‘Little and often’ – for busy new mums

By Charlotte Dodson

Yoga is a personal practice that you can engage in at any time of the day – something you can easily add as part of your ‘wellness routine’. Below are listed examples of various ways that busy mums can ‘add’ a few toning postures to their program. You can practice these for just a few minutes and you’ll gain the benefits of their rejuvenating effects, especially if you’ve had late or sleepless nights. It’s important to move the body – as you move and shift the body, it’ll have the same effect within your mind, which in turn will help lift you out of a ‘one-track’ thought routine. And remember to embrace this idea of ‘little and often’: by practicing for a few minutes here and there, these ‘self-love moments’ will soon add up by the end of every week, and your body and living day will shape up for the better!

A few tips to remember before we begin:

Present and in the moment – As we keep ourselves anchored to our breath (the key element in yoga) it teaches us to stay present and cherish every moment, especially when having a baby – it’s beautiful to watch them grow every step along the way.

Positive living – It teaches us to live positively and joyfully as we deepen the awareness and consciousness within ourselves. We all enter the world as a joyful soul. As we undo patterns and break down barriers, we come back to that pure joyfulness, especially with the help of a yoga practice. With an active and playful baby, some days can be really tiring, but by being positive, the days feel much kinder.

Body, mind and spirit – As we open and strengthen the body, it’ll create a mirror-effect within our mind. Moving and releasing any tension held will give you more space and time to do all that you need to do during your waking hours.

Being healthy gives you great results – eat organically, stay hydrated, and rehydrate with cocobella coconut water.

Remember to B-R-E-A-T-H-E – The key element in yoga is your breath, it’s the bridge between your body and mind. Keep your lips closed as you breathe through both nostrils to contain the warmth within your body. Every time you inhale, allow your body to extend along your spine as you expand and energise; every time you exhale, your body naturally contracts as you release and calm your body down. Keep your breath long and natural throughout the following sequence:

The poses:

(Note: With this sequence we’ll be focussing on the upper body, but remember that your lower body and belly will be active, too. Maybe set yourself a goal of practising these for 10-20 minutes every morning, and that will soon build up into a great workout regime. Lets begin.)

Sun salutations (with toning arms) – best performed upon waking in the morning
Sun salutations are a great way to warm your body up, build strength and increase stamina. It’ll give you greater mental focus and body awareness as you move mindfully with each and every breath. Start at the top of your mat, or board, with your feet together, legs active, belly strong and chin tucked into your throat. This is your base position, ‘tadasana’.

Inhale – raise your arms out to the side and up into prayer above your head, take your gaze to your thumbs.

Exhale – swan dive down to your feet, bend your knees if your lower back is tender, hands to the floor by your feet

Inhale – to lengthen and take your gaze forward, palms flat if possible. Exhale – Step or jump back one leg distant and rock forward into a ‘high plank’.

Ensure your shoulders are inline with your wrists, hips are lifting slightly (so you don’t dip into your lower back), keeping your legs and core active. Keep your chin tucked into your throat, protecting the back of your neck and work your heels to the back of your mat. Lift up slightly into your shoulder blades and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths. To release rock back into ‘downward facing dog’ or drop to your knees into child pose for a few breaths before stepping or jumping to the top of your mat and repeating 2-5 more times.

Upper arm strength
From your high plank, drop gently to your knees. On your exhale, lower your chest in between your hands, towards the floor, looking forward. Keep your sit bones lifting up to the sky. On your inhale, allow the breath to draw you back up. Keep your elbows in by your sides and try not to collapse your chest. Keep your shoulders rolling back and belly active. You can practice in stages, lower half way down and as your strength builds, in time your chest can meet the floor.

Add a pose throughout your day:

‘Squat’ (mighty pose) – when picking up a toy

Strong legs give you foundation and keep you grounded – literally! This ‘chair’ pose works to build and develop muscle tone, especially in the lower half of your body. It’s a strong pose, so hang in there, breathe slowly and release to standing at any time.

Start by coming to the top of your mat. Bring your feet and knees together. As you exhale bend your knees, tuck your tailbone down and raise your arms up over your head with palms together. Open your arms out wide if your shoulders need more space. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths. Release to standing and repeat another 3 times.

