The benefits of practicing mum and baby yoga, for both post-partum mum and her baby, are widely recognized and vast.
Post-natal yoga is the perfect way to begin to gently move again in the early post-partum period, with a focus on acceptance, healing, rebuilding, and rediscovery. The emphasis is on allowing mums to accept and connect with their new post-partum body, to rebuild, and to rediscover their hara; their life force.
Through breathing, movement, balance and relaxation, yoga can help heal the body and mind, helping mums to recover from pregnancy and birth, and accept and embrace the enormous changes and challenges that come with motherhood.
From a physical point of view, post-natal yoga helps to build strength and stamina, helps improve mobility and flexibility while also promoting stability, and promotes good posture and alignment, all of which helps to minimize the effects of holding, feeding, and lifting (especially things like heavy car seats), and to prevent and alleviate back and neck pain. Post-natal yoga also helps improve lung capacity, circulation, detoxification and movement of fluids, as well as stimulating cell growth and repair, all of which are crucial in the post-partum period. Moreover it can provide mum with some much needed rest and relaxation – a moment to be still, to breathe and to relax, as well as to recharge and renew energy.
Asana that focus on strengthening the BAPs (the back, the abs, and the pelvic floor) are particularly crucial for mum’s physical recovery in the post-partum period, helping to rebuild the weakened pelvic floor, and restore and strengthen the core muscles: the deep abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis) and the deep back muscles (multifidus). Working on the BAPs can help to bring the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size, knit separated abdominal muscles back together, and prevent prolapse and incontinence. Working on the BAPs also helps to improve spinal and pelvic alignment and stability, and promotes good posture, thus preventing neck and back pain and stiffness. Breathing, mindfulness and good technique, including good alignment, are all crucial in ensuring that the correct muscles are being activated.
Post-natal yoga also has enormous benefits for maternal mental health, and has been proven to help minimize post-natal depression (Yoga Bellies for Pregnancy by Cheryl MacDonald). Practicing yoga helps to soothe the nervous system and restore hormonal balance, and has been shown to promote the production of the wonderful ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, which plays a crucial role in bonding. This all results in a reduction in stress and anxiety, improved bonding with baby, and improved mental health.
Baby yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years (Yoga Bellies for Pregnancy by Cheryl MacDonald), and the benefits are well documented. “For babies, yoga can help with common complaints such as digestion and colic, help to strengthen their tiny limbs, improve sleep patterns and enhance their ability to interact with mum and other people” (Yoga Bellies for Pregnancy by Cheryl MacDonald).
Allowing babies to move and stretch, and thus gain awareness of their bodies, is more important than ever in this day and age, with babies spending so much time in car seats, carriers, bouncers and the like, where their movement is restricted. Babies learn with their bodies, and it is through physical activity and experience that neural pathways between baby’s body and brain develop.
Baby yoga uses gentle asana to help strengthen baby’s body and improve flexibility, and to stimulate brain development by using a range of movements. Cross lateral movements, for example, which activate both hemispheres of the brain and encourage connections between the two, have been shown to have particular benefits for brain and nervous system development.
Baby yoga can help improve baby’s balance and coordination, their spatial awareness, and their mind/body connection, and can help babies move from reflex to voluntary movements. As with adults, it can also aid breathing, circulation and digestion, thus helping with things such as colic, wind, and constipation. It also helps to soothe the nervous system, helping to soothe and relax baby, promoting calm and helping baby to become more settled – and potentially even improving baby’s sleep patterns.
Not only this, but the loving, positive touch that is involved promotes bonding and positive attachment, builds trust and understanding, and provides a lovely opportunity for interaction and communication – all incredibly important for baby’s development, but also for mum’s mental health and well-being.
In a mum and baby class, not only does mum reap the benefits of post-natal yoga, and baby reap the benefits of baby yoga, but by incorporating baby fully into the entire practice, it becomes “one of the most yogic things you will ever do” (Yoga Bellies for Pregnancy by Cheryl MacDonald).
As in real life, baby is a part of every moment. Baby is with mum throughout, and fully involved in her practice, whether happily watching from the mat, or being actively included in the postures; from being entertained with funny faces and kisses while under mum’s balancing table, to sitting on her knee in Warrior I, and flying above her in her bridge pose. And on the weeks where baby feeds, sleeps, or needs cuddles throughout… mum can just tend to her baby’s needs, and see what the next week brings.
A mum and baby yoga class provides a fantastic opportunity not only to gently move and rebuild, but also to bond with baby, to meet other mums, and to build that all important village – all so crucial for a mum’s overall health and well-being.
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I’m an inclusive, not scary, totally normal yet heavily qualified yoga instructor and founder of YogaBellies® and the Birth ROCKS Method. I’m trained in self hypnosis and meditation and what I love is helping women (ALL women) enjoy yoga without having to whisper all the time and wear fancy activewear that cost a month’s rent.
I believe Yoga is for everyone.