Transcript: Tips To a Quicker Recovery and Improved Body Flexibility Using Yoga Postpartum
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Tips To a Quicker Recovery and Improved Body Flexibility Using Yoga Postpartum and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: One of the areas which has been touched on in a number of episodes of First Time Mum’s Chat has been the importance of taking steps to restore your body’s flexibility and normal range of movement as you go through your postpartum recovery period.
I’ve spoken with a range of mums and experts who have shared their expertise and I’ll include links to some of these episodes in the show notes. So please listen to the end of the episode and I’ll share where you can find them.
In this week’s episode, I’m exploring this further with mother of a 2 year old, yoga and flexibility teacher, Devin Garcia. Devin is located in Ontario, Canada and helps mums to regain their flexibility during their postpartum period. Many of the mums I speak with find exercise regimes and yoga a bit daunting. I think this is because they have an impression of yoga being beyond them, after seeing images of people who are able to contort themselves into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes with their amazing flexibility, that is certainly me. I think they feel worried that they won’t shape up.
As you’ll hear during our chat, Devin’s approach is realistic and you’ll hear her talk about her online library of classes which is ideal for mums who are often time poor and unable to attend class at a specific time. Share a number of yoga moves that you can use to help you begin to regain your flexibility after giving birth. Talk about the importance of improving your hip mobility to assist your overall body’s flexibility.
And so, so much more…
Hi Devin, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to be talking with you today all about yoga and how it can help mums to restore their flexibility during that postpartum time. Can you start by telling us about your background and what you do?
Devin Garcia: For sure, thank you so much for having me, first of all. Yeah, so my name’s Devin Garcia and I’m a yoga and flexibility teacher and I love working with people, especially busy people. We get so hunched over all day long. So finding that openness so that we can avoid aches and pains is super important to me and being a mum to a toddler, I know that mums can have a really hard time finding the time to get that practice in.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, and being a yoga teacher, you can also include your toddler into the exercises as well, which can be quite beneficial.
Devin Garcia: Yes and fun. It’s so adorable to see them try poses.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve got a colleague who works in Hong Kong. She did baby massage with the same company I trained with, and she also did toddler yoga as well and some of the posts she comes up with on Instagram are just so cute.
Devin Garcia: Oh, that must be such a joyful class.
Helen Thompson: How do you help mothers to get back into movement after giving birth?
Devin Garcia: So I help them to manage their expectations. So there’s kind of this expectation that everybody should be able to bounce back into their pre-pregnancy bodies, within weeks after giving birth, which is completely unrealistic. I would love to just do away with that bounce back culture because your body will never be the same after having a child and that doesn’t mean that you can’t be strong and flexible again. It’s part of your DNA now that you’ve had a child, so you should be kind to your body.
You don’t have to have like a six pack right after giving birth. So that’s the number one thing I really try to help new mums to manage, especially with the hormones and everything. You might not feel comfortable in the body that you’re currently in right after birth and then before having any children, you might have gone to classes regularly and you make the time to go over to a studio or a gym early so you can get a spot that you like. Then after the class you chit chat for a bit and then you take a shower and you just take your time to come home.
After you have a baby, you’re like, oh, suddenly, I don’t have this two hours every day to go to a gym or a studio. Then it could be hard to find something that works around your and your baby’s schedule. So I have an online library of classes so that people can practice whenever they want. So that’s something that’s really helpful too and knowing that you might not be able to practice for a whole hour. You might have a crying baby that you have to tend to. So if you can get a few minutes in here and there, that might be what your practice looks like for a little while until your baby gets a bit older.
Helen Thompson: Have you ever taught baby yoga? I know baby yoga is great as well because if you can get into a routine with your baby and you, well then you can do baby yoga as well, which also helps because you are incorporating the baby and you’re using a bonding and the communication and the social skills as well.
Devin Garcia: Yeah, I don’t teach it, but it’s a really nice resource for mums who are able to do that. I personally think that one is best to do in person, like at a studio if possible, cuz then you get a bit of movement in, but you also get to create a community with other mums who are there, who know what you’re going through.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, so are there any particular moves that you would recommend that mothers do after they’ve given birth to support their muscles and flexibility?
