It is normal to experience overwhelming emotions after childbirth. As your feelings flow through joy, anger, sadness and doubt, use relaxation with deep breathing to help you:
Give in to feelings of tiredness
Accept a new life rhythm
Minimise the build-up of tension
Overcome anxiety about your validity as a mother
Essentially, deep rest and recovery should be your number one priority immediately after childbirth. Whatever your lifestyle has been previously, making time to relax in the first weeks after your baby is born is important for renewing energy, nurturing yourself as a mother and to bond with your baby.
Once you have recovered from the birth, you will be better prepared to start postnatal Pilates.
When do I begin with Postnatal Pilates?
You can certainly start with light abdominal breathing exercises in the days after birth. However, it is better to wait a while longer before starting postnatal Pilates to tighten the abdominal muscles and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
More importantly, postnatal Pilates should begin only after you’ve developed a feeling for your pelvic floor again. This will generally be around 6-8 weeks for a vaginal delivery and 10-12 weeks for a C-Section delivery although every woman is different.
begin Postnatal Pilates only after you’ve developed a feeling for your pelvic floor
No matter how intentional you are, organising a routine with your baby is at best challenging and at worst impossible. There will be surprises daily and your best approach is to stay calm and relaxed. Draw the strength you need to face the unexpected from reserves of deep relaxation.
The following will give you some ideas on how to achieve this state of relaxation. These techniques are not just useful for the first weeks after birth but can also be drawn upon any time throughout your postnatal Pilates practice.
Giving in to Tiredness
Light abdominal breathing exercises can be carried out with the intention of accessing a deep state of rest. This can be as simple as lying on the floor, sofa or bed with your baby on your chest. Let your breath flow freely allowing yourself to quieten your mind and random thoughts. For every exhalation, feel free to voice an “aaah” sound or to accentuate the breath leaving the body. Breathe gently in and out with complete awareness of yourself and your baby, consciously surrendering to the moment of togetherness. Embrace the moment and wonder of your baby’s new life.
New life rhythm
Your life is now dictated by the needs of your baby. It takes skill and courage to let the tempo of life with a newborn take its natural flow. After feeding your baby or if your baby has fallen asleep in your arms, take this moment to relax. Clear your mind of all the tasks that need to be done and allow yourself to be and breathe in the present moment. This is a quiet moment not unlike meditation and will become more effective the more regular this becomes a practice.
Reduce the build-up of tension
You may feel increasingly tense despite your gentle pace with the newborn. You’re gradually establishing a bond with your baby but may not always know why your baby cries. Try humming or singing to release tension build-up. This is also effective for lengthening your exhalation and to calm your nervous system.
You can also assume an all-fours position or child’s pose with your baby lying supine to breathe into your back and release any back tension if it feels sore. Another alternative is walking relaxation when holding your baby by taking very small steps in a circle or along a line. This should be done by maintaining an upright posture, even weight distribution and free-flowing breath. Release any thoughts that pop into your head for every step you take.
Overcome anxiety about your validity as a mother
It takes time to heal from birth and you should allow whatever time is necessary to forgive yourself and others involved. Acknowledge your feelings and conflicting emotions and let them surface as they arise. Then release them without guilt, letting them pass from your thoughts as you breathe deeply.
The journey of motherhood is by far one that will allow you on numerous occasions to reflect your worth and intention. Don’t shy away or be shocked by these emotions, they are merely a chance for you to grow. As in the words of Ingeborg Stadelmann…
firstly, it turns out differently
secondly, as you anticipate
thirdly, as the child determines it to be
It is just about impossible to imagine the life of a parent and all the responsibilities and accountabilities that come with parenting until you experience it first-hand. Before you criticise what may or may not be ask yourself this:
In whose eyes are you lacking?
In whose opinion are you not fit to be a mum?
With what definition?
You are the mum that you are. You will continue to grow and learn in this role. You can only be the best version of mum at any given moment of time as you can.
Allowing yourself to go at a slow and steady pace will help you to listen to your body. Rest and recovery will be ongoing elements of every day life. Take the first days and weeks to establish a rhythm of flow, allowing yourself windows of time to breathe deeply. The more often you practice this, the more natural this will feel and familiar in your Pilates practice to come.
Breathing deeply in the moment encourages your awareness of yourself which is an integral part of postnatal Pilates and beyond.