For nursing mothers, the key elements needed in a healthy morning routine are a short gratitude mediation (see Making a Gratitude List) followed by a short yoga asana routine. With this specific routine, designed exclusively for nursing mothers, we focus on the breath while simultaneously relaxing and stretching potential problem areas for the nursing body, i.e the arms, shoulders, chest, and spine. It is always best to seek guidance from a professional teacher before beginning any yoga practice as every body is different and has different needs. If you are comfortable with self-practice then please enjoy the following sequence.
Before beginning the yoga sequence, be sure to sit for 2-3 minuets with your gratitude list and cultivate a real sense of love for your life and responsibilities. Know that by allowing yourself the time to reflect on these blessings followed by this 10 minuets routine… you are really create more love within you and thus a more loving space for all those around you, including your baby. Know that by taking this sacred 10-15 minutes from your morning that you are really enhancing every moment in the rest of your day.
Start the practice sitting with the legs crossed in what ever way is comfortable for you. By sitting with the legs crossed we increase the circulation in our abdomen and torso. For nursing mothers, this is excellent as it improves the quantity of blood being flushed through the upper body, aiding digestion and the breast feeding system as a whole. Calm the mind and straighten the spine.
With the tail bone rooted down, breathing through the nose inhale the right arm up and on the exhale take a nice stretch to the left. This is a wonderful way to open up the side body, creating space for more energy in this important region of nursing mothers bodies! Keep the right hip down and open the heart to the sky. Bring the gaze up to the right fingers and breathe deeply and go deeper with each exhale. Take a few deep breaths here. Then inhale back to center.
Switch sides. Breathing through the nose inhale the left arm up and on the exhale take a nice stretch to the right. Keep the left hip down, open the heart to the sky and bring the gaze up to the left fingers. Breathe deeply and go deeper with each exhale. Take a few deep breaths here. Then inhale back to center.
Come up and over the knees and into Balasana (child’s pose). The knees are wide and the toes touch. Straighten the spine and out stretch the arms in front of you bringing the center of the forehead to the mat. Feel the pelvis sinking back onto the heels while the arms stay out stretched. Avoid hugging the shoulders to the ears. Breath deeply.
While in child pose, bring the hands together behind the back; interlock the fingers and raise the hands up, trying to bring the hands directly above the shoulders. Only go as far as is comfortable. This is a beautiful stretch into the shoulders, especially needed for nursing mothers. Additionally it opens up the chest area, another positive element for mothers. Take a few deep breaths here. Release the arms back down.
Push up onto all fours and then step back into high plank. Firm the arms with the wrists directly beneath the shoulders. Engage the core and keep the back straight and the body in one line. Avoid sagging the hips or lifting them up. Relax the muscles in the face. If this is too much, come onto the knees. Take a few deep breaths in high plank, feeling the strength in both the arms, the legs, and the core. Pull the belly button back to the spine.
Bring your left hand to the center of the mat and bring your right arm up, the right hand directly above the shoulder, the left hand directly beneath the left shoulder. Firm the legs, firm the core, breath deeply through the nose. Take a couple of breaths here, exhale the right arm to the center of the mat, and repeat on the left side of the body. After a few breaths return to high plank.
Stay in high plank for a couple of breaths, then exhale coming down halfway, bending from the elbows. Now inhale coming back up to high plank and repeat moving up and down taking a few ½ push ups. Creating arm strength and energizing the core is very important for moms who are constantly carrying an ever growing baby! Then exhale all the way down and inhale coming up into upward facing dog.
Upward facing dog is an incredible heart opener! Press the tops of the feet firmly into the mat with engaged legs, lift the pelvis off of the mat engaging the core, and bring the gaze to the upper corner of the room with out crunching into the cervical spine. The spine is in a nice long curved line with no kinks. Bring the shoulders down from the ears but keep the torso extending forward and up, breath deeply and enjoy the incredible power in this posture!
Release into either downward facing dog or high plank and find yourself back into child’s pose, gently massaging the lower back.
From child’s pose come back to sitting and then come down onto your back, grabbing a hold of the legs, by grabbing opposite elbows with opposite hands, give yourself a big hug, compressing into the chest thoroughly. Compressing the chest allows for any stuck or stubborn clinging stresses to release themselves. A way of purifying and detoxifying the body upon release…
Next, Halasana (plow pose). Lay on your back and bring the legs up into the air. Begin lifting the pelvis and allow the toes to find the floor behind your head. Bring the fingertips to the base of the spine, pointing towards the ceiling. This pose is idle for nursing mothers as the stretch through the back is heavenly and the compression of the chin on the chest breaks through energy blockages to allow fresh energy to flow through the chest. To release bring the arms down to your sides and come down slowly, one vertebrae at a time. Really engage the core as you come down.
A natural counter posture for plow pose is bridge. Bend the knees bringing them directly above the ankles, hip width apart. The hands are down at the sides palms down. On the inhale, begin to lift from the sacrum first, coming up one vertebrae at a time until your spine is lifted as high as is comfortable. If you like, interlock your fingers underneath you and enjoy deep full breathing through the nose! This posture is again, so yummy for nursing moms. The stretch through the spine works wonder as it purifies the entire body. On an exhale, slowly come down.
After releasing from bridge pose, once again curl yourself up into at tight ball, compressing the body, and gently roll around on the base of the spine giving yourself a nice free massage. This is great for nursing moms because, who doesn't’t like free massages!?
From the ball position, release and lift yourself up, engaging the core, and come into Navasana (boat pose). In boat pose the abdomen is really activated, pulling the belly to the spine. Keep the back straight and lifted, with the heart open and the shoulders down and away from the ears. The neck is long and the gaze is at the big toes. Relax the expression on the face, perhaps a small smile, and breathe deeply through the nose. Stay as long as you can! Then release, coming into a seated position.
From the seated position, we are ready for our final spinal twisting– a big opportunity to release all stresses from the body and fully activate the entire spine. This particular posture really massages the internal organs and works through the chest– so yummy! Bring the right heel to the left rear end and bring the left leg up and over the right knee. Bring your left wrist to the base of the spine, acting as your “kick-stand” for the posture. Inhale the right arm up taking a nice full body stretch on the right side before taking the twist. Exhale bringing the right arm over the left knee, connecting the right elbow over the knee. Bring the gaze behind you. Use the traction between the knee and elbow to take you deeper into the twist. On each inhale find more length in the spine and on the exhale, more depth. ENJOY. Then switch sides.
Come back to your initial comfortable seated position. Bring the hands to heart center with the thumbs pressing against the chest. Close the eyes and bring a small smile to the face as you set an intention to walk through the rest of the day with GRATITUDE. To walk with a straight spine, to breath deeply, and to smile at strangers. Bring your thumbs up to the center of the forehead and bow forward thanking yourself for the time to honor yourself. You are now ready to face the holidays like a Zen princess.
For more from Theresa Pauline, check out her website www.taozitreeyoga.com and read Unbuttoned.
Find out more about Theresa Pauline and her spiritual journey in her bio HERE.
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