Devin Garcia: So I would say a really important thing is to prioritize what’s going on in your body. So that means no you don’t have to practice to get into the splits necessarily right after having a baby. If you’re breastfeeding, you might find that your shoulders are hunching forward all day long. So shoulders opening would be a really great one to do. Yeah, bring those shoulders back. So a really fast and easy one that most people could do is to interlace the fingers behind the back, and that helps to really open the chest and just doing that for a few breaths every now and then can really help open the chest so that you’re not hunching forward all the time.
Then hip exercises would be really good cuz I know when my baby was a newborn, I was just sitting on the couch like All day long, feeling a little bit trapped under her. So you can get kind of stiff, especially in the hip joints. So finding some hip opening, a really easy one to do even at the couch is if you put one ankle over the opposite knee, so you kind of have that figure four shape and then you just gently work the bent knee away from you. That kind of opens the joint a little bit and even if that’s all you can do for a couple of minutes, that that will definitely help a bit.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, my massage therapist suggested I do that, and it really does help the hips.
Devin Garcia: Yeah and the hips, it’s like a gateway for the body, right? Not only the hips being sore, if you are not moving a lot, but it can make your legs sore and it can make your lower back sore, like you were saying. So getting some hip mobility in every now and then, it’s really important.
Helen Thompson: Yeah just checking whether this is a yoga move. When I teach baby massage, I’m always talking about the move ‘tiger in the tree’. You hold the baby under their tummy and you are just rocking them. Is that a yoga move?
Devin Garcia: So it sounds like it could be similar to, you probably know the cat and cow poses that a lot of people start. It sounds like it might be similar to the cow pose where you’re kind of letting your back arch, instead of rounding, the cat poses are rounding your back. So it sounds like it might be sort of similar to that. Obviously if you’re not a baby, you’re on your hands and your knees instead of being supported.
Helen Thompson: Yes, of course. Yeah, it sounds like yoga is very good for helping release all those tensions in the body, especially for mums after giving birth. I know it can be quite stressful for mums and I know that yoga helps with diastasis recti.
Devin Garcia: Yeah, the ab separation that happens. So prior to having your baby, sometimes those muscles are really tight and then you get that nice big belly when your baby is growing and then it separates the muscles a bit and that can be really tough for recovery afterwards. So a lot of gentle core work, even working on pelvic tilts can help that when you’re starting back into your AB training. A lot of people might feel like they wanna do it right away cuz they have the perception that’s gonna help them lose the baby weight but, you’d have to certainly check with your doctor to see if you can do that stuff. You should not be doing sit-ups right away or anything like that but yeah, pelvic tilts, which is something that can be a very tough movement for people to understand. Saying pelvic tilts makes sense to most people. Oh yeah, I can visualize what that means, but then putting it into practice can be really hard.
So a good example of that is a forward fold. Just like simple standing forward fold. So many people round into their back instead of hinging from the hips. That means that they’re having a hard time finding that pelvic tilt forward. So they’re depending on their spine to get their hands to the floor, which is not important in a forward fold.
So yeah, the pelvic tilts actually help to engage the really deep, low ab muscles, and that helps with the pelvic floor, obviously and that can help with the abs separation. Then once your abs are feeling a bit stronger, yoga’s really about balance between strength and flexibility and mind body connection.
You don’t wanna just be making your abs as strong as possible and not working on the range of motion, cuz that can also hurt your low back. So things like back bends, even really just simple ones, can really help to increase the range of motion as well. Yeah, again, that’s something you should definitely be talking to your doctor cuz there’s different degrees of that separation that you can get. So, if you have it pretty bad, you don’t wanna just go in with no guidance.
Helen Thompson: I always advise people, if they’re not sure, to check in with the doctor. For a mum who wants to prepare for giving birth and prepare for after birth, can you do pregnancy yoga?
