Backbends For Breastfeeding
Today's guest post is by Mira Binzen. She is the Co-Founder/Director of Training at Global Family Yoga™. Check out her online yoga program for parents and kids to do together. It's awesome!
In the weekly “Moms and Babes” yoga class I teach, there is often one unanimous request – chest openers! New moms spend many hours a day rounded over their new baby’s face feeding them, whether by the breast or the bottle. Then, there is changing diapers and bending down and picking up – too many times a day to count.
That’s a lot of forward folding. To counteract this all-day-long pose, new moms appreciate backbends.
Everyone’s birth experience is unique. Regardless of how ‘eventful’ the birth process was, it’s wise to be gentle with yourself for the first few months postpartum.
A first time mom named JoAnn came into class exactly six-weeks after giving birth (the soonest new moms can attend), wanting to get back into shape. It’s a common desire to want to push yourself through the recovery process, but isn’t it true that there is no going back? It’s a new life and in many ways, a new body.
Simple backbends that honor the slow mending process and the new unfolding terrain include Cat/Cow, Cobra and supported backbends.
Cat/Cow (Chakravakasana) begins in Table pose with the hands and knees on the floor. Draw the chest forward through the arms while looking up and breathing in. Draw the tailbone down slightly to support the low back. While breathing out, round the back as the top of the head and tailbone release toward the floor and the navel drifts in to the back body. Move back and forth for a few minutes at your own pace. Go slow and enjoy the stretch.
Cobra (Bhujangasana) pose is done with the belly on the floor. Oftentimes, breasts are tender so place a folded blanket underneath the lower ribs to create some room for them. Begin with the tops of the feet and forehead on the floor. The palms rest at the sides of the chest, elbows in close. Inhale and lift the head and chest, exhale and rest the forehead back on the floor. Try this breathing ratio as you move in and out of Cobra to increase energy. Inhale for 4 seconds and then come down as you exhale in 4 seconds. Repeat for 3 more rounds increasing the inhalation by two seconds while continuing to come out of the pose while exhaling in 4 seconds. Like this, inhale 4, exhale 4. Next round: inhale 6, exhale 4, then, inhale 8, exhale 4 and finally take 10 seconds to come up into the position. If you run out of breath, just keep moving for 10 seconds. You can then hold the position for several slow rounds of breathing in and out with the chest lifted, shoulders relaxed and elbows in close.
Rest. Fold a firm blanket accordion style so that it is about 10 inches wide and place this on the floor. Lie down on the blanket so that the bottom edge of the shoulder blades are on the center of the blanket. The arms will rest out to the sides at shoulder height, just above the blanket. The chest is slightly elevated, but fully supported. Turn the palms up. Let the toes hang loosely to the sides. Breathe. Each time you breathe out, feel your body settle more deeply into the floor.
This sequence of three poses will take less than 10 minutes and can relieve tightness in the chest and shoulders and leave you feeling refreshed.