Pregnancy is a phase in which the body undergoes tremendous physical changes. Yoga after a Cesarean delivery can offer many benefits for those recovering from a c-section. A c-section can feel like you’ve lost familiarity with your body. While caring for your newborn with a body that is still on the mends, the aches, and limited mobility can make you feel even more tired and anxious about getting back to pre-pregnancy shape.
Whether you’re used to a lot of movement, any exercise you can add to your day will help you recover from being in bed or lying down for many hours, not just the sleeping hours. If you are used to doing physical activity, it can be especially challenging to adapt to not doing much but letting your body heal. Speaking of sleep, what is that? I kid.
When you are ready, add some simple yoga to your daily routine. Gentle yoga will help you cope with your new life’s physical and mental demands. Everybody will take their own time to heal, so just like in your yoga practice, try not to compare.
A post-c-section recovery could be challenging for many moms. At first, to get out of the bed, get up and down onto the toilet, walk, and do anything else that requires moving your body. One thing is for sure, if you don’t move, you will ache more in other ways, so if you can, try some yoga and see what happens. You will most likely need to wait some days or even weeks before adding yoga to your life.
Once you’re ready to introduce yoga to your post-c-section healing process, you’ll likely want to stick to simple and slow movements. If you move too quickly, it may be possible to over-stretch your sensitive body, so take your time, check in, and see how it feels (slowly!). Remember that just because you can ‘normally’ do these movements, it most likely won’t feel the same for you in this recovering state. So do the best you can, and most importantly, be gentle with yourself mentally and physically. Here are some techniques for you to try some yoga healing.
Best Asanas after C-section Delivery
Feeling overwhelmed or anxious about getting back to pre-pregnancy shape can lead to cumulative tensions on your face and jaws. Move those face muscles like you are chewing a big piece of bubble gum, or exaggerate the movement of saying A, E, I, O, U with your mouth to juice up the micro “stuck” muscle fibers. Then – sit up, or look at the mirror while you tilt your head side-to-side or half-circle motions to stretch your neck and upper back tightness while breathing with self-compassion thoughts. Gently massage your cheeks, pinch along the eyebrows with your fingers, and tap the upper and lower jaws. These are great yoga to release stagnant energies or emotions in the body and mind.
Sometimes mild tensions in the body can help wake up muscles from a relaxed state. When ready, inhale and squeeze tension into your entire body, hug skin to muscles, muscles to bones; this includes your core and pelvic floor. Make sure you hug everything in to receive the benefits of pulling everything to your core center, then exhale out of your mouth and let it all go to relax. Return to your regular breath, pause, and repeat this squeeze and let-go method for three more rounds.
Movement is Medicine
Once you’re able to be on your feet and moving a bit, you’ll want to walk for a few reasons. You’ll most likely feel bloated from the post-c-section delivery procedures. Your doctors and nurses will want you to walk around the hospital as long as possible to improve blood flow and speed up wound healing. Your body may also start to swell, and you’ll want to walk to move fluid around to avoid getting bloated below your abdomen, which may happen whether you walk or not.
I once visited a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka to meditate, and a monk asked me, “Why only meditate for 45 minutes? Why not meditate all day? While you eat, shower, drink, everything?” I think this philosophy can be applied to our post-c-section healing process. If you are able, consider adding a simple meditation with your walk. Place each foot mindfully and slowly to the ground. Feel each crevice of your foot as it begins to touch the earth, and then feel yourself pushing off the balls of your foot, lifting the heel off from the ground as you mindfully remind yourself of the inner strength you have in you. Do this for as long as you can until you need to stop and rest again – And even though I’m calling this a “walking meditation,’ one might also consider calling this “yoga.”
Work Up to simple modified poses with Warrior Poses, Downward Facing Dog, and Tree Pose that feel good with your current body. It might be days or weeks post-c-section to feel not sluggish. Consider trying some of your favorite standing yoga poses without the arms to get the blood circulating in your legs and core when you are ready. For instance, try a Warrior-One with hands at your hips instead of overhead to avoid overstretching your stomach. Warrior-Two, with hands holding the area where your stitches are for extra support. Remember to do both sides of your Warriors and practice engaging your pelvic floor or mulabhanda, hugging skin to muscles and bones.
If you are up for a full-body stretch, try a modified Downward Facing Dog with a chair or wall with your hands and wrists in line with your shoulders, and shoulders in line with your hips. Try a standing-wide-legged position with your hands shoulder-width distance apart and pressing them into the wall, practicing internal and external rotation of your leg muscles, and grounding your feet into the floor in all four corners. Hold it for as long as it feels good.
A Tree Pose with the help of a wall or chair to start working on single-leg strength and standing balance. Level up slowly by starting in Mountain Pose with an equal stance on both feet, then lift one foot off the floor and place it gently on your standing leg ankle. Once you feel more stable, slowly move the foot to the opposite leg’s shin and eventually to the inside of the thigh, but move towards this variation incredibly slowly as you do not walk to fall and hurt yourself. Consider having a hand on the wall or furniture for support the entire time.
The belly area might be sensitive to different sensations as your body heals. A normal Cat/Cow pose with hands and knees on the floor might not be ideal for a while as you will have to work your core against gravity, so let’s try a seated version of Cat/Cows being extra careful not to overstretch the abdomen. Sit in a comfortable seat with your hands on your knees, taking circles with your upper body, going one direction and then the other. Try gentle seated side bends and twists, and practice the “prenatal seated cobra” with you seated in Easy Pose, crossing your shins naturally, and lean back with your hands on the ground, fingers pointed forwards, while you lift your chest toward the sky.
These simple and modified movements have been a tremendous help with my post-c-section delivery. Being a first-time mom and a long-time yoga teacher, I find these poses valuable. I’m sure there’s much more I could add to this list, but hopefully, this may give you the confidence to practice modified poses while you recover. Please remember that what’s right for me may not suit you, and vice versa. So take care, and do what you need to do to feel good in YOUR recovering body in the best ways YOU know-how.
Do you practice yoga after for your postpartum recovery? Let us know in the comments below!
By Jessica Water
April 12, 2022