Devin Garcia: So generally speaking, it’s great for most people, but once again, check with your doctor. You’re not practicing once again to get into your splits or handstands at that stage of your practice. It really can help again with the hips, cuz that can be very helpful during labor and actually like we had mentioned before, cat and cow pose. So doing that a lot can really help get the baby into position. If you think of your spine is like the hard part of your body and your belly’s a soft part. So it’s kind of like a hammock, so then the baby can kind of just slide into position and get their head downwards instead of being in a breach position. I’m not saying that could magically work for everybody, but it definitely is a tool you can use to help with getting or maintaining baby’s good positioning.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve heard midwives saying to me that sometimes as they get into that position, it actually helps the movement, as you said, of the baby to move down the birth canal in the right way. I’ve heard midwives saying that if a mum’s struggling with giving birth, if that’s what they do, they just get down on their hands and knees and just gently move backwards and forwards it actually does help. It is interesting to hear you saying that as a yoga teacher as well, that you can do that.
Devin Garcia: Yeah, when I was giving birth I would’ve loved to have been in that position. I even asked my midwife if I could do that. I was induced and so I had all these wires and monitors all over me. So the monitor had to keep monitoring the baby and it seemed, for whatever reason, any position I was in except for lying on my back, the monitor wasn’t working, so I had to be in the uncomfortable position.
Helen Thompson: Oh, I wonder how the baby felt!
Devin Garcia: Yeah, luckily it was all pretty quick. I wasn’t pushing for hours or anything. I think it was 10 minutes luckily, but I wish I could have tried out the more comfortable position.
Helen Thompson: You say pushing for 10 minutes, from what you said there with yoga. If you’ve practiced yoga pre-pregnancy and then you are struggling with pushing, is there a yoga move that can help with that process?
Devin Garcia: So during that phase, I found, luckily for me cuz I’ve been practicing and teaching for so long, but I’m also naturally very flexible, that having my feet in those stirrups, it was easy for me to be in that position cuz I’m flexible. So I feel like the hip opening and getting a better range of motion in the hips prior to labor and that’s not gonna happen in a week, so that’s something you wanna be consistent with. That really helped and in yoga you obviously focus a lot on your breath and at first it’s kind of hard, especially if a pose is difficult for you. You just feel like you’re panting and sucking wind basically.
When you practice consistently and you end up understanding your breath more and how to use it, to not feel like you’re gonna die in a pose, I found that really helped too because it was easy for me to breathe in a helpful way while I was pushing instead of holding my breath. You know when you do a, a hard thing, it’s a very common thing to just hold your breath for whatever reason. When you learn through yoga not to do that, it’s really helpful. So I found that very helpful as well in the pushing phase.
Helen Thompson: Yeah I asked because I’ve done a little bit, but I gave up because it wasn’t working for me and I didn’t really have a very good teacher to support me. I think my body needs to be shown how to do it, not just by watching somebody else, but somebody needs to actually hold my body and say, right, this is what you’ve got to do. Somebody needs to guide me through that process and if necessary, hold that area and say to me, right, well you’ve gotta breathe in now and you’ve gotta breathe out. Once I’ve got that rhythm and I know what I’m doing, then my body’s fine but that’s just the way I am.
Devin Garcia: I can relate to that so much because when I started, like I had said before, I’m very flexible, but I didn’t know that I was way more flexible than the average person. So I didn’t know that I was doing poses without good alignment and eventually kind of making my joints feel weird. I had to have a really good teacher tell me you shouldn’t be doing that and that’s very not common. So, somebody holding my hand at first to get me to understand what my body was doing was important. A lot of people find yoga to be a bit intimidating cuz there’s this perception that you have to be so spiritual and if you just wanna exercise and you shouldn’t be doing yoga, and I like to try to dispel those judgments. I feel like yoga is for everybody. You just need to find the teacher that’s right for you and not feel judgment in any way.
Helen Thompson: Because I, yeah, I mean, I know, I know what I’ve gotta do. I mean, I, I sometimes sort of do meditations at night and I, and I do do my breathing, but I just do it slowly and I just do it in my own pace and it, whether I’m doing it right or wrong, you’ve still, it’s still good to do, but you’ve just gotta be sort of aware of your breath and how it’s working.
Is that the same as yoga?
