Yoga and Breastfeeding

So chances are, if you have internet access, you've seen pictures of the royal babies, many cat memes, and "Naked Breastfeeding Yoga Mom."

The big discussion at the time was whether the woman who came to be known as such (Amy, who blogs at Daughter of the Sun) had staged this photo. Chances are, if you’ve ever nursed a baby, you have a sense of why exactly this photo didn’t have to be staged. (Read: Baby sees opportunity to eat. Baby eats.)  

But now onto the subject of yoga and breastfeeding. Many moms focus on yoga practice while pregnant. But what about postpartum?

Well the quick answer is this: if you just had a baby, now’s not the time to take up a new power flow practice. As a yoga instructor, I advise postpartum students to take their time, and to slowly reclaim elements of their practice they may have left behind during pregnancy and birth. Like any part of the body that experiences strain, the muscles used for pregnancy, labor, and birth will require time and TLC before being in perfect working order again. 

So before we give you our best tips, you have to read our little disclosure:

Because it is extremely common to have such issues postpartum, make sure you have a doctor’s approval before beginning this or any exercise regimen. Lucu blog writers are not medical professionals and are not trained to treat or diagnose any medical problem. 

Most infants are lifted by their caregivers upwards of 50 times per day! Be patient with your body as it adjusts to new demands, and when caring for baby, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Tend to the wrists with a gentle stretch before, or after a long nursing session.

  • Switch up the side of the body you carry baby on, especially if using a carrier that doesn't evenly distribute weight, such as a ring sling.

Main issues in the musculature that arise from the breastfeeding relationship tend to involve the upper body.

So today, we offer you a quick little series to help relax and recharge the muscles used for nursing, focusing on optimizing circulation in the tender joints of the upper body, and reversing the forward inclinations of the shoulders:

 

 

 

Here's our list of must-do poses for breastfeeding mothers:

From Easy Seated Pose (Sukasana)

Upward Arm Stretch:

Starting in easy seated pose, on the inhalation, interlace the fingers and extend the arms upward, palms toward the ceiling. Exhaling, release arms to your sides, focusing on extension of the arms laterally, as if you could send the breath out through the fingertips.

Repeat 3x.

 

Gentle Side Stretch:

Place the right hand down beside you on the mat. Keeping weight evenly distributed on both sitting bones, lean to the right while winding the left arm behind you to work toward the crook of your hip. Keep the palm open and relaxed, while allowing the neck to drift along into the motion. 

Repeat on the left side.

 

Cat/ Cow:

From Table Pose (Hands and Knees), inhale lifting the tailbone, taking  the gaze upward and allowing the tummy to drop toward the mat. Exhale, rounding the back like a halloween cat and looking toward the toes.

Repeat 3x, focusing on the opening through the collarbone on the inhalation, making the exhale more passive.

 

Wrist Stretches:

Sit back towards the heels and extend arms forward with palms upward. With the inside of the wrists facing the ceiling and the tops of the fingers facing your body, place the palms to the ground. Lift from your heels as much as you need to to facilitate this. In coordination with the breath, gently shift weight back toward the heels, as you “peel” the hands off of the mat, taking your time as you work toward the last of your fingertips releasing from the mat.

Repeat 1x.

Now sitting back fully onto the heels in Hero's pose, extend the right arm forward, and allowing the right hand to relax, use the left hand to gently pull the fingers of the right hand back toward the body on the exhalation. Flex the hands at both wrists in between sides.

Repeat 2x.

Take a few restful breaths in extended Child's Pose. 

When ready, press up and back to Downward Dog.

 

From Downward Dog: 

Inhaling the right leg up (knee facing down to the floor), exhale, stepping the right foot through and placing it between the hands. Keeping the front knee above the ankle, drop the back knee to the mat. Placing the left hand down to the mat beside you, extend the right arm to the ceiling, fingers reaching from a strong, open palm. (If you prefer, you can rest the right hand in the crook of the hip.)

Exhale, stepping back to plank pose and moving to Downward Dog for a couple of breaths.  Repeat on the other side, returning to Downward Dog.

From Downward Dog, step forward until you're allowing the upper body to gently hang forward from the waist. Interlace the arms, soften the knees and take slight side to side movements if you like. Gently shake the head yes and no.  Roll up to standing one vertebrae at a time, until the neck is elongated with the crown of the head reaching for the ceiling.

 

Wall Warrior:

Stand next to the wall with the right side of your body nearly touching it.  Open into warrior stance with left leg bent at 90 degrees and right leg extended strongly behind you. Open the right arm out and behind you, pressing each part of the right hand to the wall with fingers spread wide, edging yourself closer to the wall if you need to. The left hand finds a comfortable rest on the upper left thigh. (If stability in this pose is a problem for you, try finding a doorjamb for the right hand to hold onto.)

Repeat on the other side.

 

From Standing:

From a wide stance (at least 2/3 the length of your legs) turn toes outward slightly. With arms behind the back, interlace the fingers (or use a strap or scarf wound around the hands, especially if you may already be experiencing some symptoms of tendonitis). Exhale, lift the tailbone and fold forward, keeping the back straight and head in line with the spine. (Alternative option: place hands in prayer in the small of your back.) Rise on the inhale. 

 

Sphynx pose:

From the stomach, rise to the elbows. Head stays in gradual line along with the spine. Gaze is somewhat upward. Spread the fingers wide, taking weight into all of the parts of your hands.

Inhale, feel the heart center drawing forward. Exhale, feel the shoulders lower and relax.

 

From a Supine Position:
After Sphynx, roll over onto your back. Bring both knees in toward the chest and rock gently side to side. Place the hands over the kneecaps and make little circular movements with the knees, clockwise, then counter-clockwise.  Releasing the left leg to your mat, hold just the right knee in toward the body, keeping the neck long and relaxed. Allow the right knee to drift across the body and toward your left side, eventually resting on your mat or on a block.  Extend the arms out into a T-shape, and follow your right hand with your gaze.  After a few breaths, open the right leg into a passive position, resting with the knee bent and the sole of the right foot finding a place along the inside of the left leg.  Place hands over the abdomen and rest for a few breaths.  Repeat the above series on the other side, beginning with holding both knees into the chest, and this time allowing the right leg to be long and passive on the mat while the left leg moves.

 

Savasana (Corpse pose)

Here we truly let go of the "doing" and move into a state of stillness. Allowing arms and legs to soften and settle into your mat, palms upward toward the ceiling. Close the eyes and clear the mind.  

If you're having trouble resting the mind along with the body, start with a simple mantra, such as "So Hum," or try a progressive relaxation visualization (moving from the crown of your head down toward your toes, mentally acknowledging each part of the body and visualize sending your breath to those places as a way of calling relaxation to each area).  

 

 

Questions? Leave  them in the comments below.

much love!

Lucu

 

 

Posted on June 24, 2015 .