One of the most common questions I get from my prenatal yoga students is this: When can I do yoga again after the birth of my new baby?
Maybe you’ve spent your whole pregnancy coming to your yoga mat every week preparing your body and mind for birth. You probably have made amazing connections through your class, found a support system of other moms in the same phase of life, and have learned that yoga can make you feel SO much better. Yoga makes you feel more at ease in your body, releases all the tensions, and clears your mind like nothing else.
Then you had a baby. And your entire life changed in an instant. You’ve got to meet the demands of a helpless little one, feeding him around the clock. Plus, you’ve got to get to know your new, miraculous body, too, too!
You want to get back to the practice and the community that you love as soon as possible. But you don’t want to risk hindering the healing process by jumping into any kind of exercise too soon.
The good news is this: Yoga can be a life-saver for moms in the postpartum stage. Not only is it a great way to ease back into more physical forms of exercise, but it can be the perfect way to really pay attention to your body and get to know what will and won’t work for you as you heal.
So when can you do yoga after birth?
The official word is to wait until your doctor or midwife gives you the OK to resume physical exercise. For moms who have had a vaginal birth without complications, that’s usually at your 6-week postpartum follow up appointment. Moms who had a cesarean birth (c-section) might have to wait more like 8-10 weeks to get the green light from their care provider.
But just as every pregnancy and every birth is different, every mom experience the fourth trimester differently, too.
What might be a perfect time for one mom to unroll her mat, might be completely inappropriate for another. I know some moms who are ready as early as 4 weeks postpartum, while other moms just don’t feel like it until they’re more like 6 MONTHS postpartum.
In fact, I took an informal poll in my Facebook Group for yoga mamas and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was divided pretty evenly between those who were itching to get on their mat just a few weeks after their babies were born and those who who said it took many months. (It took a few several years!)
Here’s the thing. There are so many different variables when it comes to the newborn days. If your baby is doing well, eating well, sleeping some, and relatively chill (as far as newborns go), there’s a good chance you’re going to start feeling better sooner and will start to crave some movement. On the other hand, if you have a baby who doesn’t eat well, is colicky, doesn’t sleep, or has some lingering health problem that makes you worry day and night… your mind is going to be on keeping everyone ALIVE.
I’m speaking from experience here. My first daughter had no problems after she was born and I was ready to go again when she was about a month old. I was also really curious about my new body and I was pretty excited to experiment and see what I could do. For a while, my practice was much different than it had been prior to pregnancy, but I was back on my mat quickly.
My second baby was different. She had a hard time nursing (and even taking a bottle!). She didn’t gain weight. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders day and night as I pumped around the clock.
It was SUCH a struggle. I went back to teaching yoga when she was about 3 months old, but, honestly, I didn’t feel like practicing my until she was more like 6 months old.
For me, it wasn’t that I was physically still healing. But emotionally and mentally, I was maxed. At this time in my life, my yoga practice was not about asana… it was about breathing, staying calm, trusting my mama instincts, and taking things one deep breath at a time. And that’s OK!
So, when can come back to yoga after they have a baby? When you feel like practicing again!
There’s really no right or wrong answer here. Make sure you give yourself enough to heal, and, when you feel ready, start out slow and build slowly.
Below are my best tips for getting back on your mat after you have a baby.
Postnatal Yoga: 10 Tips for Doing Yoga After Birth
Take your time.
You spent 9 months (really 10!) growing a baby inside of your body. There were many dramatic changes, but they happened somewhat gradually over many months. Then, you gave birth.. and it’s a big giant change all at once (both to your body and your life!) It’s going to take some time to get to know your new body, figure out how to make time for your yoga practice, and some experimenting once you do get on your mat to figure out what works for you.
Increase your time and difficulty gradually.
When you’re feeling ready to introduce some movement back into your routine, start with just a few minutes a day. Try it while your baby is napping or getting in some Tummy Time.
Gradually increase the amount of time you spend practicing asanas and gradually add more difficulty, too. If you try to do too much too soon, you’re more likely to get injured or, perhaps a bigger concern, have a hard time fitting it into your new lifestyle.
