Why new moms should roll out the yoga mat

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Jan 292017

guest post by Ben Stanford

It’s hard to imagine doing much other than care for your newborn when you first give birth, but as the weeks fly by it’s a good idea for new mamas to focus on caring for themselves, too.

Self care is KEY in the sanity-saving department, and a big part of being a good parent.

IMG_4201 When it comes to self care for new mothers, yoga classes are probably one of the most valuable uses of your time. As little as one hour on the mat per week has mental and physical impacts that will get your through all the challenges of raising a wee one.

Let’s start with the physical benefits of yoga, and get right to the point.

Shrink the uterus and tone the abs
During pregnancy the uterus grows in size to accommodate the fetus, and the hormone Relaxin encourages the muscles of the abdomen to release, to make for an easier birth experience.

Both of these are perfectly normal, truly amazing functions of the female body, but after giving birth there are ways to gently help the body back to its natural, non-pregnant state. A strong, tight lower abdomen is essential for all sorts of mama-related duties, like lifting, carrying, and cuddling baby.

IMG_4203Yoga poses like twists, planks and core strengtheners (think “boat” pose) are marvelous for revitalizing the lower abdomen post-pregnancy. What’s even better, yoga focuses on gradually building strength and flexibility, which will ensure you don’t strain such an important part of your body. It’s important to make sure you do not have an ab separation (diastasis recti) before working on your abs in this way.

Build upper body, baby-lifting strength

The abdomen isn’t the only thing affected by Relaxin: you may find that you come back to the mat (or the gym) with a little less arm and shoulder definition than before.

As new moms learn at Mothering Touch, in Victoria, you’ll be lifting a pretty precious load all day long, and arm strength and flexibility prevent against the aches and pains that can ensue (especially since Relaxin will have depleted a lot of your previous strength).

Yoga is a full-body practice, which means you’ll be using your upper body as much as your core and lower body. The overall effect will mitigate back and shoulder issues that are often attributed to holding baby (especially while breastfeeding).

Ease and/or prevent Postpartum Depression

A huge component of yoga is mindfulness, the ability to notice our thoughts and feelings, without allowing them to control us. Mindfulness is thought to be one of the most effective natural antidotes to depression and anxiety, which, let’s face it, a significant percentage of new mamas face.

When you go to a yoga class, expect deep breathing, subtle reminders to come back to the present moment, and lots of silence. These elements might throw you off at first if you’ve never been to a class, but they’re all a part of training your mind not to downward spiral.

Whether you’re suffering from PPD or not, lack of sleep and being at the beck and call of a tiny, crying being can bring even the most mentally tough woman to her knees. Training your mind to stay present and move through challenges with grace certainly can’t hurt.

Get true, deep rest

Our nervous system is comprised of two distinct systems: the sympathetic, and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic system is associated with our body’s “fight or flight” response – it’s where we go when we’re stressed.

The parasympathetic system is dubbed “rest and digest”; when we’re in this state our body actually relaxes and regenerates.

Only one system can be activated at one time. Want to take a guess which one sees a lot of action when we’re waking up every hour to the screams of our most precious loved one?

The aforementioned deep breathing and mindfulness of yoga allows your body to slip into the restful state we enter when the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged.

In short, when you attend a yoga class as a new mama, you actually get the chance to REST.

Enough said, really.

Where to Go to Get a Yoga Hit

IMG_4202Any city is likely to have yoga studios that offer gentle yoga classes, and pre-and-post-natal clinics that offer postpartum yoga. Jenny Berthiaume offers a variety of yoga classes for new and expecting moms in the Montreal area.

Whichever way you do it, if you’re a new mother you might want to think about making time for a weekly yoga class. Your mind & body will thank you.

Ben Stanford writes about various services to help you to achieve optimum health. He likes to provide you with the tools and knowledge to achieve your goals, move better again, and lead a strong, happy, and healthy life.

Nov 152010

THE SUBURBAN, Nov. 10, 2010

There are many reasons for new moms to exercise regularly. Some women are motivated by the thought of getting back the body they had 10 months ago. Others start exercising to release serotonin, hopefully warding off the baby blues or postpartum depression. Whatever the motivation behind taking up a regular exercise routine after giving birth, there is no shortage of ways new moms can get their heart-rates going again.

Luckily, it’s not even necessary to hire a babysitter to get that workout in. A wide variety of programs in Montreal offer classes that allow new moms to exercise while spending time with baby. Some offer a more rigorous work-out while other programs allow new moms to socialize, and offer a time to bond with baby.

Little Burgundy resident Samantha Hull is a mother of two who has experience with just about every kind of mom and baby exercise available in the city. When her son, Stelio, was born, Hull tried out mom and baby yoga and baby swimming classes.

“Both were a great way to bond with the him,” she says. “But I didn’t get the workout I was looking for.” She said her son loved the swimming classes but she left him at home twice a week so she could get out and take her own Pilates classes.

When her daughter came along three years later, she decided to take her routine up a notch and opted for the Cardio-Stroller course. Part of Cardio Plein Air, which takes people of all ages and fitness levels to local parks to get their hearts pumping, Cardio-Stroller is an intense workout for women wishing to get back into shape after birth.

Hull explains that because the babies are with their mothers in strollers, there is no running, which would jostle the baby about. “You’re always walking, and there is lots of emphasis on squats and muscle training.”She started the program when her daughter Inès was three months old.

“Some women did it with sleds up on Mont Royal,” she says. Hull took her daughter to the classes twice a week. “We both looked forward to it,” she says. “There were some babies Inès was so happy to see. She was as close to making friends as a three-month-old could get.”

Hull found the program particularly helpful to boost her own energy. “Neither of my babies were sleepers,” she says. “I needed energy and being outside to exercise was so much better than being inside the gym.”

Hull loved her Cardio-Stroller trainer, Linda Comtois so much, she brought her over to the office once maternity leave was over. Twice a week Hull and a dozen of her coworkers spend their lunch hour doing their training with Comtois around the Lachine canal.

For yoga instructor Jayme Hernandez, exercising after giving birth might be more important for the mind and spirit and for the connection with baby, than for the body alone.

Hernandez teaches prenatal yoga, gives partner’s labour workshops, and is the founder of Mom and Baby Danceflo. Her program is a combination of yoga stretches and dance, allowing moms to let loose and rejuvenate.

“I feel there’s a lot of social pressure to lose our pregnancy bellies,” says Hernandez. “That can cause so much stress. It’s more important to feel good inside.” She explains that when we breathe and express ourselves through movement, this allows the mind and body to balance out. “This is more important than looking the way you did before.”

Mother of three-year-old Leaya, Hernandez knows what it’s like to be in the pattern of “go, go, go.” She says, “Taking care of a baby, especially in the first year, can be a 24/7 job. It becomes routine and we forget how to stay in the moment.”

Hernandez says it’s important to stop thinking about diapers and practice connecting to the breath. “It’s important for new moms to learn how to stay in the present,” she says. “Dancing is a way of doing that. When we dance, we release, let go and express ourselves.”

As any new mom knows, going for a night at a dance club usually isn’t much of a reality.