There is so much information about how to “get your body back” post-birth. But here’s the truth: your body has changed since you became pregnant and delivered your baby in all kinds of ways. So perhaps the goal shouldn’t be to get your body back, but rather to get to a place where you feel comfortable and strong in your new body!
While there are so many advertisements and campaigns to make new moms feel as if they need to doing X, Y, and Z in order to achieve contentment with their shape, exercise in the months after birth shouldn’t feel harsh or straining to your body. The reason is that injury during postpartum can happen for a variety of reasons. First, you’ve likely lost a lot of core strength and your pelvic floor may feel weak for a while after delivery. Second, the hormone relaxin, which works to help relax your joints to ease delivery, remains within your body for up to five month post-birth. That means, jarring movements can make injuring yourself easier to do. And lastly, diastasis recti, a separating of the abdomen muscles, can be a common complication that many moms deal with postpartum and it can be worsened by performing the wrong exercises that pull the muscles further apart, rather than helping them move back together.
Here are 3 exercises that won’t put extra strain on your body, but will gently help you strengthen your core, post-birth:
Pelvic tilts- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted firmly. Begin by taking a deep breath and pressing your low back into the ground below you to feel your whole spine lengthen. As you breathe in, tuck your belly button towards your spine and begin to draw your pelvis up and in slightly. Exhale and return to starting position. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Bridge poses- Start again from your back with your knees bent and your feet planted. Send your weight into your feet and begin lifting your hips to the sky. Keep your knees parallel and only lift your hips as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5-10 seconds, engaging the glutes, then slowly, one vertebrae at a time, return to starting position. Repeat, moving slowly and intentionally, for 10-15 repetitions.
Deep breathing- Remain flat on your back. Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over your navel. As you inhale, feel your belly fill, then your chest expand. As you exhale, feel your chest slowly lower, then your belly. At the bottom of the exhale, draw your navel in and engage the pelvic floor, release, and start again. Repeat for 3-5 minutes, or 20 cycles of breath.
Simple standing postures- Beginner balance postures can be a simple and low impact way to strengthen the muscles of the core. Begin by standing tall and feeling your feet planted firmly on the ground. Draw your navel in towards the spine and lengthen through the crown of the head. Drop your shoulders away from your ears. Slowly send your weight into your left foot and gain your balance. Then draw your right foot to just above the ankle joint, turning the knee outward. You’ve just found tree pose. If this is comfortable, you can begin to draw the right foot further up the left leg, being careful to place it directly over the knee joint. Reach the arms up the sky or bring the hands to your heart. Remain balance and focused, drawing your navel in for 5-7 breaths. Then slowly, bring your right foot back to the floor. Inhale standing tall, then exhale begin to send your weight into the right foot, and start again bringing the left foot off the ground to your ankle.
Just taking care of your new baby can already feel like a certain kind of workout on its own. So always listen to your body. Move slowly and with intention. When you feel strong enough to move onto the next phase, you’ll know it. But especially in the early weeks and months after birth, you’ll want to make sure you are only giving your body exactly what it can handle to avoid injury and added stress. Yes, your body has shifted, and it may take some getting used to, and gentle exercises might not feel like a lot of work. But with a dedicated practice, you’ll be amazed that a few gentle movements a day are exactly what your body needs to feel your core muscles reengaged. You don’t need to do dozens of crunches or leg lifts to regain your abdominal strength. And in fact, you shouldn’t (these two exercises are known to stress the abdomen during postpartum leading to diastasis recti). But you can still work to improve your strength in subtle ways that are kind to your body, rather than jarring.