How To Ease Into Fitness After Birth

How To Ease Into Fitness After Birth

I often get questions about how to jump back into physical activity after having a baby. Postpartum women want to know: where do I start?

Today, I lay out when to start, what to avoid, and what postpartum milestones matter.

Read below or watch the video!

First 6-8 Weeks Postpartum

First thing first: you just had a baby. In the first six weeks after giving birth, rest should be your #1 priority.

Beyond resting, my recommendations for this period are simple. Focus on:

  • Deep breathing to get your breath system working again. (I talk all about that here.)
  • Connecting to your deep core muscles, particularly your transverse abdominals.

From a seated position (or while nursing), first take a breath in and let the belly relax. Imagine a corset around your midsection. As you exhale, feel the corset draw in gently. This should create a feeling of length in the torso. This action helps bring your core muscles back on-line.

  • If you are desperate for some movement, walk!

Walking is low impact and increases circulation (which aids healing). In a perfect world, this walking would happen without holding or wearing your baby. For some of us (like me!) that isn’t possible with a newborn, and that’s ok! But, if you can manage it, walking freely helps bring your body back into proper alignment after pregnancy.

To recap: as you begin to heal in those first six weeks focus on: REST, breathing, core engagement, and walking (if you feel up for it!).

6-Weeks to 4-Months Postpartum

At this point, you’ve had six weeks to heal (and possibly a few weeks longer in the case of a C-section), and your care provider has cleared you for activity. We now enter the six-week to four-month period of recovery.

This period is critical to your post-baby core health. I encourage my students to approach this stage with care and caution.

Elevated hormone levels and muscular imbalances from pregnancy leave your body, particularly your core, in a compromised state.  And doing too much too soon can lead to postpartum issues like diastasis, prolapse, and hernias.

This is especially true for a woman who was active during her pregnancy. Her arms and legs are strong. She feels like she can do everything. But her core is weak and cannot support that effort.      

My recommendations for this period include:

  • Continue working on the basics.

Engage your deep core muscles regularly and get the breath down. Pregnancy alters the core muscles and breathing system and it takes time to get them working well again!

  • Add in activities that rebalance your post-baby musculature. 

Rebuild mobility in the mid-back. When your back and chest are tight, simple activities, like reaching or lifting, strain an already weak core.

Balance the muscles of the hips. By rebalancing the muscles of the hips, you create a healthier pelvic floor.

  • Keep activities low impact.

Walk, lift gentle weights, gentle yoga (but know not all poses are good for a post-baby body!).

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite yoga postures for this critical postpartum period. Stay tuned!

  • Avoid:

    • High-intensity impact activities. No running, burpees, HIIT, Crossfit. These activities put excessive demand and load on your core and it’s not ready for that yet!
    • Front-loading ab activities. Planks, crunches and all the ‘typical’ ab exercises will do more harm than good.
    • Excessive back bending postures and deep twist positions like you find in many yoga classes.

 

Remember, this is a critical period for your body and recovery. You have the chance to create a solid foundation that will allow you to begin incorporating more intense activities in the near future. If you overexert yourself during this period you could end up weaker at six-months postpartum than you were at six-weeks.

 

4-Months Postpartum and Beyond

Recommendations become less cut and dry after 4 months.

Some who’ve spent the first 4 months building the foundation can safely introduce high-intensity activity at this point.

Others would benefit from continuing with lower-intensity activities for longer. This would include anyone who falls into the following categories:

Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding extends the critical period for your body. The hormones associated with breastfeeding create laxity in your ligaments. In other words, they make you loosey-goosey and create instability in your body. If you are an extended breastfeeder (like I was!) you should approach high-intensity activities with caution until you finish nursing or are down to 2 or 3 feedings a day. After that, the hormones shift and allow more stability in your ligaments.

Natural Flexibility:

If you tend to be a very flexible person, you are likely genetically predisposed to instability. You’re super flexible because your joints are looser. If this is the case for you, you also want to be more conservative in your post-baby movement. You would benefit from giving your body more time to rebuild core stability.

