Vitality (noun): the state of being strong and active; energy.
For many of us, life with a new baby can leave us feeling tired or even exhausted. The combination of little or irregular sleep, constant lifting and carrying and fluctuating hormones (to name just a few) can make serious demands on our energy!
The practices in this section are designed to make the most of what little energy you have and are all focussed on working with the shoulders and opening the centre of the chest. In contrast to the forward leaning postures of holding and feeding babies or pushing their prams (think “buggy hunch”) these practices all bring us into positions which OPEN the front of the body and can result in greater feelings of vitality.
Simple Supported Back Bend
This is a resting pose that you can do with your baby lying next to you. Start lying on the floor in a semi-supine position (knees bent, feet on the floor). For this practice do not place anything under your head. Instead, take a firm pillow, yoga block or book (a chunky kids board book is great) and place it under your sacrum so that your pelvis is elevated slightly higher than your head. Allow your arms to rest out to the side or on the floor above your head. The whole of your upper arms should be in contact with the floor (including yoru elbows) so you feel your shoulder blades wide on your back and heavy on the earth. Focus on the centre of your chest and breathe!
Baby Salutes / Sun Salutation / “Mister Sun”
These practices are great for entertaining a playful baby. Kneeling in front of your baby, see if you can catch their eye and begin to move your arms in coordination with the rhytm of your breath. As you inhale raise both arms up above your head. As you exhale, bring your arms back down (with wiggly fingers) and give your baby a tickle. You can add a little clap above your head at the top of the inhale and make silly noises as you exhale to keep your baby’s attention. It is also pleasnt to hum gently as you bring the arms down. This practice mobilises the shoulder joints and gradually allows us to open into a gentle backbed at the top of each inhale. If possible, keep your knees close together and do not clench your buttocks.
Here is a popular song from my postnatal yoga class that works well with baby salutes. We add a peekaboo surprise and some bends side to side as well.
“Mister Sun, Sun, Golden Mister Sun
Shine your light on me!
Mister Sun, Sun, Golden Mister SunHiding behind a tree (boo!) – cover your face with your hands and peek out for the ‘boo’.
This little baby wants to ask of you,
to please come out so he/she can play with you. – reach your arms above your head and bend side to side.
Mister Sun, Sun, Golden Mister Sun
Shine your light on me!
Tummy Time / Mini-Cobra
We can learn so much about opening the chest from watching our babies on their tummies. Initially they may need a rolled blanket or towel or a small pillow to rest their arms on and then – wow- they find that upper back strength and there they are in the most amazing cobra pose!
Tummy time is fantastic for grown ups too – watch how your baby keeps the whole of their belly on the floor when they start to lift up from their front. Can your replicate that action yourself? Lie on your front and completely let go of your belly into the earth (this in itself may feel amazing). Now begin to lift your head, gently supporting with your arms. Keep your lowest ribs on the floor so the abdomen stays soft and can stretch and lengthen. Feel the centre of your chest wide and open. Smile. Enjoy!
Scooping Cat / Striking Cobra
From an all-fours base, come into a nicely rounded cat pose (see part 2 – stability). Keeping the rounded shape of the cat pose, begin to drop your hips towards your heels. As you start to feel your back flatten out, bend your elbows, drop your chest close to floor and scoop (or swoop!) forward. If your baby is with you you can give them a little kiss as you swoop. If you are practising on your own you can skim your chest very close to the floor and make this the more energetic practice of “the striking cobra”.