Post-Pregnancy and Ashtanga Practice

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I have just had a child and am receiving mixed reports as to when I can go back to my Ashtanga practice, which I was doing regularly right up to giving birth, with modification for my swelling belly. I had a natural birth with no complications.

—Bella, Perth, Western Australia

Sarah Powers’ reply:

After we have passed through the labyrinth of giving birth and are joyously nursing our infants, we have to remember that our bodies have been through a major transformation and have now become milk factories. Not only are we digesting our food for our own nourishment, but many of those nutrients that we usually absorb are now being passed along as a beautiful and necessary gift of sustenance for our child. We have been catapulted across a threshold, from a life directed by our own wants and interests, to one of selfless giving day and night. This can be depleting and exhausting. You now need to nurture yourself more than ever, as it is no longer an imperative for your own healthy living, but someone else’s life depends on it. I have seen so many new mothers misconstrue the natural mothering instinct of service to mean they are entitled now to forget their own care, with often damaging effects to mother and child.

My suggestion is that you start back to a yoga practice as soon as possible. What you practice will need some re-evaluation, with your schedule and body being different now. I found that the day after I gave birth I was on my deck doing gentle forward bends and hip openers. It was such a delight now that my belly could fold forward again.

During the baby’s first nap, I would also take one, and during the second, in the morning, I would do my yoga practice. Within a week I was doing first series again without the jump-throughs, ending the session when she would awake. Sometimes later in the day I would pick up my practice where I had left off in the morning. My new intention was to remain flexible, not just of body, but also with my practice and myself. Some days I would only do the middle seated section, and others I had the energy for standing poses also. Other days I would do one pose and then lay in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for the rest of the time. I learned that intuiting my energy each day was more important than it had ever been.

Along with doing postures, nursing had become an important practice. It allowed me the opportunity to be within the mindfulness practice of simple moment to moment being. More than any other time in parenting, the first year with an infant is about living the yogic rhythm of ease and response, being fully available for what is needed each moment with no personal agenda, while being willing to give up expectations of how things ought to be. It is a precious and oh so impermanent time. More than ever, continue to practice, but also, really live the practice, moment by glorious moment.

Sarah Powers blends the insights of yoga and Buddhism in her practice and teaching. She incorporates both a Yin style of holding poses and a Vinyasa style of moving with the breath, blending essential aspects of the Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Viniyoga traditions. Pranayama and meditation are always included in her practice and classes. Sarah has been a student of Buddhism in both Asia and the U.S. and draws inspiration from teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Toni Packer, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Sarah also draws inspiration from the Self Inquiry (Atma Vichara) of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. She lives in Marin, California where she home schools her daughter and teaches classes. For more information go to

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