Asana is usually a person’s first introduction to yoga, and it is a good place to start. After practicing yoga postures, you feel better physically and mentally, making yourself more likely to incorporate other self-improvement techniques into your daily routine.
After you have a baby, your body may respond to poses in a different way, or you may have difficulty quieting the mind to get into balance poses. Many women lose core strength, and their backs may be strained and shoulders pulled forward due to holding an infant for long periods at a time. Tension may be carried in a different part of your body than before. Also, due to a cloudy mind and a lack of body awareness, bumps and bruises happen easily. An asana practice, along with the other seven limbs, help combat these issues.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, asana is a steady, comfortable posture. Any posture will do, as long as you can remain in it for a long time. “What we need is the strength of steel, but with steel’s flexibility – not like crude iron, which is very strong and hard but breaks,” says Sri Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga and devoted student of Sivananda. “The body must be so supple it can bend any way you want it to. Such a body will always be healthy and tension-free. The moment we sit down for meditation in such a body, we’ll forget it.”
In the immediate weeks after your baby is born, it is imperative that moms get as much rest as possible. Exercise is not a priority while your uterus is slowly shrinking back to its pre-baby size. As your uterus contracts, you are still bleeding, sometimes copiously; this is called lochia. The more you move during these first four weeks, the more you will bleed, sometimes passing clots bigger than your fist. If you see this happen, you know you are doing too much. The critical rest period will vary, though, depending on how your baby was delivered. If you had a C-section, you will need to allow more time for your incision to heal. (Plus, if you did have a C-section, you will still have lochia.)
As time goes on and your child grows up, asana remains important. These yoga poses keep your body agile, so you can keep up with your toddler, and your mind even, so you can keep focused on your parenting duties. Asana keeps your body healthy, relieving tension and allowing your body’s natural energy centers to flow evenly. And plus, practicing asanas in front of your child may get them interested in yoga. The asanas you practice don’t even have to be traditional ones. You can create your own, such as walking-across-the-floor-with-child-attached-to-your-leg-asana or holding-on-to-your-child-while-they-throw-a-tantrum-in-public-asana. Any movement that you do with a mindful and conscious effort can be an asana.
If you aren’t familiar with yoga for young children, I highly recommend seeking out an instructor or borrowing some children’s yoga books from the library. Many yoga asanas are named after animals, and animals are something that children are quick to connect with. Participating with them will keep you young and inspire the creative side of your personality. And don’t forget to laugh! Laughing works your abdominal muscles and lifts everyone’s spirits.
Look for yoga poses that strengthen the back, abdomen, shoulders and arms, open the hips and create balance in the body. These will bring about a natural awareness as to your posture and how you pick up and set down your child.
Your asana practice will help you settle into parenthood. It will help quell any restlessness you feel inside. Perhaps you’re not so sure about this parenthood gig, or there is drama elsewhere in your life. If you commit to a regular asana practice, the quietness you attain will help you transcend your worldly worries. Satchidananda had some wise words on this:
If you make the posture firm and comfortable, then you are not affected by the dualities. Neither heat nor cold, praise nor censure, profit nor loss will affect you. You are neutral. Whether someone blesses or curses you, praises or pulls you down, whether you gain or lose a million dollars – you will be neutral. Just by posture alone you can rise above the dualities, because the mind is under your control.
See the next chapter: “Eight Limbs of Postpartum Yoga: Pranayama“
For background, see “An Introduction”