Nourishment (noun): the food necessary for growth, health, and good condition.
It is not just our babies that need nourishment. The first weeks and months of mothering can be like a rebirth for ourselves as we grieve for the woman that was and get to know the new mother in her shoes. It is a transformational period whether this is our first child or fifth and it requires lots of nourishment for growth and health in all aspects of our being.
Here is a basic relaxation and breathing practice to be used from birth onwards and at any time you feel depleted in energy. It can be done with your baby in your arms or at your side. Although this might look simple – trust and enjoy – relaxed, efficient breathing is the foundation of all yoga practice and a key element of postural stability.
Supported Relaxation Pose
Adopting a supported relaxation pose with the knees bent up (or resting on cushions or a chair) helps to relieve back ache and makes it easier to breathe deeply and efficiently.
The shape of the spine changes during pregnancy to help you balance with all that extra weight out in front. It takes time for the spine to readjust postnatally and this posture will help. Breathing deeply also gives space, oxygen and a gentle massage to all of the abdominal and pelvic organs. They have been squashed, squeezed and displaced during pregnancy to make way for the baby. Spending time in a resting pose like this one will help them find their way home.
Your baby can lie down next to you or sit up on your hips so you can chat and play – or how about you and your baby spend some time together BOTH in the baby gym – go on try – there is definitely room for two!
Postnatal Healing Breath (Ujjayi)
Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) is a lovely breathing practice to do while resting in the position described above. It can also be done sitting up, standing or while feeding your baby. I have used this practice often while pacing the floor and willing my children to please go to sleep! Babies love the sound of your breath – it was their soundtrack in the womb – and may be just what they need to help them settle or feel secure.
Try using Ujjayi breath whenever you find yourself becoming aggravated or stressed, and you should notice a prompt soothing effect.
- To prepare for this practice make the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open (as if you were steaming up a mirror).
- Feel the power on this exhale as it is sent out of the body and into the room – “haaaaaah”.
- Now make a similar sound, but with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Feel the breath pass at the back of the throat, as if like a soft, silk scarf.
- Once you have the hang of it gradually let the exhalations get softer and longer. The sound is barely audible – just enough for you (and your baby) to hear.
- Notice how the power on the breath can now be directed within you, to wherever you need it most right now.
Breathing Love to Your Belly
Place your hands on your lower belly with your thumbs and index fingers joined to form a downward pointing triangle. This shape is symbolic of the womb and of feminine power.
- As you breathe in, know that fresh energy and oxygen is absorbed by the heart.
- Each time you exhale send your attention and awareness from the heart down into the womb.
- Allow yourself to be nourished deeply by both the inhale and the exhale.