After you give birth, exercise is the ticket to getting stronger, losing weight and relaxing into motherhood. Try our yoga-inspired postpartum plan.
Go for the calorie burn You can incorporate muscle-building moves into your daily routine as well. Do calf raises whenever you change a diaper or a set of walking lunges as you move from nursery to den. Thirty minutes of these kinds of moderate activities will burn 150 calories for a 140-pound woman. Burn 150 calories a day until your child’s first birthday and you will have lost 11 pounds without even changing your diet. Don’t forget workout videos; you can do part of the routine when the baby’s sleeping or amusing himself. Or maybe you’ll be motivated by a new workout, such as the yoga-based strengthening program that follows.
“Childbirth is an overwhelming experience, physically and psychologically,” says Shangold. Exercise is the perfect antidote.
Strike the pose
“Energy explodes out of the body during birth,” says yoga instructor Colette Crawford, R.N., founder of the Seattle Holistic Center. Yoga, some forms of which gently move the body into a variety of poses, helps bring the energy back.
“After childbirth, the body just aches,” says Crawford, “and yoga can help get the spine back in proper alignment, decrease the feeling of heaviness in the legs and achiness and congestion in the back.” Performing yoga poses also brings about a state of calmness, she says, because the mind is involved with the body’s movements.
Crawford’s postpartum workout combines familiar strengthening and stretching exercises for abs and legs with simple yoga moves called poses. If you’ve never done yoga before, some of the moves may seem unfamiliar at first. Continue to do them day after day, though, and your body will naturally stretch, adapt and move into alignment. But remember to take it easy: Your body will take a while to readjust to its former shape and balance. Start with the easy yoga-based exercises in “Back in the Swing” (page 99), before going on to the full postpartum workout at right. If you’ve had a C-section, make sure that all your stitches have healed and you get your doctor’s permission to resume abdominal work (such as toe dips) or any other exercise.
Effective as it is for getting your body back to its prepregnancy shape and weight, this yoga routine also provides an opportunity for reflection and relaxation. With a new baby in the house, you can’t get too much of either.
Six–week postpartum yoga program You can start doing this program at 6 weeks after delivering (with your doctor’s permission). Depending on how you feel, do the routine at least 3 times a week. If you’ve had a C-section or were sedentary during your pregnancy, do just 2 poses a week for the first 3 weeks, then try to complete the entire program.
Do poses in the order listed. Move slowly and precisely in and out of movements. As a warm-up, do Energy Breathing and Child’s Pose from “Back in the Swing,” and Cat/Cow with variations. While in each pose, do 3–5 energy breaths to start, progressing to 10 breaths in each pose. Return to normal breathing between poses.
If you did yoga regularly before pregnancy, you should be able to return to your regular routine after 4–6 weeks of practicing this postpartum program.