Yoga expert Tara Lee
‘It can be challenging to find time to exercise as a new mum,’ explains senior yoga teacher Tara Lee, who specializes in dynamic, pregnancy and post-natal yoga. ‘Don’t be hard on yourself or in too much of a rush to get back into shape. Remember, it took nine months of being pregnant, so expect it may take nine months to return back to how you were.’
Although the thought of exercising may be unappealing after giving birth, yoga can help new mothers de-stress, beat the ‘baby blues’, and ease the body back into exercise in manageable installments – and here, Tara offers her top tips for practising post-natal yoga.
Her first piece of advice? ‘Don’t push yourself or exercise too strongly in the first few months,’ she says. ‘You need to conserve lots of energy for producing milk. Plus, you are likely not to be getting enough sleep.’
Tara strongly recommends placing an emphasis on holistic recuperation, ‘It’s important to rest and eat well in the early months, and to focus on your recovery rather than bouncing back into shape immediately,’ she explains.
It’s for this reason that Tara has taken on the role of Head Yogi at a brand new sanctuary, Mermaid, a residential centre opening in July 2013 that will offer a comprehensive array of services to support women who have just given birth. Tara explains that she and her team ‘will help prepare women for their journey into motherhood with yoga and breathing techniques, and ensure they feel on top form.’
But for new mums that can’t take substantial time out, there are plenty of easy-to-manage solutions to getting in shape. Tara’s DVDs are filled with easy exercises that you can do at home and fit into your day. She explains, ‘I added a 10-minute ‘quick fix’ section, which will be easy to squeeze into even the busiest of days.’ There’s also a ‘Yoga for You and Your Baby’ DVD that allows women to exercise with their newborn.
Tara Lee’s tips for practising post-natal yoga:
Start with gentle yoga stretches to release tension and bring you more energy.
Avoid any strong abdominal exercises in the first few months
These can prevent the abdominal muscles from knitting back together properly and cause ‘abdominal separation’.
Focus on your shoulders and upper back
Most of the women who come to my post-natal mother and baby class complain of having very tight shoulders. Focus on stretches for your shoulders and upper back and releasing tension that accumulates from all the feeding and carrying of your baby. Example: place your fingertips on your shoulders and circle your elbows making big circles 10x and then change direction 10x.
Strengthen your abdominals
Interlace your fingers behind your back either sitting or standing and extend your arms away from your body. Feel the chest opening but think about gently drawing your navel in towards your spine to support your lower back and gently strengthen your abdominal muscles.
Practise pelvic floor exercises a few times every day.
‘I recommend my students do them whenever they feed their babies so they remember to do them. They are essential for post-natal recovery and if ignored can lead to many problems later, especially if you go on to have another baby. There is a pelvic floor section in my post-natal DVD if you need instruction.’
The Mermaid Maternity Retreat in London’s Chelsea covers antenatal and post-natal programmes, including breastfeeding, parenting classes, cranial osteopathy for your baby, physiotherapy, and exercise programmes designed to get you back in shape safely and quickly. Visit www.mermaid.co.uk