After you give birth, exercise is the ticket to getting stronger, losing weight and relaxing into motherhood. Try our yoga-inspired postpartum plan.
1. Cat/cow Kneel on all fours, hands under shoulders with arms straight, inner elbows facing each other, knees separated and in line with hips. Head, neck, torso and hips should form a straight line. Inhale, dropping shoulder blades as you look up toward ceiling and lift both tailbone and breastbone; keep neck relaxed. Exhale and round back toward ceiling as you tuck tailbone and look down at floor. Repeat 3–5 times with gentle rocking movement.
Add for warm-up only: On all fours, inhale and lift right arm out to side and up to ceiling; exhale as you bring arm down. Repeat with left arm. Then, on all fours, inhale and lift right arm forward and left leg back and up to hip height; exhale as you bring arm and leg down; then change sides. Stretches back muscles; opens chest; gently tones abdominals.
2. Eagle pose Sitting cross-legged on floor; cross elbows in front of chest, entwining forearms and pressing palms together. Inhale and lift elbows to shoulder level, moving forearms away from face. Exhale and release. Do 3–5 times. Stretches upper back; increases shoulder flexibility; releases tension.
3. Cow–face pose Sitting cross-legged on floor, place back of left hand behind you along center of spine, fingers pointing up. Inch hand up as far as possible without pulling shoulders forward. Then, stretch right hand overhead and bend elbow, placing right palm down on back. Keeping head and chin lifted, try to clasp hands together; if you can’t, hold a belt or towel between hands. Hold for breathing cycles; then switch arm positions and repeat. Releases shoulder tension; increases flexibility; opens chest.
4. Downward facing dog Start on all fours, hands aligned with shoulders. Lift hips so your body forms a “V,” and walk feet back until arms and legs are straight, feet hip-width apart. Inhale, pressing hands into the floor. As you exhale, keep lifting hips toward ceiling and distribute weight evenly over feet and hands; widen and relax shoulders. With each exhalation, stretch legs by bringing heels down toward floor and chest closer to legs. If preceding is too difficult, place the back of a chair or support against a wall; put hands on seat just slightly ahead of shoulders. Strengthens abdominals, legs, back and shoulders; designed to improve circulation and digestion; has both calming and energizing effects.
5. extended side–angle pose Standing with feet together and arms at sides, separate legs about 4 feet apart and extend arms up and out to sides at shoulder height. Turn left foot in slightly and turn right foot out 90 degrees, keeping right knee in line with toes and heel in line with arch of left foot. Exhale and bend right knee until it’s aligned with right ankle, making a 90-degree angle. Then bend at hips and place right forearm on inside of right thigh (if you’re very flexible, you can hold ankle; see “To Progress,” below). Press left foot firmly into floor, inhale and stretch left arm up and overhead, following same line as torso. As you breathe, deepen stretch in right thigh; hold for 3–5 breath cycles. Straighten right knee and return to standing position; switch foot positions and repeat on other side.