Devin Garcia: Yeah. And for me, like, that’s another thing I like to try to avoid with like, you know, how you were saying right or wrong? Like in my opinion, you’re not doing anything wrong the way you’re breathing. You might ha there might be a more optimal way. But. That can be also overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting a, a teacher is telling you to align your foot this way and to engage this muscle this way and and to breathe a certain way.
You’re also supposed to be mindful of everything at the same time. It can be overwhelming, so I like to try to piece it together. So if somebody’s brand new, I’ll just tell them the movements to do and help their body be in a safe position. It might not be the most perfect Instagram worthy pose you’ve ever seen, but it’s a starting point. Then once that muscle memory is created, then you can work on advancing the pose or maybe you can work on your breathing in that pose, or maybe you can work on the mind body connection in that pose, but you don’t have to do it all at once cuz it’s too overwhelming.
Helen Thompson: Especially if you’ve just had a baby as well and you’re overwhelmed and you just know that you’ve gotta get up and do something. You know that it’s what you’ve gotta do, but you’re feeling overwhelmed on top of that. You’re feeling exhausted, sleep deprived, frustrated, and you know, you’ve gotta do all that. Somebody telling you, right, this is what you’ve gotta do. It’s best to have somebody like you who does it gently and says, okay, just take your time and don’t force anything.
Devin Garcia: Yeah, cuz if you’re that type of person who’s thinking many steps ahead and you start to feel overwhelmed and then some people just feel like, oh, this is too overwhelming. I’m just not gonna do it and I don’t want people to feel that way.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree. Yoga is very good for you and it’s particularly good for postpartum mums.
Devin Garcia: Not even just for the movement. We were saying the overwhelm and the mental stress of a newborn. Doing yoga, getting that movement in can also help at least a little bit, bring some ease to your mind.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, cuz it’s meant to be relaxing and stress free, isn’t it?
Devin Garcia: Yeah and once again you have to manage expectations when you’re a new mum. It might not be the most serene environment you’ve ever been in, but you know, maybe it can help a little bit.
Helen Thompson: So are there any other tips that you would give to a mum who wanted to experience yoga and they’ve just given birth? The baby was one month old and they thought, I want to get into yoga. What tip would you give to a mum who wanted to do that?
Devin Garcia: So what I found around that stage is the babies aren’t super mobile yet, and they should be doing their tummy time as well. So getting them to do their little exercise, which would be the tummy time and placing them maybe beside you and you can maybe get a few movements in. I found that to be really helpful. Maybe they learn to roll over while you’re doing that cuz they wanna see your face. So it can be really cute while you’re practicing as well. It gets a little bit harder when they start to crawl around but my daughter is 22 months now and the fun thing with her is I like to try to encourage independent play, so she’ll be playing with her toys and I’ll just, pop into some poses beside her, and then she’ll be looking at me, and then she’ll try to do it too, which I think is just a wonderful way to introduce movement to her other than walking around and being a silly little toddler.
Helen Thompson: I think that’s good and I’m a great believer in tummy time. I think tummy time is so important, and I’m always saying to mums that if you do tummy time with your child and this is where the yoga comes in, if you are doing tummy time with your child, it’s much more supportive. A mum lying next to their baby and actually doing moves with them because it encourages them because they like the contact, they like being close to you, they like hearing your voice, they like hearing you talking, they like watching you. I think what you are saying, having yoga in their tummy time is actually a very good thing for both mother and child.
Devin Garcia: Yeah. It’s like a little exercise time for the both of you.
Helen Thompson: And mirror play, doing it in front of a mirror, if the baby can actually learn to lift their head up whilst you are doing the yoga and actually look at you in the mirror, which can be fascinating for babies as well.
Devin Garcia: A double good thing about that too is if you have a big mirror that they can see and you’re doing yoga by it, you can also look over at your alignment while you’re doing it and if you haven’t been practicing for a long time you might not know, but you could definitely tell in some poses like, oh, my back is really rounding here, I should try to find that tilt more or bring my shoulders back more, so the mirror can be helpful for you and the baby.
Helen Thompson: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you mentioned tummy time with the yoga, because I think that’s an important tip for mums to realize that tummy time doesn’t have to just be the baby. It can be you as well!
