By SHAMALA VELU
Yoga is one great way to get back into shape, especially after childbirth. What's more, you can do the exercises in the convenience of your own home once you have mastered the techniques.
The recommendation to start postnatal yoga exercises is about six weeks after normal delivery and eight weeks after a Caesarean.
“However, it is best to check with the physician before starting any exercises, especially if there were any complications in the delivery,” explains Monika Ramasamy, a yoga instructor at Havana Estudio in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
“After pregnancy and childbirth, the body has gone through several changes. Muscles and ligaments are stretched and organs pushed into different positions. Hormone levels are also altered to accommodate pregnancy, childbirth and nursing. In fact, a new body emerges,” explains Ramasamy, who has been practising and teaching yoga for 27 years.
She originally hails from Switzerland and in 1994 became one of the pioneer yoga teachers in Kuala Lumpur.
So, what are the common complaints from new mums?
“Usually it's fatigue, aching back, neck and shoulders. There's also the overall feeling of being heavy and overweight.
“However, first, there needs to be self-acceptance and the willingness to give oneself as much time as necessary for the body to get back in shape. Your body needs time to recuperate and being patient is the best approach; being a mother to a new baby is already taxing enough,” she says.
The good news is that yoga has specific exercises to help you tone the body. Doing kegel exercises is crucial to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles, ligaments and tissues that stretches from your pubic bone to the base of your spine at the back).
It is essential to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles because complications and a painful abdomen develop from a weakened pelvic floor.
Yoga also helps to tone the abdomen, alleviates shoulder, neck and back pain, and relieves fatigue. It helps and builds endurance and creates emotional balance as well.
Here are a few simple yoga poses:
|The Cat and Cow Pose is really two poses, one flowing into the other. To get into the Cow position, inhale while raising your head, dropping your stomach slowly and pointing your pelvis up.
|The Cat pose is a simple post natal exercise mothers can perform at home. As you exhale, arch your back toward the ceiling like a cat while looking down towards the floor.
The Cat and Cow pose:
This exercise helps to improves spine flexibility and tones the abdomen:
This is really two poses, one flowing into the other. Start on all fours, Keep your hands just in front of your shoulders, your legs about a hip width apart. As you inhale, tilt your tailbone and pelvis up, and let the spine curve downward, dropping the stomach slowly, and lift your head up. Stretch gently. As you exhale, move into cat by reversing the spinal bend, tilting the pelvis down, drawing the spine up and pulling the chest and stomach in. Repeat several times, flowing smoothly from cow into cat, and cat back into cow.
“The Supported Shoulder Stand” relieves the stiffness of your neck and spine as you arch your back. It also helps to correct the shoulder muscles and any tendency of having rounded shoulders. This yoga pose is not only simple but very relaxing. It exercises the chest and tones the neck and back,” explains Ramasamy.
For this exercise you will need some blankets or towels:
Supported shoulder stand:
Fold blankets and place them on your yoga mat (parallel to the short side of the mat, and about 10 inches from the wall).
|Ramasamy showing how far the blanket should be from the wall before you can do the Supported Shoulder Stand pose.
Recline on your mat with your feet raised upright against the wall so that your legs are supported by the wall. The rolled towel or blanket should be placed at the base of your shoulder blades. Your chest should be passively lifted up, as your arms relax to the sides. Use another folded towel to support your head. Your legs should be relaxed.
|The Supported Shoulder Stand relieves the stiffness of your neck and spine as you arch your back.
“This exercise helps to tone and energise the body and is also known as a restorative pose. It might be what all mothers need at times,” she says.
If mothers are up to it, they can also try the Warrior Pose which helps to rejuvenate and energise the body.
|This Warrior Pose helps to rejuvenate and energise the body. It starts with resting your arms on the knee before lifting yourself upright, keeping the back straight.
The Warrior Pose
For the warrior pose, the front knee is bent, while the other leg is stretched to the back. Curl your arms and let them rest on your bent knee while your face is looking down on your arms. Slowly lift head and move upright (not stretching all the way to the back). Spread the arms out to your sides in line with the legs.
Mothers who nurse their babies will also often complain of aches and pains around the neck and shoulders. Carrying their young ones for long periods of time can also strain their arms and back. This problem can easily be rectified by doing the “Supported Fish Pose”.
|The Supported Fish Pose.
The Supported Fish Pose:
This pose is similar to the Supported Shoulder Stand. However, your legs are not supported by the wall but are relaxed on the floor. Place a rolled or folded blanket under the mid back, at the base of your shoulder blades. Your chest should passively lift up, as your arms relax to the sides open out.
According to Ramasamy, new mums should also learn to breathe again as most often they tend to use the upper-chest-breathing mode after delivery.
“It is the least efficient way to supply the body with oxygen and energy. Furthermore, proper breathing technique helps to calm the nervous system. Lack of sleep, in addition to worrying about your newborn often leaves the mother stressed out. Breathing exercises can act as a tonic during those times,” she explains.
The “Full breath or Ujyayi” especially after pregnancy is very important according to her.
In this breathing exercise, lungs are fully expanded and the chest is puffed out. Learning this breathing exercise is best done with the help of an instructor as it involves certain techniques, with hands-on approach.
Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the belly, rises to the lower rib cage and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.
Can mothers lose all the extra weight with these exercises if they are performed regularly?
“It depends on how often a person does the exercises. Diet and genetic predisposition also must be taken into account. However, a combination of different exercises, such as swimming and walking, combined with Yoga, has the fastest results in my opinion.”
Having said that, Ramasamy says the most important factor is to initially gently tone the core muscles, such as pelvic floor and the inner layers of the abdominal muscles before a heavy exercise programme is introduced.
“My advice to new mothers is to watch their diets. Losing weight depends on how often you do the exercises. Diet and genetic predisposition also plays an important role.”
* Note: Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise programmes and if you are unsure of how to effectively do any of these exercises, ParenThots advises seeing a yoga instructor for advice so as not to cause any injury.
Getting back into shape post-partum