Family History of Postpartum Issues:

If you have a family history of things like hernias or prolapses it likely means you are genetically predisposed to these issues. Again, this is an indication that you may want to give your body more time to build a foundation of stability and strength before jumping into high-intensity activities.

 

How to Begin Increasing Intensity of Your Exercise

You’re done nursing (or are down to 1-2 times a day), you’ve mastered deep breathing, and have a solid connection to your deep core muscles.

Awesome! Let’s increase that intensity!

Here’s how to do it in a mindful, core-safe way.

Start With Lower Intensity.

Your body has gone through a huge transition and you should not jump into any activity at your pre-pregnancy intensity. Start at 50% of your “usual” and see how it feels. If you feel back pain, hip pain, if you leak, or feel like your core isn’t supporting you, those are all signs that you are working beyond your ability.

Short Intervals Are Best.

If you’re getting back to running, don’t start by heading out and knocking out two miles. Instead, try five minutes and then check in. If you’re doing a yoga class, take a break every 5-10 minutes and see how everything is feeling.

Again….Does your back hurt? Do your hips hurt? Did you leak any urine? Do you feel unsupported in your core?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, your body hit its limit. You’ll want to move to even shorter intervals and spend more time building that foundation.

If, after five minutes, you are feeling good and aren’t having any of those symptoms. Awesome! Next time, try 7 minutes and see how that goes. You want to build your intervals slowly.

Check In Frequently!

It’s likely there will be a point at which you will reach the limit of what your body can do in a strong, safe way. And once you hit that limit, stop! That’s your limit, but just for now. You build from there.

 

Remember: Start back to your activity of choice with less intensity, shorter durations, and continual check-ins with yourself. The moment you see any signs of disfunction, back off or stop. From there, we continue to build! By respecting your body’s limits rather than pushing through them, you give your core the chance to rebuild it’s pre-baby strength.


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How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

Like most pregnant women, I knew my life would change when I became a mother. That was a given.

What wasn’t a given was how much having a baby would change my yoga practice.

Here are the 5 ways, becoming a mom made me a better yogi.

I Learned Self-Acceptance

Before I became a mom, I was used to being “good” at things, including yoga.

Sure, I encouraged my students to “accept themselves” and “enjoy the journey.” But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t often put myself in a position where my own skills were challenged. I rarely stepped out of my comfort zone.

Becoming a mom changed that.

Between the endless diaper changes and nursing sessions, I realized that it’s impossible to be “good” at being a new mom.

There was so much to learn, so much to do, and so little sleep, I couldn’t keep up. I quickly realized that pushing myself to meet an unattainable ideal, would drive me into the ground.

I had to start walking the walk.

Slowly, I learned to accept myself in all my messiness. I gave up the idea of perfection and embraced being present to the beautiful chaos of motherhood. 

That translated into my postpartum yoga practice. My postpartum body was tired. The poses I was once so “good” at were often hard. I learned to let go of being “good” and enjoyed the experience, accepting myself where I was.

I Learned the Value of Time

Non-parents say they are busy. I said it often before having kids.

But there’s a certain urgency that only parents seem to grasp. Before becoming a mom, my yoga practices were at least 60 minutes and often 90 (I can’t even fathom that now). For the most part, the day had enough hours.

After becoming a mom, I learned how to do everything in less time. From cleaning the kitchen, to building my business, to my beloved yoga, I trimmed everything down.

I learned the fine art of squeezing in what I needed to do between naps and snuggles. I condensed my luxurious yoga practice into an efficient 20-to-30 minutes. It took some time to figure out what to include and what to let go of, but I stuck with it.

Because a 20-minute practice is better than a 60-minute practice that NEVER happens.

I Learned What Attention Was

In yoga, there’s a term – Drishti, which translates to focused gaze. I had been practicing it for years. Like most yogis, I thought I had it down. I was wrong.

I was wrong.

Only after I had my daughter did I feel the true power of Drishti. Infants are programmed to find their mother’s eyes. As any parent can tell you, locking eyes with your new baby is one of the most powerful, emotional feelings.

