Ashtanga Yoga and Post Partum Practice
Seventh Series Practice 1

What do I do if I can't do my daily Yoga practice? 

Hello yoga mamas! This is a topic that I have been meaning to write for a while now. Our little itty bitty is about 14 months and what a year it has been! It's amazing how much can change in such a short amount of time. 

So if you've read some of my older posts, you may know that I've struggled with my recovery post birth. The double whammy of an emergency c-section and a pretty severe diastesis recti meant that it was necessary to respect my body, give it time to heal and no ashtanga yoga practice for 6 months.

It's 14 months later and it's still on the mend.

These days, yoga postures that seemed so "effortless" pre-baby require a lot more patience. I'm in a constant state of letting go of what I used to be able to do and and learning how to accept new and unfamiliar pain during practice. 

So the reason I really wanted to write this post is to share some love to mamas who may find themselves in a similar post partum situation. Because for me, about 3 months after Mila was born, I was desperately seeking out some affirmation that all would be ok.  I also sought out information on Diastesis Recti and what I could do in the interim between healing and being back on the mat. 

Mamas, if you've been regularly practicing ashtanga yoga, whether with a teacher or on your own, know this. Yes, .your post partum body will not always be this way. Yes, with time, all will heal, and yes, your practice may forever be changed but life is so much richer with this little baby by your side. 

So what is Diastesis Recti?

Diastesis means "separation" and recti is referring to the group of muscles known as the rectus abdominis. This is not a condition exclusive to pregnant moms and may also be found in newborns. In the context of pregnancy the outward growth of a protruding belly puts pressure on these muscles which separate over time.  It's more common with multiple pregnancies and for mothers over the age of 35. 

Fo yoginis, even the most common postures like downward facing dog, plank, and low plank are all contraindicated. This is because the abdominals work together to act like a corset to support your internal organs. When one has DR, the abdominals are at risk in these postures due to the additional outward pressure of the organs. After pregnancy, it's best to allow your self to rest and heal fully before jumping back on to the mat.  

If you're like me, the practice is like a life line.  It allows me to function daily with some semblance of calm and kindness. Especially when things are falling apart. There are good days and there are some, well, not so great days when chaos and mayhem rule. After birth, when I could not do my practice, it was a huge blow to my emotional well being. 

Not only did I need to take a break from my regular practice, but even gentle postures like supine twists, or supported back bends were inadvisable. I literally cried. I cried so much because I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle my down swing in mood. I cried because of the intense pain I felt every time I tried to walk more than a block.  I cried because just the simple act of getting out of bed was so freakin' difficult. I cried because I was exhausted and felt like I couldn't properly take care of my baby.

So I couldn't do practice.  The one thing that brought comfort and ease was gone and boy was I moody. My poor husband had to exert the patience of a saint to deal with my bouts of crankiness.  Add some post partum depression to the mix and you can imagine the particular brew of difficult we were drinking. 

So I did a lot of research.  

While I had read about diastesis recti prior to pregnancy, I was hoping against all odds that this would not happen. Also, it's one thing to read about, and a whole other thing to actually EXPERIENCE it.

It still surprises me how little information there is out there about this condition. Even more so, how little mothers know about it.  I am not talking about first time moms here. I'm talking about friends with multiple kids. 

Last year, a good friend came out to attend one of my workshops. She was about 8 months  post birth and she told me that "something just doesn't feel right." I asked her if she had someone help her check for DR. She had not. She said she just felt super different this time around. So I helped her check for the separation. I'll never forget the look of realization in her eyes when she discovered that yes, there was a separation there.  

It's amazing that even after birthing four gorgeous children and being surrounded with a tribe of mothers that no one spoke to her about this condition. Of course it's common knowledge that our bodies will be wrecked up after birth, no mama is immune to the damage, but what's amazing is how we're expected to move on, take care of our babies and accept that we're going to have pain for a while. 

Theres an article in TIME magazine that addresses components of why today, mom's feel so much pressure to do it all, be it all, all while looking radiant and refreshed. 

It's aptly titled: "Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?"

 Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck from TIME October 2017 cover

Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck from TIME October 2017 cover

I wish I had read this article before our baby's birth.  It provides me with some insight on the root of why I so wanted a natural birth. Though it was tough for me to read this article, it also soothed a part of me that blamed myself for all the things that did not go "right" with my birth.

So back to post partum health. 

Mamas and papas, we all know one of the fundamental truths of parenthood. Healthy, happy mama, healthy, HAPPY baby. I am not talking about getting back in shape here, because that will eventually come later on, after the post partum period is done. Post partum also does not delineate a specific amount of time.  It does not mean 8 weeks, 6 months, or even a year.  Post partum is different for everyone. 

