~ By Melissa Savoie
The postnatal yoga that I offer at Eastside Yoga is a class for mothers and babies to attend together. Partners, family and friends are also welcome. Women usually don’t begin attending this class until cleared by their midwife or doctor for activity around six weeks postpartum.
Just like prenatal, postnatal classes are focused on community. We begin the class with a circle to share updates on the babies’ progress as well as physical, emotional or mental updates that moms choose to share. These discussions also include sharing information about infant care: teething, feeding, diapering and any other issue that might arise in early parenthood. In this way, the group acts as both a place for asking and answering questions as well as a place to find referrals to other resources in the community. These referrals include infant swimming and music classes, mother’s support groups, pelvic floor physical therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture. This sense of community supports women especially in these early days of parenthood, which can feel very isolating.
The yoga in postnatal is a mixture of yoga done for parents while their babies rest or play on blankets and yoga done with the babies. This is an open class. Parents might stop to care for their child at different points in the practice and then re enter when ready. The yoga for parents is focused on the needs of the group in the room that day. Common issues include low back discomfort, upper back tension, wrist discomfort and a feeling of being unsupported in the core. We use therapeutic style yoga to address these areas of tension as well as strengthening poses to support postpartum recovery.
The yoga for the babies also includes strengthening poses for mom: squats while holding the baby, lunges and wall sits with songs. We do a lot of singing in postnatal yoga. Primarily, the same songs are sung each class so that as a baby grows the classroom is a familiar and comfortable place. As they begin to move into toddler class, they will sometimes sing along. We usually do a standing circle of activities, followed by a seated circle. These activities and songs are a great way for parents to bond with their child. This can be one of the first activities outside the home that they share and enjoy together.
To end class, we finish with some restorative poses like long twists, legs up the wall or my favorite for parents: supported crocodile pose. This pose is a great variation of savasana for parents, who tend to be very stimulated. We lie facedown with the torso supported by a bolster and the forehead resting on a blanket. It encourages release in the neck and a moment of relief from the constant alertness involved in the parenting of infants and babies. In these moments of savasana and rest, how ever long they last, part of the practice of parent and child yoga is finding peace and rest in moments that might feel chaotic. This is the practice of parenthood and is reflected in this type of yoga.