The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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I think of it as coming out of the cave, that period after being ensconced with your newborn. You’re healing and bonding with your baby, you’re hormonally high and feeling like you’re in an episode of The Twilight Zone in which fluid is leaking from every orifice of your body. You wonder who that woman is staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.
A month after my son was born, I remember putting on lipstick and my husband’s low-slung corduroys, leaving the house with my son in the baby carrier and going to a local record store. At a listening station, idiotically grinning at no one in particular, petting my son’s furry head as he slept snuggled against my chest, headphones piping in my own private concert, three things happened in quick succession. First, I squelched the urge to sob violently out of the psychotic love I was feeling for my son, then I forgot what city I was in, then I closed my eyes and nearly pitched forward in a sudden narcoleptic response to my new life.
My next few outings were simple strolls around the neighborhood to remind my body of life before being a carrier vessel. I wanted to regain my body, rebuild my strength and slow my racing, busy mind. For all this, I’m happy to report to anyone wanting the same, there is yoga.
“[There’s a] symmetry in yoga that brings balance back to your body,” renowned yoga instructor Gurmukh Gaur Khalsa says with a soft, soothing lilt. I’m here in Gurmukh’s postnatal mommy-and-me yoga class at Golden Bridge, her busy, airy yoga studio in Los Angeles. A yoga teacher for 30 years, Gurmukh instructs the class on correct postures. Women in all sizes and outfits perform yoga stances as their toddlers and babies (some as young as 6 weeks) sleep, crawl and nurse on and around them. Before I know it, the class has actually finished a respectable 45 minutes of yoga (I sure can feel it), followed by a joyous group rendition of nursery rhymes and songs accompanied by gentle mommy-and-me dancing.
Afterward, I ask Gurmukh why yoga is so effective for new moms. “Yoga is a science,” she says. “You get better so much faster than in random exercise.” A woman needs to get back her strength and rejuvenate her body after giving birth, in a class or even at home. If she doesn’t, the imbalance and fatigue can last a lifetime. I’m convinced.
The following yoga routine was designed to improve endurance in your legs, back and abs—muscles you’ll need to perform the everyday tasks of motherhood (bending, stooping, carrying, lifting). You can do the moves with your baby nearby or actually on you. The sequence was created by certified yoga instructor Colette Crawford, R.N., of Seattle. Check with your doctor before beginning these exercises; once you have the go-ahead, start them at 4–6 weeks postpartum.