Devin Garcia: Yeah, and it can make it more fun for them cuz if you just put them down there and you’re just standing there waiting for them to cry.
Helen Thompson: Yeah and they do cry to begin with because babies find that different moves difficult like mums do when they’re doing yoga and like you do as a mum, you’ve just gotta build it up gradually and if they don’t like it, let them roll over, let them do what they need to do. You never know, if you are doing yoga and they’re lying on their back, they might actually roll over and watch you and try and do the moves themselves. Babies are very good at learning and observing. They’re like sponges!
Devin Garcia: Yes. I was just gonna say that, they just absorb everything. When my daughter was little, before she was crawling around, I would go into the basement and we had this really big mat that had pictures on it of a town with roads and little animals and stuff. So, I just put a few toys on there and let her do tummy time, and I did yoga on that mat, but further away from her. It was really cool to see eventually her roll over and before she started crawling, she would just roll over and roll over and roll over until she was off the mat. It’s funny to see what they learn in such a short amount of time. If you’re practicing for like a month and you see the changes from when you first start.
Helen Thompson: Oh yeah and incorporating it all with your baby is good for communication. It’s good for both mother and baby, brain development, mind and body movement, it’s great for all of those, and it helps both of you, which I think is great.
Devin Garcia: Yeah and like I said before, I encourage that independent play with my daughter. Even back then, she could be very clingy, but you know, put those toys and just be close enough, but a little bit far away and just observe to see if she’s gonna be okay just playing with her toys on her own and I’m not touching her. It can be helpful cuz they get used to not needing to be held 24×7.
Helen Thompson: Yes and they also get used to the fact that they know you are there and you are not leaving them, you’re not deserting them, you are lying next to them and being with them and being close to them, which babies love. They love to be close to you but it’s also good to encourage them, as you say, the independent play, but the independent play where you are doing something at the same time. You are being independent, but they’re also being independent.
Devin Garcia: Yeah, there’s so many times you hear that phrase of, oh get stuff done when the baby is napping and that’s not always realistic, cuz some babies really need those contact naps or maybe you need to nap and that’s the only time you can nap is when they’re napping. So if you can exercise with them while they’re in tummy time, then you can also get a nap in when they’re napping.
Helen Thompson: Well, exactly, and I think that would be a good key for a first time mum because knowing that there are times that you don’t have to nap when they’re napping. If you are working with your mind and body and relaxing when they’re on tummy time, you are supporting your mind and body so that when you do have a nap, you’ll have a better, relaxing, more beneficial sleep, even if its only 20 minutes because your mind is rested and your body is relaxed.
Devin Garcia: Yeah and I know at least I needed that at that point.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you for all your wonderful tips. I’ve really enjoyed hearing all these good tips and I’m glad that we’ve included tummy time in it as well for mums, because I think that’s really important.
So you mentioned your online course and your virtual course, so if somebody wanted to touch base with you how would they go about doing that?
Devin Garcia: So my website is StretchLoveYoga.com and all of my offerings are on there and I actually have like a little free PDF on there as well. If you go to StretchLoveYoga.com/flexibilitysecrets. If you wanna connect with me on Instagram, it’s at stretchloveyogi and yeah, I’d love to chit chat with you if you are interested.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Devin, for being on my podcast. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and thank you for supporting the first time mums out there who need that help with movement. So thank you for being here.
Devin Garcia: Thank you so much for having me. It was such a lovely chat.
Helen Thompson: Wow, Devin certainly shared some great tips during our chat and I highly suggest checking out her Flexibility Secrets freebie that she mentioned during our chat. I’ve included links to this and Devin’s website and social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/130.
I’ve also included links to other First Time Mum’s Chat episodes, which I’m sure you will find of interest to help you during your postpartum recovery and healing. I also share each episode on the First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page, and you’ll hear me chatting live with folks I’ve interviewed from time to time. Please support me by following me and I look forward to meeting you during one of my lives.
Next week I’ll be wearing my baby massage hat and will be talking about the importance of talking to your baby and giving them positive touch. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they’re live.