‘Hang forward’ (forward bend) when unpacking the shopping
This pose gently wakes you up. Start with your feet hip distant apart, bend both knees. Hang off your hips as you pivet your torso down towards the floor. Hang forward, chin tucked into your throat and your hands can cross onto each elbow. Keep your weight evenly distributed into your feet, and allow your chest to connect onto your thighs as you hang off your hips. Keep legs and belly active. Breathe deeply, with your eyes closed for 5-10 minutes. To release, keep your knees bent as you slowly roll up to standing, with your head last to come up.

Yoga poses you can ‘incorporate into play’:

Boat pose.

Whatever your journey, ride it with strength, perserverance and determination. ‘Navasana’ will develop balance, tone your legs, build back muscles and core strength. Try balancing on your sitbones, legs up into a V shape; otherwise, keep legs bent or toes onto the floor if your lower back is tender. Keep your chin tucked into your throat, and gaze lightly to your toes. Lift your chest forward as you activate your stomach muscles. Keep your arms parallel to the floor (or hold onto legs if you need) – think of these as your oars, steering you into the right direction. Breathe naturally as you hold your boat pose for 5 breaths or more. Come down to a cross legged sitting posture, before repeating another 3 times.

Upside down bow pose. This pose gives you a boost of energy and is best to practice in the morning, rather than before you go to bed. Come into a cross legged, easy sitting posture. Ground your sit bones into the floor, and keep your legs active with your feet flexed. Swing your fingers behind you as you lift up onto your fingers tips, roll your shoulders outward and draw your chest forward. This is a simple backbend. Look forward and down slightly if your neck feels sore, otherwise, lift your chin up gently (keep back of neck long) and take your gaze to your nose. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths, release to a natural upright position and repeat 2-3 more times. After your last backbend, roll onto your back and release by squeezing your knees into your belly, keeping your lower back and head onto the floor.

Twist. This pose is balancing and centering. If you’re feeling sluggish, it’ll pick you up, and if you’re feeling over active, it’ll calm you down. Start in a cross legged sitting posture. Keep your spine upright as you inhale, and on your next exhale draw your left hand to your right knee, and drop your right fingers behind you. Keep your torso upright and long on your inhale, and twist deeper on your exhale. You can take your gaze to your back shoulder, otherwise look forward if your neck is sore. Hold and breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths, inhale to come back to centre and exhale to release the pose. Repeat on the other side.

Take time out for yourself:

By practicing yoga, we’ll feel refreshed, focussed and give something back to yourself – some ‘me’ time. It’s important to give yourself time out, that way we can give more, and appreciate the little things in life.

Legs up the wall (viparini karani). This pose can put you int a soothing space, afterwards you’ll feel relaxed, calm and at ease, especially as if you’re running around all day.This pose is rejuvenating and calms a busy mind. This soothes your nervous system to rest and digest. You may still feel a little tired afterwards, but you’ll feel less frustrated. Start by sitting the side of your buttocks against a wall and swivel your legs up it. Keep your legs slightly bent to protect your lower back, and your hands can drop onto your belly or chest. Keep you chin tucked into your throat, eyes closed and shoulders roll downwards. Breathe deeply for 5-20 minutes.

‘Savasana’ to relax. It’s important to rest as much as it is to play! Sometimes we don’t always realise how much we’ve worked our body when we’re constantly ‘on the go’ This pose will let you completely relax, let go of your day and give some of ‘you’ time back. This corpse pose is an active sleep. You can do this at any time, laying onto a flat floor. This can be an effective power nap, and gives all your organs space to breathe. Start by laying onto your back, place a cushion under your knees if your lower back feels sore. Allow your hands to face upwards and feet to naturally roll out to the side. You can rock your head from side to side and then keep it straight forward, with your chin tucked down slightly and shoulders rolling outwards. When you’ve adjusted your body to be comfortable, let your breath breathe you for about 5-10 minutes (you can stay longer) deepening into the pose. To release, take a few deeper breaths before rolling out to the right side and up to a cross legged sit. Keep your spine elongated, and bring your hands into prayer with your head bowed down slightly. Always remember to give yourself a moment for a positive intention, before embracing your day feeling rejuvenated and fully alive.

Namaste.