Yoga for breastfeeding women can be extremely beneficial as they spend several hours a day holding their newborns in their arms. If you are a lactating mother, baby’s weight may strain your back; therefore, practicing yoga can improve your posture and flexibility, helping your overall health (1). Various yoga postures can help you stretch and strengthen your worn-out back and neck muscles. However, before beginning any activity after delivery, you should consult your gynecologist.
The below post discusses the different yoga postures for breastfeeding women and yoga safety tips
Benefits Of Yoga For Nursing Mothers
Yoga is a form of mild exercise and could provide the following benefits to mothers (2).
- Improves general fitness
- Improves heart rate
- Improves mental well-being
- Improves energy levels
- Assists with weight control
- Improves bone strength
- Helps manage postnatal depression
Yoga Poses For Breastfeeding Mothers
The following yoga poses may be beneficial for breastfeeding mothers.
1. Cat cow pose
- Kneel down on the yoga mat on your palms and knees and form a tabletop position.
- Inhale and arch your back by pressing your tummy towards the floor and stretch your neck to look up.
- Exhale, round your back, drop your head down, and look towards your belly button.
- Return to the starting position and repeat 8-10 times (3).
- Relaxes the spine
- Strengthens the wrist
- Massages and stimulates abdominal organs, such as kidneys and adrenal glands
- Stretches the front torso and neck
- Relieves menstrual cramps
2. Downward facing dog
- Come on all fours such that your back forms the tabletop and hands and feet form the legs of the table.
- Exhale and lift the hips, straighten the knees and elbows, and form an inverted V-shape with the body.
- Keep the hands at shoulder-width apart, feet hip-width apart, and parallel to each other. Keep the toes pointed ahead.
- Press the hands on the ground, widen the shoulder blades, and keep the neck elongated by keeping ears in contact with the inner arms.
- Look towards the navel and hold the pose for 10-15 seconds.
- Exhale, bend the knees, and return to the table pose (4).
- Lengthens the spine
- Tones muscles of the upper body
- Strengthens chest muscles and increases lung capacity
- Strengthens arms, shoulders, legs, and feet
3. Bridge pose
- Lie on your back.
- Fold your knees, keep them at hip distance, and keep the knees and ankles in a straight line.
- Keep the arms beside your body and keep palms facing down.
- Inhale, lift the lower back, middle back, and upper back off the floor. Roll the shoulders, touch the chest to the chin without lowering the chin, and support your weight on your shoulders, arms, and feet.
- Keep your thighs parallel to each other and the floor.
- Hold the posture for a minute and exhale as you release the pose (5).
- Strengthens the muscles of the back
- Relaxes the tired back instantly
- Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
- Calms the brain, reduces anxiety, stress, and depression
- Opens the lungs
- Reduces thyroid problem
- Improves digestion
- Relieves symptoms of menstrual pain and menopause
- Helpful in asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
4. Eagle pose
- Stand in a tadasana (mountain pose) by standing straight on your feet. Lift the right foot. Balance your body on the left foot.
- Move your right thigh across the left thigh in a way that the right foot gets support from the lower calves of the left foot. The toes of the right foot should be pointed towards the floor.
- Extend your arms forward while keeping them parallel to the floor.
- Intertwine your hands in a way that the left hand is above the right hand. Bend the elbows and keep the arms perpendicular to the floor.
- The back of the palms should be facing each other.
- Now shift your palms facing each other. Stretch the fingers upwards. Raise your hands upwards in the same posture to whatever height you can.
- Stay in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Gradually, unwind and return to tadasana and repeat the pose using the left-side arms and legs (6).
- Stretches hips, thighs, shoulder, and upper back
- Improves balance
- Strengthens calves
- Reduces the pain from sciatica and rheumatism
- Loosens legs and hips and makes them more flexible
5. Extended triangle pose
- Stand erect on a yoga mat with feet more than shoulder-width apart and raise the arms up on the side to the level of shoulders.
- Move the right foot to the outside in a way that the toes point to the right side.
- Turn the left foot slightly inward in a way that the axis of both the feet makes an angle of 75 to 80 degrees with each other.
- Keep the knees straight and bend the trunk towards the right side.
- Once the trunk is completely bent, bring the right hand close to the right ankle in a way that the fingers of the right hand touch the floor.
- Stretch the left arm vertically.
- Move the head upward and fix the gaze to the left palm.
- Hold the position for a minute to two and then repeat the same on the other side (7).
- Stretches the muscles of the spine, on the sides of the trunk, waist, and back of legs
- Stimulates the nervous system
- Reduces depression
- Improves digestion
- Strengthens pelvic area and tones the reproductive organs
- Reduces waistline
- Improves regular body functions
- Improves physical and mental stability
- Strengthens knees, ankles, legs, chest, and arms
- Reduces stress and anxiety
6. Upward facing dog
- Lie flat on your belly with the top of the feet facing downwards.