It’s very likely that your practice is going to feel different in the beginning. (Yes, even you!) But that same intuition-led yoga practice that served you so well when you were pregnant will be vital now, too.
Every new mom is different. And every birth and postpartum period is different. (I was shocked by how different my two were!) Don’t compare. Just know that you have the tools you need — your breath, your awareness, your intuition — to create a practice that is nourishing and healing for YOU.
Include your baby.
Sometimes your postpartum yoga practice will be deep breaths while you’re rocking your new little one. Other times, maybe you’ll feel like letting your baby play in the floor or in a bouncy seat while you practice close by. It can be so much fun (and a great way to bond, too!) to include your baby in your yoga practice.
When my first daughter was a baby, I used to put her in her bouncy seat at the top of my mat. I’d make faces at her every time I looked forward. If she fell asleep, I’d make a game of stepping forward and back as quietly as possible so she wouldn’t stir.
You don’t have to be alone to practice yoga. However, if you’re craving a few minutes alone, do not hesitate to pass that baby off to someone else.
No guilt allowed.
Fill your own cup, so you’ll have more to share with the people you love.
One of my teachers says practicing yoga is like brushing your teeth. It’s better to do it just a little bit every day than it is to do for an hour one time a week. It may seem like there’s no point in just getting in a quick 10 minutes while your baby naps in his crib. But even just a few minutes can make all the difference in the course of your day. Do it. You’ll never regret it.
Truth: Spending time taking deep breaths is not the same thing as a daily asana practice. If you replace a physical asana practice with breathing for an extended period of time, you won’t get all the same physical benefits or release. But that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit.
Initially your yoga after birth practice may be simply taking deep, mindful breaths while you hold your baby on your chest. Watch the baby lift with your inhale and lower with your exhale. Smell his soft baby hair. Feel his warm body on yours – bonus points for skin to skin!
Breathe. It. In. No one will ever convince me that this is not yoga.
Modify your practice to suit your new lifestyle.
I used to think that the focus of my postnatal yoga practice would be core, core, core. After all, I wanted to be strong again and “tighten everything back up.”
The postpartum period was absolutely a turning point in my life and in my yoga practice.
After I had my baby, though, I was a lot less concerned with how I looked and a lot more concerned with how I felt. I craved shoulder and chest openers when I was holding a baby for hours on end. I also wanted to do a lot of low lunges and focus on stretching my hip flexors, which got tight after hours and hours (and hours) of rocking and bouncing baby on a yoga ball.
My advice? Give your postpartum abdominal muscles a break. They need time to heal. I didn’t practice Sun Salutations for a long time after I gave birth. I also didn’t worry about tightening my tummy. Instead, I gave myself what I needed most to bring my body back into balance. I encourage you to do the same!
(Trust me. There will be plenty of time for core work later.)
Surround yourself with people who get it.
Do I need to explain this one? Being a new mom is hard. I often tell people that the first two months after my second was born was the hardest time of my entire life. (I couldn’t figure out how to feed her or console her since she wouldn’t breastfeed at first!)
I was so lucky to have friends who would gently nudge me to ask for help, who would stop by to offer their support, or just listen to me talk about how frustrating this phase was.
Again, there are many different forms of yoga. Sometimes allowing others to step in and hold you when you feel like you can’t do it any more is an important part of the practice.
Need help finding your tribe? Consider a Mommy and Me Yoga class.
Be kind to yourself.
It’s not just your body that’s different. You have a whole new LIFE.
So please please please don’t beat yourself up if you can’t go right back to the practice you enjoyed before you had your baby.
Maybe you’ll notice you aren’t quite as strong as you once were. Or maybe you’ll just struggle with making the time. It’s OK. It’s all OK! And it’s normal.
The yoga is here to support you in whatever phase of life you’re in. It can–and should be!–modified to meet you where you are. Even if where you are is hunched over a breast pump every two hours with no idea when you’ll get the chance to take your next shower.
You can do this. But there’s no rush.
Oh, and in case no one has told you lately…. You’re doing a great job!