When I gazed into my daughter’s eyes, and she stared back into mine, I finally understood the true power of Drishti. The rest of the world melted away. All I experienced was that moment with her.

That moment created a new sense of focus in my yoga practice. If I’m not focusing, I’m aware of it now, and I can reach for Drishti.

I Learned That Change Was Constant

Babies are wonderful, but they aren’t exactly compatible with a routine. As soon as I figured out my daughter’s patterns, they changed.

She forced me to go with the flow. To observe and assess, before acting. 

I found my practice changing on an almost daily basis too. As my body recovered from pregnancy and childbirth, it needed different poses. As my babies grew bigger and my arms grew stronger (but more tired), as I spent hours nursing little ones, I showed up to my mat each day with a different body.

Instead of forcing my body into a practice, I arrived on my mat and observed what I needed that day. That listening allowed my practice to evolve with the needs of my body.

I Learned the Value of Rest

Before kids, I spent most of my yoga time in strong, powerful flows. After the trials of pregnancy and childbirth, those practices weren’t cutting it.

My body craved nurturing…more restful, restorative practices became my go-to. And the more time I spent up at night with my newborn, the more I saw the value of resting.

A few minutes to stretch and rest on a mat? Yes, please. The best news was that there was no sweat necessary. I didn’t have to worry about squeezing in a shower on top of it all.

Lessons From Motherhood

I’ve learned more about myself in the past 5 years of motherhood than I had in the 30 years before. Each new stage of parenting brings new realizations and joys. And in the same way, my yoga practice continues to evolve with it.

I can’t wait to see what other lessons I learn about myself, and yoga, as I continue this wild ride of motherhood.

 

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4 Ways To Increase Energy: A Guide For Worn Out Moms

4 Ways To Increase Energy: A Guide For Worn Out Moms

If I’m not careful, I can easily give all my energy to those lovely, energy sucking, children of mine. I know when it’s happened because I end my day feeling like a limp, angry, noodle.

As a mom, you give to others, think about others, direct others. All day long, your energy is moving OUT.

Giving is good. But if that’s all you do, you become depleted.

What you need is to bring energy back IN.

So the million dollar question: How? 

Keep reading for four quick self-care activities, proven to nourish you and bring energy IN. Do one or all four every day. You’ll fill your energy tank, and end the day feeling balanced.

 

Four Ways Worn Out Moms Can Increase Their Energy Quickly

 

1. Deep Breathing

The Sanskrit word for breath is prana, which translates to “life force.” So, yeah, let’s bring some of that IN.
A 5-minute breath practice is one of the most potent and immediate self-care tools. It creates calm, reduces reactivity, and helps you take the day’s challenges in stride. I recommend deep breathing first thing in the morning to start your day on the right foot.

 

2. Meditation

We moms DO NOT realize how harsh our inner critic is. A daily 5-minute meditation practice attunes you to your ongoing self-talk. When you first start meditating, you will find surprising amounts of negativity. “I’m not doing a good job.” “I yell too much.” “I should play more.”
Turns out, the criticism you hear meditating is playing in your head ALL DAY LONG. Talk about exhausting.
A consistent, short meditation practice shines a light on your self-talk. Once revealed, you can choose self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Muzzling that inner critic frees up a lot of mental energy.

 

3. Do Things That Light You Up.

As much as I love being a mom, it’s easy to feel swallowed by the responsibility. To counter this, spend a few minutes each day nurturing your deepest priorities. You’ll feel vibrantly alive.

If you need help getting clear on activities you can fit into your busy life, I’ve got a system for that.

 

4. Practice Gratitude.

Our lives are busy. It’s easy to lose sight of the beauty in life.
Start a gratitude practice. Each night, write down at least 1 thing you are thankful for. Let it sink in. Revel in the beauty in your life.You’ll fill with positive energy and realize that the chaos of your life is beautifully perfect.

 

There they are. Four actions to restore your energy. Try it out. You’ll be amazed at what you create.

