Well, the babe is officially four weeks old today. Sleeping and eating times seem to be settling into a routine, but I'm still having trouble imagining myself back up at the front of the yoga classroom in three weeks. Despite having practiced (and taught) into the eighth month of the pregnancy, I still feel like I have a ways to go to get back into shape. I've been trying to come up with a good "re-entry" practice that is gentle, but still strength-building, to lead up to a regular series of standing poses, etc. Here's what I've come up with, so far:
Obviously, everything in my torso is out of wack, so I'm working on sitting poses that require a lengthened spine. Sukhasana (Easy Pose) is an obvious one, but Dandasana (Staff Pose) is proving quite challenging not only to my middle, but also to the fronts of the thighs. Keeping the legs extended and engaged is not so easy and when you add the work required to lift the side ribs and open the chest, there is a lot going on. I try to include Hastasana in both seated poses, to get the shoulders open and engaged.
Chest/ Spine Openers
Although it wasn't a problem during pregnancy, with all the hunching over a wee one, my upper back is killing me. So, I've included some chest openers in my practice to counter my urge to slump forwards. A good pose for this, is Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall pose). This is an inverted, more supported version of Staff, with the added bonus of releasing the lower back. I've added a gentle stretch to the backs of the legs by lifting one leg at a time away from the wall (sort of a Supta Pandangustasana --Hand-to-Big-Toe). Stretching the arms overhead engages the shoulders and also opens the chest.
Uttanasa (Intense forward bend) against the wall (feet about a foot or so away, bum resting on the wall, knees soft) is also a nice release for the back and stretches the backs of the legs as well. If I'm feeling especially open, I interlock my arms and let the added weight of the upper body deepen the stretch. A Seated Twist is also a nice way to stretch out the muscles on either side of the spine.
A great opener, but only if I've warmed up with all the others, is to just drape myself--face up--over my exercise ball. At first, I keep my arms at my sides but with each breath I try to move them up and out to the sides, letting the breath open the spine to allow the arm lifting. I also have to work on releasing my neck, but after this stretch I feel especially open and can feel the blood moving around my spine.
In addition to these restorative poses, I've been walking. It feels like I have a long way to go, but hopefully all of this will jog my muscles' memory and things will start coming back together. What about you all--have any of you had to come back to yoga after a long hiatus? What were your favorite poses to ease back with? If you teach, how do you help post-partum (or post-operative, etc) students adjust? I'd love to hear some other ideas for getting back on track...