Postnatal: Maintaining and Modifying Your Pilates and Yoga Workouts

Mom does yoga or Pilates with babyIt is generally accepted that you should not begin or resume any sorts of fitness activities until 6-8 weeks after giving birth. When you check in with your doctor at your postnatal check, you should ask about when you can begin or resume activity. Whatever your doctor tells you, follow those instructions.

Maybe you’re wondering Hey, I’ve had this kid. It should be business as usual, right? Sadly, no, you’ve still got quite some time before the hormones from pregnancy completely leave your body. And if you decide to breast feed, those hormones stick around for even longer. Pregnancy hormones stay in your body for up to 4 months after you quit nursing. Even if you’re not nursing, I have read that you can figure on your body needing 9 months to decrease the hormones created during pregnancy.

That being said, this information is for after you have been cleared by your doctor and until your hormones have returned to normal. You may not feel moodiness from your extra hormones, so pay attention to things you may have had during pregnancy like specific pains, cycstic acne, instability of the pubic bone or low back, swelling, feeling hot, really any of the signs that you had that told you you were pregnant.

Postnatal Pilates

  • Start incorporating the 5 Basic Principles:  Breathing, Imprint, Rib Cage Placement, Scapula Placement, and Head/Cervical Spine Placement.
  • Many of the second and third trimester exercises you did are still appropriate.
  • Work on reactivating and stabilizing the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, and obliques.
  • Avoid overworking the rectus abdominis if a diastasis recti has occurred. (This is when the rectus abdominis separates near the belly button and a gap runs up the midline.)
  • Avoid being on your stomach if your breasts are tender.
  • Work on stabilizing your joints.
  • Increases in difficulty should be gradual so as to avoid over exertion.
  • Focus on upper body movements to continue to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

Postnatal Yoga

  • Slowly increase your workouts (both duration and/or frequency). Please don’t try to hop back in to do an hour and a half practice two times a week just because that’s what you did before. Listen to your body and operate in moderation.
  • Take your time to rebuild strength and endurance.
  • Talk to your doctor specifically about when you can resume or begin core and abdominal work.
  • In this time when you still have pregnancy hormones, perform deep stretches at about 80% effort.
  • Incorporate your baby in to your practice. Some studios offer Mommy and Me classes for postnatal moms to bring and engage with their babies during their practice.
  • Feeding can often cause tightness in the neck and shoulders. Make sure to do shoulder opening stretches and seated Cobras to open the shoulders and chest. Stretch your neck, and don’t be afraid to ask your partner for massages when you need them.
  • Take care of yourself. Only you know truly what you need. By caring for yourself, you actually become better at caring for someone else.

Here is a video of me teaching the 5 Basic Principles. This is a good way to get the muscles and skeletal structure back to neutral, which is important after the changes and challenges that come with growing and birthing a human.

Postnatal ladies, what challenges have you had? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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