- The arm should be stretched down the length of the body.
- Bend the elbows and spread your palms beside the lowest rib.
- Inhale, press the palms firmly against the floor, and gradually lift the torso, hips, and knees off the mat.
- The knees and palms should be taking the entire weight of the body.
- Look straight ahead or tilt your head slightly backward.
- Do not strain the neck beyond tolerable levels and keep the wrists in line with the shoulders
- Hold the position for a few breaths
- Exhale, lower your knees, hips, and torso back on the mat (8).
- Stretches and strengthens the back
- Reduces lower back pain
- Strengthens arms and wrists
- Improves body posture
- Stimulates abdominal organs
7. Sphinx pose
- Lie on the yoga mat with your stomach on the floor.
- Keep your forehead touched to the floor and your toes flat on the floor.
- Keep the legs close to each other, and the heels and feet must touch each other.
- Keep your hands stretched out in the front with palms facing downward and arms touching the floor.
- Take a deep breath in, slowly lift your head, chest, and abdomen and keep the belly button in contact with the floor.
- Pull the torso back with the support of arms.
- Focus on inhalation and exhalation and curving the spine.
- Inhale and lift your back up, exhale, and gently bring your abdomen, chest, and head back on the floor (9).
- Strengthens the spine
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Expands the chest and shoulder
- Improves blood circulation
- Relieves stress
8. Boat pose
- Lie on your back on the yoga mat.
- Keep your feet together and keep your arms beside your body.
- Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, lift your chest and feet off the floor, and stretch your arms towards your feet.
- Keep your eyes, fingers, and toes in a straight line.
- Engage your core muscles. Keep breathing while holding the pose.
- Exhale and come back to the neutral position (10).
- Strengthens the back and abdominal muscles
- Tones the muscles of the legs and arms
9. Forward bend with interlaced fingers
- Start by standing straight with feet slightly apart and firm on the floor.
- Inhale and stretch your arms above your head.
- Exhale, bend forward with your knees straight, and bend down towards your feet.
- Hold the posture for 20-30 seconds.
- Keep the legs straight and the spine erect.
- Keep your hands resting either on the floor, beside your feet, or on your legs.
- Exhale, move your chest towards your knees, and lift the hips and tailbone higher.
- Relax your head and move your head towards your feet.
- Inhale, stretch your arms out in front, and slowly come back to a normal standing position.
- Exhale and get your arms to the side (11).
- Strengthens and stretches back muscles
- Stimulates nervous system
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Tones abdominal organs
Tips For Yoga Practice For New Mothers
The following tips can help lactating mothers practice without any injuries (12).
- Practice yoga only after your doctor permits.
- Listen to your body and stop if you have any pain.
- Contact your doctor if you experience pain or any unusual symptoms.
- Begin with a gentle warm-up, stretching exercises, or walking.
- Gradually increase the intensity and frequency of yoga practice.
- Ensure adequate nutrition and hydration for yoga practice.
- Wear a well-supportive bra.
- Relaxin, a hormone produced in pregnancy, causes loose ligaments throughout the body. Relaxin is elevated in the body for as long as 12 months postpartum, and it can make a mother more prone to injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can breastfeeding mothers do Surya Namaskar?
Yes, breastfeeding mothers can practice Surya Namaskar to stay physically and mentally energized (14). However, it is better to stop if you experience discomfort.
2. When should a nursing mother start yoga?
It may depend on the type of delivery. Women with a vaginal delivery may start practicing yoga immediately after childbirth. However, in the case of cesarean delivery, it is recommended to wait till after three months of childbirth (15).
Yoga practice has several health benefits, including improved breast milk production (13). However, it is very important to consult your obstetrician or midwife and seek their advice before commencing yoga practice. If you have had a C-section, the doctor might recommend a little more time before you can go back to physical exercises. You may consider enrolling under a trained yoga trainer to ensure proper posture and avoid any strain on the body.
- Yoga helps improve overall fitness, improves bone strength, and helps manage postnatal depression for breastfeeding moms.
- Cat cow pose, eagle pose, upward facing dog, boat pose are some of the helpful yoga poses for breastfeeding mothers.
- To engage in yoga practice without injuring yourself, start slow, listen to your body, and ensure adequate nutrition for yourself.
- Yoga for health.
- Exercise and breastfeeding.
- Cat Pose (Marjariasana).
- AdhoMukhaSvanasana – DownwardFacing Dog Pose.
- Bridge Pose (SetuBandhasana).
- Garudasana – Eagle pose.
- Extended Triangle Pose – UtthitaTrikonasana.
- Sphinx Pose (SalambaBhujangasana).
- Naukasana – Boat Pose.
- Standing Forward Bend(Uttanasana).
- FarelHruska Relaxin: Pre- and Postnatal Exercise Considerations.
- Julie Matheney Yoga Increases Breast Milk.
- Yoga tips for nursing moms.
- Yoga for lactating mothers.