What I am talking about is healing your body and learning how to move correctly so that you're not in constant pain while taking care of your little one. I'm talking about gaining confidence in yourself again which will also help your energy and mood. 

I do believe that all mothers, no matter how "well adjusted" they may be to having a baby go through down shifts in their mood.  It's tough to be chipper when your back is constantly aching and your shoulders are screaming for a good ol' rub down after every nursing session. 

So, what CAN I do? 

During pregnancy and after birth I shifted my intention towards practice to a more gentle approach. While this gentle practice brought some comfort from the pain, I knew that I needed to do more to regain my strength. 

I needed support. 

I also needed to sweat a bit again and feel the zing from an endorphin inducing workout. 

So, once I came to accept and LET GO of the physical practice, I decided to stop whining and feeling sorry for myself and find a way to truly heal my body. 

Before I get on to the good stuff, here is what helped me during this period. Yes, it's all common sense and you may have seen this advice from other forums, but let me reiterate them again because they are vital to your well being. 

  1. REST. REST a LOT. REST when the baby is resting.  SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. I mean it, sleep when the baby is sleeping.  Forget the housework, dishes in the sink, extra loads of laundry. Do what you can with the help of family or friends to keep a home that feels comfortable but don't worry about every last detail or chore. 
  2. HYDRATE and eat NOURISHING foods.  Stay hydrated. Your body is healing and needs all the goodness of water and clean, wholesome foods to provide it the fuel to heal and in the case of nursing moms, lactation. 
  3. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Once you're able to walk, take a gentle walk.  Even if it's only 5 minutes.  Start short and gently increase the time as you get stronger. Change your scenery, even for a little bit of time.  It will give you perspective, and different air to breathe.  
  4. FIND A WOMEN'S HEALTH PHYSIO. This one is little tough because not every therapist is going to be covered by your health plan.  If your insurance will cover for post partum physical therapy do try and schedule at least one visit. Seeking the help of a trained professional was the BIGGEST thing that helped me in my road to recovery. My therapist showed me how to do self massage around my incision to help offset the build up of adhesions in the area.  She also gave me useful exercises to help with low back pain and provided me with tips on how to move my body with the baby, i.e. putting the baby in the car, taking out the stroller from the trunk. I know, real basic stuff, but trust me, when you're a mom with DR, learning how to move optimally will save your body. Now here's the last thing that helped me. 

Introducing the MuTu System. 

Ladies, there are a ton of resources out there that you will find, from books to videos on you tube. It can seem really overwhelming, especially to a new mama. Taking care of your baby and yourself is a 24/7 effort so I am going to make it really simple and give you the best resource that I found to save you some time... because time is VALUABLE! 

By the way - this is NOT a sponsored post. I am sharing this because this is what worked for me. So please know that this is coming from my heart and not some paid endorsement. 

Introducing the MuTu system. I stumbled upon MuTu after various searches. I was a bit reticent about it as there were a lot of videos and other similar services that seemed just as great.

What really sold me on this system was the founder, Wendy Powell. Wendy's super kind and non-judgmental approach to post baby fitness was a breath of fresh air. The last thing a new mama needs is to feel judged or beat down by a teacher who clearly isn't experiencing the effects of post baby pain. 

The best way I can describe the MuTu experience is that it's very much like a light HiiT workout specifically designed for post partum mums.  There is use of light weights and resistance bands combined with stretching that is safe for women with DR. There are exercises specifically with DR and pelvic floor dysfunction in mind.  There is also helpful nutrition advice and super supportive "pep talks" that gave me the kind of boost that I needed to know that I AM NOT ALONE.  

Mamas, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

Birthing a baby is like launching a space craft, it wrecks everything on the way out.
— Rachel Hollis, Founder Chic Media and author of Girl, Wash Your Face

After Mila was born I searched for so many sources to help me. Before birth I had used other platforms like Cody, Yoga Glo, YouTube, you name it, for workout and yoga videos.  MuTu is an organized program that distills and clarifies what you need to do to foster healing. It takes the out the guess work and planning that new moms just don't have the time and energy for.  

So, this was my big life saver post baby.  It helped me get to the point where I could get back to my daily practice on the yoga mat, and let me tell you, it's so good to finally feel like there's hope towards healing. 

Despite the chronic pain related to the DR that's still a large percentage of my daily existence I am thankful to have found something that helped me in those first 6 months post birth. I hope that MuTu will also help you. 

Feel free to send any questions and as always, big love to you yogis. 

XOX

Charina