hyperextending your knees). Gently draw your energy in toward the midline of your body. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the floor and find a neutral pelvis. Draw your low ribs in to your body and press your shoulder blades into your back, lifting your sternum. Move your shoulders away from your ears, and broaden your collarbones. Relax your arms by your sides, and turn your palms to face forward to open up through your chest. Bring your chin parallel to the floor and soften your face and jaw. Get tall from the soles of your feet up and out through the crown of your head. I like to raise my arms up sometimes, envisioning how mighty of a mountain momma I am. Stay in pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
Balasana (or child’s pose)
Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. During this exercise, make sure to maintain focus on your breathing. This pose also relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck. So often our littles take breaks or get naps and we are left still going. Take a break momma. Fall into the floor and rest.
How to Balasana:
Start by kneeling on your hands and knees. Release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip width apart. As you exhale, slowly lower your buttocks towards your heels, feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis. As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck before your forehead rests on the floor. Lay your arms by the thighs with palms facing up and feel how the weight of your shoulders lightly spreads the shoulder blades. Take several slow breaths into your belly and lower your back as you rest there. Close your eyes, focus on breathing, and rest there momma. It’s okay.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (or downward-facing dog pose)
One of the most recognized poses of yoga, downward-facing dog, offers the ultimate all-over rejuvenating stretch. This pose energizes the body, calms the mind, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands, as well as strengthens the arms and legs.
How to Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang. Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Balasana (or child’s pose).
Extended puppy pose is like the perrrrfect combination of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose) and Balasana (child’s pose), and can be used as a variation of either. Also referred to as the melting heart pose, this posture quite literally invites the heart to melt down toward the ground, stretching the spine in both directions. Extended Puppy stretches the spine, shoulders, upper back, and arms, making this pose great (or challenging, depending on how you look at it!) for those who tend to hold tension in their shoulders and upper back. Most momma’s do by the end of the day. The pose can also be therapeutic for stress and anxiety, as well as chronic tension and insomnia. Again, things we momma’s struggle with especially freshly postpartum. As a mild inversion, with the heart slightly higher than the head, Uttana Shishosana can help bring a sense of calm back into the body.
How to Uttana Shishosana:
Come to all fours (or Bharmanasana/ tabletop pose) with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees, and the tops of your feet relaxed down on the mat. Slowly begin to walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your chest down toward the ground. Keep your hips over your knees and your arms shoulder width apart, and gently release your forehead down to the ground. Activate your arms by pressing into the palms of your hands and lifting your elbows and forearms away from the ground. Draw your shoulder blades onto your back and reach your hips up high toward the ceiling. Invite your neck to relax and breathe into your back, lengthening your spine in both directions. Remain in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 breaths, then gently lift your forehead and walk your palms back toward your body to press up to Bharmanasana (or tabletop pose).
Bharmanasana (or tabletop pose)
Tabletop pose stretches the front side of the body and the shoulders as well as strengthens the arms, wrists and the legs. Because of the opening it gives to the front of the body, this pose improves posture and gives you a nice boost of energy. As momma’s carrying around littles and lifting heavy store goods, tension builds, tabletop helps release. Bharmanasana helps momma’s stretch while at the same time strengthening their entire back side.
How to Bharmanasana:
Begin in a seated position with feet flat on floor in line with sits bones. Place palms open on floor behind your back with fingers facing in. Look up and as you engage your abdominals and glutes, lift your body upward while gently letting your head relax back. Breathe and hold 30 seconds. Do this 5 times.
Bhujangasana (or cobra pose)
Cobra pose is best known for stretching the spine and increasing flexibility. It stretches the chest while strengthening the spine and shoulders and it also helps to open the lungs. An energizing backbend, Bhujangasana reduces stress and fatigue. It also firms and tones the shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks, and helps to ease the pain of sciatica. All common places of discomforts for the modern mother.
How to Bhujangasana:
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the back bend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
Virabhadra II (or warrior II pose)
Named for a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, this version of warrior pose increases stamina, strengthens and stretches the legs, ankles,and the groin; opens the chest, lungs, and shoulders as well as encourages building of concentration. Momma’s are warriors. We endure and we push onward. This pose is the embodiment of all that we are. Be fierce.
How to Virabhadra II:
Stand in Tadasana (or mountain Pose). With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle. Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor. Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don’t lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse your feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.
Utkata Konasana (or goddess pose)
An easy pose to perform to help you harness the forces of the Universe while stretching and toning your core. This pose helps each of us connect to our inherent inner goddess, finding a common space with this powerful feminine energy. This pose stretches your hips, groin and chest, tones and strengthens the core muscles, strengthens the quadriceps and inner thigh muscles, restores the shoulders, arms and upper back, as well as heats the body and increases circulation. Being a mother is being a goddess. We are fierce. We are powerful. We are strong. We are a force to be reckoned with.
How to Utkata Konasana:
Start in Tadasana (or mountain pose) at the front of your mat. Step your right foot a stride length towards the back of your mat. Turn your toes out and your heels in, so your feet land on a 45 degree angle. Bend your knees deeply out the sides and sink your hips down to the height of your knees. Bring your arms out at shoulder height and bend your elbows so that your fingertips point skyward. Spread your fingertips wide apart from one another and activate the muscles across your back to hold your arms here. Engage your core muscles and draw your tailbone in the direction of the floor. Do not hunch forward with your shoulders; keep your spine long and your muscles engaged. Stay here for 30 seconds up to one minute, then step forward and return to Tadasana (or mountain pose).
Each and every one of these poses are favorites of mine and have truly helped transition me for the third time postpartum. They are mild in requirements and encourage stretching, strengthening, toning, lengthening, and relaxing. All things that I know I NEED postpartum. I have to take care of me so I can take care of them.
as always, stay weird
Deets: I am wearing the Simply Sublime bra paired with postpartum recovery leggings by Kindred Bravely. I am able to practice, be modest while receiving abdominal support, and be easily accessible for my nursling. Every breastfeeding yogi’s desires in postpartum gear! *insert mad heart eyes*
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