Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Recovery after pregnancy and C-Section

Recovering after pregnancy and C-Section in particular is hard. You have a new baby (or more!) to think about, if you've had a C-Section then you have your own body to care for and if you've never had a major operation before it can feel as if you'll just never recover or be the person you were before. Throw in a week spent in critical care unit following the birth of your baby and a bad dose of the baby blues and well, for me, it left me in a bad place. Following my 6 week check I decided I needed to do something with my broken body and mind. These are the 4 things which saved me!

Yoga - Getting back to basics to relieve the strains of caring for a newborn was essential. Gentle exercises and stretches to slowly re-build the body and stitch the abdomen back together. Neck and shoulder releases, simple seated side stretches, gentle rolling glute bridges are key. Breathing, my god, breathing deeply and fully... 

Pilates - I used to hate pilates...what was the point when I had yoga?! Well, I was wrong! The small and controlled movements of pilates do wonders for your core strength, balance, spine and posture which I've never experienced with my ashtanga practice. I'm definitely a pilates convert! 

Structural integration - I went to see a fantastic therapist for 6 sessions of structural integration, which is based on the bodywork 'Rolfing'. From the first session I could stand up straight again! With every session my tummy (and the rest of my torso) changed shape, so I am nearly back to pre-baby shape and with no residual pain! I can't recommend Angela Donovan (or SI) enough. Here's the explanation of Structural Integration from Angela's website (www.structuralbalance.co.uk)

KMI is a form of Structural Integration working with unique myofascial lines developed by Tom Myers called Anatomy Trains. These lines map connections through the whole body from foot to head, front to back and superficial to deep. Imbalances add strain to the body’s structure and can be felt as aches which often manifest over time into acute pain. 

KMI sessions look at the whole body and aim to balance the Anatomy Trains lines using hands on precise anatomical techniques.  The techniques release the connective tissue (fascia) to re-form tissue health, resolve complex postural and movement patterns and align the whole body.  The changes provoke ease of movement, greater balance and enhanced physical performance.

To achieve long standing results a structured series of 12 sessions is most affective.  Angela’s skill is to specifically design the series to suit individual problem(s).  What may be felt on the surface may not be the cause.  The sessions will work all areas of the body from toe to head and superficial to deep; allowing the body to rebalance.  Integrating the whole system is an approach that sets KMI apart from other kinds of bodywork or manual therapies.

And here's a link to a fascinating page on how it helps with the postpartum body and why other forms of exercise just won't work as well: 


Finally, Mindfulness: I am reluctant to say meditation as though I love a sit, I rarely have time for it. Mindfulness however, can be practiced throughout the day and is important in maintaining a healthy mind and healthy relationships with yourself and others, which can often feel strain following the birth of a baby. 'Peace is every step' by Thich Nhat Hahn is a go to for me as it makes it so simple and is beautifully written. 

Let me know if there was anything that helped you following the birth of your babies, I'd like to hear about it. There's not much advice out there I've found but it's such an important topic as the health of mums is soooo important! 

Monday, 27 March 2017

5 Yoga and Mindfulness tips for New Parents

Pattabhi Jois used to say that parenthood was the seventh series of Ashtanga Yoga. Having practiced and studied yoga for the past 10 years and got half way through the second series, I thought I was doing quite well. My body and mind were slowly making the necessary psychological and physiological changes to enable me to progress throughout the practice. I could do splits, deep backbends, even put my legs behind my head, but none of that could prepare me for what was in store once baby was here!

There are many, many things no-one tells you about being a new parent. The first few weeks are often crazy and fraught from dealing with your newborn, dealing with the deluge of family and friends and often dealing with the pain of childbirth and even caesarean section.

Young family
(Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock)

I’d planned a midwife-led birth and ended up with an emergency c-section, so it wasn’t the best of introductions to parenting. I found the first 5 weeks extremely difficult, dealing with my baby, whilst trying to look after myself post-op. Having practiced yoga and meditation for 10 years, it quickly occurred to me how much I now needed to implement my practice, taking it off the mat and meditation stool, into my daily life, so in a spare few minutes (in my head, whilst feeding!) I have come up with some, hopefully, useful tips for keeping sane and keeping relaxed in those first few weeks!

11    Look and listen – In a way I was fortunate that I was housebound the first 6 weeks post-partum. I had LOTS of time to sit and stare at my baby whilst recovering from the c-section. It may not seem like it to begin with but babies have patterns of behaviour, I call it ‘Eat, Play, Sleep, Repeat’ based loosely on a 90 minute cycle. If you keep an eye on your baby and his actions, a pattern will emerge and soon you will be able to know why it is your baby is crying, and minimise the guess work! Remember, your baby is your best teacher for being a parent!

22   Slow down – When your baby is crying, 1 minute feels like 15 minutes and it is hard to stay relaxed through the noise when all you want to do is make everything better for baby. In the first few weeks I was so anxious, I was rushing around to do things, often dropping things, breaking plates and mugs and my nerves were on edge due to being so stressed. As soon as I realised I needed to slow down, things became much easier. I could focus much better on each task and see what needed to be done, the wider picture.

33    Deep breathing – When we are anxious, our breath speeds up, our bellies tense and our chest tightens. Sometimes we even feel a sense of dread and the taste of adrenalin in our mouths. When you go about your daily tasks slowly, bring your attention to your breath and slow it down too. Release your stomach muscles and feel your belly soften and automatically your shoulders will release and you will feel instantly calmer.

44    Posture – It may sound silly but being a new parent quickly takes its toll on your body, especially mums. Feeding in particular is one where we need to be mindful of our posture as whether we breast feed or bottle feed, we are spending a LOT of time in certain positions and this can cause Repetitive Strain Injuries. I began to get pains in my wrists and thumbs from bottle feeding and hand-expressing milk, now I’m dealing with an RSI called ‘mummy’s thumb’, a form of tendonitis, and not nice! The tip I have is to alternate sides when you feed every time; when you can get other people to feed your baby to give yourself some respite. If you can, do some yoga, some downward dog to stretch out your wrists and arms and build back up any strength lost. When feeding relax your tummy, shoulders and jaw and breathe deeply. If you do get pain then early action is required to prevent it from becoming chronic, ice your wrists regularly to reduce inflammation. Change the way you do things like carrying the car seat with baby in to the car, instead leave the seat in the car and take baby to the seat.

55  “This too will pass’ – Always remember what the Buddha said if you are having a bad time of it or even suffering with baby blues or PND, ‘this too will pass’. Nothing is forever, the early days will be difficult as you are settling, mind and body, into the role as new parent. But it WILL become easier and life will get back to a ‘new normal’ quickly, especially if you follow the 4 previous tips!