September is national Yoga Month, a national observance designated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.  I have practiced yoga for 8 years and obtained my first of many teaching certifications nearly five years ago. [To learn about yoga etiquette, click here]. During that time I spent a great portion of my studies researching yoga for infertility, yoga with babies and yoga for toddlers.  Each of those aspects will be my focus here for the remainder of the month.  

Practicing yoga with your infant is a wonderful way to strengthen your bond and your recovering body.  It is a slow and gentle practice but moving and stretching is imperative to a new mom.  Here are my favorite poses to practice with your baby.

1)  Tummy Time for Two.  Pediatricians recommend tummy time for your baby to develop strong head, neck and shoulder muscles and promote certain motor skills that will eventually lead to crawling, but moms can benefit from tummy time too!  After nine months of pregnancy it is a position that will feel foreign at first.  Work through those feelings to strengthen your abdomen and lower back – the parts of your body that took the greatest toll with the growth of baby in the womb.

  • How to start:  lay your baby on his tummy on the floor, play-mat or thin blanket.  Lay yourself down on your belly so that your face is just a few inches from your baby’s face.  Seeing you will encourage him to be happy and engaged and work those important neck muscles needed to support his head. As your baby gets more mobile and begins to creep or crawl, lay next to him and encourage the forward movement.
  • What to do:  your baby will intuitively know how to work his body.  You might need more guidance.  Try these variations – lift your head, neck and shoulders at the same time as your legs so that your torso is pressing into the floor.  Point your toes and lengthen (don’t crunch) your neck.  Want more of a challenge?  Bring your arms out in front of you next to your baby.  Lift and lengthen.  Tickle that babe on your way down.
  • Bonding tips:  maintain eye contact with your baby, remain engaged.  Smile or sing if it feels right.  Have fun together!
2)  Squats with your flying baby.
  • How to start:  lay your baby down on the floor.  Stand over him in a wide-legged stance, feet a little farther apart than your hips.
  • What to do:  If your baby cannot support his own head, put one hand behind his neck and the other under his body to fully support him as you pull him into your chest.  Hold him this way as you come slowly to an upright position.  Next, bend your knees deeply into a squat, strengthening the quads and gluts.  Hold for a few breaths.  Then, as you straighten your legs, raise baby up to eye-level and meet his gaze.  Smile or sing as you raise up on to your tip-toes, strengthening your calves.
  • Variation:  if your baby can support his own head, hold him by the torso and raise him far up above your head, strengthening your arms.  Either way, bring the baby back to your chest before squatting again and continuing the up and down repetitions.
3)  Wide-legged stretch.
  • How to start:  sit down on the floor with your legs as wide apart as feels comfortable (this may not be much!) as you lay your baby down facing you with his head in the space between your feet.
  • What to do: keeping your legs straight (if this is a challenge, move your legs closer together), raise your arms high up over your head.  You might be inspired to sing twinkle twinkle as you stretch your fingertips to the sky while rooting your sit-bones into the mat.  Lengthen the spine with every stretch.  Then with a flat back, stretch forward towards your baby and “rain” your fingers down to him, bending at the hips.  Itsy-bitsy spider is great musical accompaniment to this routine.
  • Variations:  while your arms are up in the air, alternate stretching from one side to the other, reaching your fingertips to the ground on one side and then the other, feeling a great side stretch in your torso.  If coming forward and down with your arms extended over head puts too much strain on your lower back, add an extra step by lowering your arms down by your side.  Then walk your fingers out in front of you, over your baby’s torso, tickling him as you make your way to his fuzzy baby head.  In any variation, end the pose with a kiss on baby’s nose before you sit back up and stretch overhead again.
Even these simple steps will improve your posture which is suffering from nursing or carrying those babies!  And take cues from the babes – start with five minutes and work up to ten or twenty a day, slowly building your strength and endurance.  It’s your task to treat your post-partum body with kindness, even as you test your limits. And don’t forget to be realistic in your post-partum body!  Grant yourself serenity in these small moments.