by Megan Sloan
Pretty much any new parent will share with you the aches and pains that have become part of their daily life with their new little one. We develop sore necks, tight shoulders, wrist issues and low back problems as a result of lifting, carrying, rocking, feeding and caring for our little ones. It’s amazing the havoc a tiny little human can wreak on your body especially when we’re too tired to be paying attention to proper body mechanics and posture.
The brilliant thing? Yoga can help. Immediately. And it need not be that you drag yourself out of your house to your local yoga studio to attend class. These five easy yoga poses can help make a world of difference in the discomfort that you’re feeling and can easily be integrated in your day to day.
Know how you spend so much time adoringly staring down at your baby while they eat, sleep or simply be cute (or cry…hey they do that too!)? This can cause a ton of neck tension which can be pretty debilitating as it can trigger headaches and make sleep even more elusive than it already may feel. Add this simple neck stretch to your day to day routine.
You can do this seated anywhere, on a bed, in a chair, on a yoga ball, wherever you can take a minute or two to pause. With a tall spine, on an exhale tip your left ear toward your left shoulder. Lift the right arm away from the body, keeping it straight, about 6 inches to a foot. Spin the palm of the right hand toward the ceiling and as you do spin your chin toward your left collarbone. Explore movement here that feels good: nod the head, open and close the mouth, often a big yawn will come out – no judgement.
To release drop the chin to the chest, lower the arm and between sides lift the chin toward the ceiling (don’t simply let the weight of the head drop back). As you lift the chin, push the lower jaw forward of the upper jaw to encourage length in the front of the neck. After 5-10 breaths bring the head to neutral and repeat second side.
This is the perfect antidote to a sore low back. It’s a great stretch first thing in the morning and right before bed. In fact, you can even do it in bed if you want to! Start on hands and knees (if your wrists are bothering you, you can also choose to be on your fists). With the inhalation let your chin lift slightly as you invite your heart to move forward between the arms, exaggerating the natural curve of your low back slightly (this is cow). And as you exhale pull the belly button up, round the back toward the ceiling and push down with the hands (this is cat).
On the next round, flow into cow, but as you exhale and round into cat start to sit the hips back toward the heels. As you flow back in your cat, keep your back arched as much as possible and widen your knees if that will make you more comfortable. Flow between cat and cow as many times as you like. If you find that somewhere along the way you feel a lovely stretch in your back, you might pause there for a few breaths and enjoy.
Especially as baby gets bigger, wrist pain can start to rear its ugly head, but for many folks this may have shown up in pregnancy or early on with a new baby. You can alleviate some of this discomfort with this simple wrist stretch.
Start on hands and knees. Lift the right hand and spin the hand around so the fingers face in toward the knees and set the hand back down on the floor. The closer the hand is to the knees the less intense the stretch. Keep a small bend to the right elbow and start to sit the hips back to the heels any amount until you begin to feel a stretch in the right wrist and/or forearm. Once you do, stop and breathe. Stay here for at least ten breaths. To come out, shift the weight forward toward the hands, lift the right palm and sit back on the heels. Interlace the fingers and draw figure eights on the ceiling with the knuckles. Release and repeat second side.
Warrior I at the Wall (with chest opener)
All that time we spend holding, rocking, nursing and feeding baby causes us to round forward, shortening the muscles in our chest and overstretching the muscles between our shoulder blades. This can show up as neck pain, shoulder pain and pain in the middle upper back. This is pain common to most new parents. This pose will work wonders for that.
Stand with the side of your body parallel to the wall about a foot away from the wall. Step the outside foot back and pivot the heel down and the toes out at about 45 degrees. Slide the arm near the wall back behind you with the palm on the wall and the elbow slightly bent. Now begin to bend the front knee to stack the knee over the ankle. Encourage the shoulders to square and breathe into the chest. Repeat on second side.
This pose is two-fold: 1) you sit a lot more than you used to during the day, right? I know I do! This pose will help lengthen out all the muscles in the front of your hips and legs that get shorter when sitting all day (which coincidentally helps with back pain) and 2) this also helps to strengthen glutes and low back which will additionally help with back pain. Sound great? Try it out!
Start lying on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Ankles should be underneath the knees and feet should be hip width apart. Allow your arms to rest at yours side along your body. Start with a flow: lifting the hips and floating the arms overhead on inhale and lowering everything back down on exhale. Do this at least 5 times and then come up and hold. Arms can remain overhead or arms can come down at the sides. Stay here for 10 breaths, standing down into the feet and growing the tops of the thighs longer. To come out, rise up on the balls of the feet lengthen through the tailbone and slowly return the spine to the floor.
Feeling overwhelmed? Pick one and start there. It will feel great and encourage you to add more!
For postpartum parents, check in with your healthcare provider on when you can begin yoga after birth.
About the Author
Megan Sloan is a yoga teacher and mama living in the Seattle area. She has been teaching prenatal and postnatal yoga for nearly 10 years and is a leading faculty member in the 8 Limbs Yoga Centers Pre/Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training in Seattle, Washington. She is also the creator and founder of the website Be Strong Mama, which provides education and resources to help create space that is safe and welcoming for new moms and moms-to-be, to explore their ever-changing bodies and find support for the unique experiences that are part of all the stages of becoming a mother. Be Strong Mama also features online prenatal and postnatal yoga video subscriptions to provide support and strength.