Breathing into Movement: the first steps to healing your postnatal body.
Having a baby and becoming a mother is life-changing. Your body feels very different, and there are new mental and emotional challenges. The energy of caring for your newborn, coupled with significant hormonal changes, can bring about feelings of pure joy and anxiety in equal measure. At this time it’s good to get the best support and understand how to heal and restore your body, mind and spirit.
During pregnancy the body makes dramatic adaptations: the diagraphm lifts and broadens, the ribcage expands and the abdominal wall thins and separates. During delivery the pelvic floor is stretched and the pelvic bones and tailbone reposition to allow the baby to be born. This process is not always easy or perfectly balanced and the pelvis and surrounding soft tissues can become strained or misaligned, causing all kinds of discomfort from mild to severe.
Since modern lives can be hectic, postnatal rest and recuperation is often non-existent. New mums are expected to spring to their feet and can feel pressure to get back to their pre-pregnancy body. However doing too much too soon can be detrimental to long term recovery. The idea of getting ‘back into shape’, losing the mummy tummy and getting fitter can be an overwhelming prospect. For some women they may be completely out of kilter and have no idea where to start to get back to feeling more like their ‘normal’ self.
Many women experience lower back and pelvic pain, especially as the challenge of lifting an ever growing baby takes its toll. Upper back and neck tension may be a result of shallow breathing during the last few months of pregnancy which can be further impacted by the demands of feeding and carrying. These physical issues can be exacerbated by tiredness or anxiety (and sometimes depression) meaning symptoms may persist long after having a baby.
With the right approach, there is much that can be done to support postnatal healing and wellness. For physical recovery the first steps need to be gentle and appropriate, treating the body as a whole, rather than only looking at pelvic and abdominal muscles. It is about starting from the inside: working with breathing techniques and gentle movements to reconnect the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles and spine. With proper guidance, tension is alleviated, the ribs and pelvis are realigned, and the pelvic floor muscles can be safely toned.
Attention to physical alignment and mindful breathing can make feeding, lifting, carrying, changing nappies and pushing the buggy all opportunities to improve your posture and to increase your fitness and strength. This will increase your sense of wellbeing, so that you can enjoy meeting the challenges of motherhood.
The way we breathe affects all body-mind systems, including the respiratory, muscular and nervous system, and will also affect sleep, memory, energy and concentration. Although breathing is automatic, we often unconsciously adopt unhelpful patterns of holding or restricting the breath. When we consciously learn and practice breathing exercises we can dramatically change our psychological, physical and biological states.
Once these simple practices have been learnt you will have a foundation of understanding which can be taken into your daily tasks. Breathing and complimentary meditation practices can be used whilst feeding your baby to promote healing and restorative calm. When you are feeling tired and drained you can give yourself some nurturing attention whilst giving baby a feed.
Re-energising, calming and relaxing the body and mind and are the lynchpin to beginning holistic post natal recovery, helping you to enjoy the wonderful journey into motherhood.
"Breathing into movement workshop" is being held at LevelSix Yoga in Peckham on Sunday 13th January 2019 between 11am-1pm. £28.
Bookings at www.louiserogersyoga.co.uk/bookings or call Caroline Harrison on 07808 860952 for more information.
Caroline is a London based Pilates teacher, specialising in postnatal recovery. https://www.carolineharrisonpilates.co.uk
Louise is a Surrey based yoga teacher, specialising in teaching prenatal and postnatal mum and baby yoga.