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How To Make Time For Self-Care (Without Carving Hours Out of Your Day)

How To Make Time For Self-Care (Without Carving Hours Out of Your Day)

Self Care For Busy Moms

“I feel like I have no idea what to do that would make enough of an impact to call it self-care. And I don’t have time to research what those things might be because I’m constantly “on” for work or parenting!”

 

Sound familiar?

The reality is we’re all a little lost when it comes to “self-care.”

You want to make time for yourself. But you don’t know what to do. When you get a free moment, you default to the easy outs like Facebook and Netflix. Too bad they don’t actually make you feel good.

How do I know? Because, every day, I talk to women who CRAVE more time to focus on themselves.

Luckily, you don’t have to book a flight to Fiji to restore.

You can take care of yourself in about 10 minutes a day, IF YOU HAVE A PLAN.

Your self-care plan must lay out WHEN you will make time and WHAT you can do in those times. And your WHAT will differ from everyone else’s.

Here are 3 reasons a self-care plan is your key to self-care success:

 

1. A plan ensures you take advantage of your few free moments.

Time is your most precious resource. That is true for everyone. But as a parent, you know exactly how true it is. An unexpected chunk of free time is like getting an oil change, and finding out they’re giving free ice cream sundaes while you wait! It’s a gift.

You’ll waste that gift without a plan. You’ll spend the whole oil change debating toppings and consulting your facebook friends. And then your car’s ready and you’ve missed your chance.

But if you have a plan, you’ll take full advantage of that gift of free time. You’ll head to the counter and order a vanilla sundae with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and almonds.

When you have a plan, you know exactly what to do to turn free time into restorative me-time.

 

2. A plan establishes clear time expectations for you and your family.

Moms who make self-care a priority don’t wait to FIND time for self-care. They MAKE time. 10 minutes a day is enough – but it is intentional.

Scheduled time is honored by the whole family. You might need a “mom is off duty” sign so your kids know to go to dad. Or you might have designated self-care mornings where the whole family knows not to disturb you for those 10 minutes. If you have small kids, you can trade off mornings with your spouse. You’ll get at least 3 mornings a week.

Without a plan? There will always be laundry to fold, lunches to pack, dishes to wash, hugs to give. And those things will crowd out your self-care.

 

3. A plan eliminates self-care ruts and keeps you motivated.

You may read all this and think “Nah,  I’m good, I’ve got my go-to self-care routine.”  If that’s true, congratulations! But is that routine serving you right now?

I meet lots of women who have their thing (it could be yoga, or running, or bubble baths), and are hesitant to step outside of this box. They don’t want to waste a minute of free time on something that won’t “work.”  I get it. I’ll say it again- time is your most precious resource. You don’t want to waste a minute of it.

Self-care activities that don’t serve you, or fit your life, becomes less a gift and more a duty.

Imagine Grace, an extroverted, stay-at-home mom who ran marathons before kids. Her days at home leave her craving connection. She still thinks of running as her “self-care.” But it’s a battle to lace up her shoes every time.

Grace’s self-care isn’t serving her. She needs a self-care routine that fosters feelings of connection. Simple things like FaceTime with friends or conversations with her spouse.

 

A good self-care plan fills your days with activities that nurture your deepest priorities.  If you’re ready to define your perfect fit self-care plan, I’ve got a proven method to help you. Learn all about it here.

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A Simple Three Step Process To Increase Motivation

A Simple Three Step Process To Increase Motivation

Increase Motivation And Do More Yoga.

When I ask busy moms about what keeps them from a consistent yoga practice, the #1 answer is always time. That’s why all the videos in the brb yoga library are less than 30 minutes long.

But there’s another answer I hear almost as often. One you might have said before too.
“I can’t seem to motivate myself to do yoga.”

This feeling makes perfect sense when you think about the reality of life with kids.

You want to do yoga. You really do. But when you get those few glorious moments of free time you want to do a lot of other things too.

You could:

  • Call back that friend you miss so much.
  • Drink a glass of wine on the porch.
  • Spend some time with your spouse.
  • Read that book you’ve wanted to read for ages.
  • Pluck your eyebrows and cut your toenails (Or am I the only one that finds these incredibly relaxing?).
  • Do yoga

See that? Yoga is on the bottom. That’s not surprising. You’ve got so many other things competing for your limited time.

 

Here’s a simple, 3-step process to increase motivation and move yoga up to the top of your list.

 

1. Define Your Why.

Consider WHY yoga is important to you.

  • How does it change the way you are as a parent? Partner? Person?
  • How does it impact your emotions?
  • How does it impact your body?

Work through these questions. Then decide which of your answers is most important for your life right now?

That’s your WHY. And that’s the reason you’ll make yoga a part of your life.

For example, my “why” for doing yoga is patience. Sure, I get a lot of other benefits from it, but the one benefit that I need on an almost daily basis is patience. One of my client’s “why” is comfort in her body. Yoga reduces her aches and pains and makes her feel better as she moves through her day. That’s what keeps her coming to her mat.

Your “why” will be unique to you.

 

2. Write it Down.

Put your “why” on paper. Make it your screensaver. Post it on the refrigerator. Just put it somewhere you’ll see it. Otherwise, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

 

3. Use Your “Why” To Help You Decide What to Do.

When those few moments of free time arrive, and all the options on your list call to you, take a look at your “why”. Often, just revisiting your deeper purpose will move yoga to the top of your list. Sometimes it won’t, and eyebrows and toenails will win. That’s cool too.

 

Try it today. And share yours! I’d love to know what motivates you to do yoga.

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The Secret To Morning Yoga Success

The Secret To Morning Yoga Success

It turns out I’m just like Gwyneth Paltrow.

Remember that movie Sliding Doors? After Gwyneth’s character (Helen) is fired, she heads home, despondent. The pivotal moment occurs as Helen rushes to catch the subway. She approaches the train just as the doors slide shut (hence the movie title). We watch two scenarios unfold.

In the first, she catches the train and arrives home to catch her deadbeat boyfriend cheating. She breaks up with him and builds a fabulous new life.

In the second, she misses the train, doesn’t discover the cheating, and grows discontent.

Every morning I watch myself either make or miss the train. Let me explain, because this isn’t about my husband cheating.

Lately, I’ve been getting up early to do yoga. Like, really early. Before 5am. Before my kids awake.

It’s the only time when no one seeks my attention, and the only time I know my to-do list won’t dominate my thoughts.

So I’ve been on a good stretch lately. But I’m a mom to two young kids, I’m not a morning person, and I’m eternally tired. Every morning I struggle with the decision to get up or to stay in bed. And this is where I watch myself run toward that sliding train door.

If I get up and head upstairs to my yoga mat, I catch the train. My day includes presence and patience.

If I hit the snooze button, and wake up to my lovely, yet demanding children, I’ve missed the train. I’m on track for a day with impatience, distraction, and disconnect.

The days I catch the train end up better for everyone in my house. I’ve started building structure into my days to give me the greatest shot at catching that train.

Here Are The Secrets To My Morning Yoga Success.

 

AT NIGHT, PREPARE FOR THE MORNING:

  • If you plan to do an online yoga class, queue it up on your laptop. brb Yoga makes this step easy.
  • Close all other tabs on your computer so you’re not tempted to check email or Facebook when you wake.
  • Set the laptop next to your yoga mat.
  • Pick pajamas that double as yoga clothes.
  • Put your phone (or alarm clock) across the room to ensure you don’t hit snooze. If you are using your phone, put it in airplane mode.
  • Fill a water bottle with water and ice and set it next to your alarm.

 

IN THE MORNING:

  • Shut off your alarm but keep your phone in airplane mode! The quickest way to miss that train is to see the notifications that popped up during the night.
  • Chug your ice cold water to hydrate and wake up.
  • Stumble onto your mat.
  • Wake up the computer and press play.
  • Do the yoga!

You may have noticed that ALL the mental work happens at night. This is by design.

If you’re going to catch the train and have a good day, you can’t wait until the morning to prepare. Do everything you can so you don’t need to think or make decisions in the morning. To cut the barriers between you and your mat, you need to be on autopilot.

Any other morning yogis out there? How do you make it happen?

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