Here is a continuation of a previous blog about Prenatal Yoga Poses.
Parents with small children do a whole lot of heavy lifting every day. And we’re usually not doing the “lift-from-your-knees” thing most of the time, which is unfortunate because we really should. It would save us a whole lot of back, shoulder and neck pain if we always lifted our children the “right” way.
Add on the lifestyle that many of us have – working all day, often while sitting for hours in a swivel chair. Active with our children and then as soon as they go to bed we’re back in our chairs at the computer, or sitting on the couch. So we have the added stress of compression in our backs.
What we really need to do is lengthen the spine, relax the upper back/shoulder areas, and strengthen the core abdominal muscles. So here are a few ways we can do that! Disclaimer: I am NOT a yoga instructor… and as you can see, my practice consists of whatever my kids will let me do that day.
Upper Back/Shoulder Poses
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This is an oldie but a goodie. My daughter’s favorite pose, and my go-to when I need a little relief between the shoulders. The idea is to hold this pose for at least 5-7 breaths – lengthening your spine on the inhale and lowering your heels to the ground on the exhale. This is a pose that you can do at anytime without feeling like it needs to be part of a flow routine. Daughter just dropped an open carton of milk on the floor by the fridge? Take three breaths, clean it up, get into downward dog for 5-7 breaths…
Upward-Facing Dog (Urdha Murkha Svanasana)
If you feel like you have the upper body strength, you can easily flow from downward-facing dog into upward-facing dog and feel the effects of stretching both your upper and lower back. OR, if time/arm muscles don’t permit, just lay on your tummy and lift up into this pose. Not only will you thank me after trying it, you will probably find yourself physically craving this pose in the days/months/years to come as your lower back needs. Make sure you lift your head up, relax your face, and smile. Thank the Universe for this amazing feeling in your overworked back; for the tension that is melting away from between your shoulder blades; for the expansion you feel in your chest.
Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)
I need this one every. single. day. In fact, not only does it relieve back tension (mostly low back), it also helps to lengthen my oh-so compressed spine. I feel a bit of a ‘pop’ in my neck as my head finds its true place on my neck. Forward fold can reduce fatigue, stress, and anxiety. And it’s also been known to relieve headaches and insomnia! Hold this pose and take lots of deep breaths. On your inhales, push back your knees to straighten your legs. On your exhales fully relax your arms, shoulders, and neck; and let your head hang.
Core Strengthening Poses
Half Moon Pose (ardha chandrasana)
This one is amazing for building core strength, as well as stretching the side ribs and lengthening the spine. Raise your arms above your head on an inhale and slowly bend at the waist to the right on an exhale. The trick here is to engage your abs and push your opposite hip forward (the hip on the opposite side from the direction you are bending). Do this on both right and left sides, then lift your head up and begin slowly bending backward. This is the hardest one for me… and I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but my whole body is shaking. Whew! I can feel those abs working! This will help strengthen your core, add flexibility to your spine, and firm your waist, hips, abs, butt, and thighs! What mom doesn’t want that? Come to think of it, what dad doesn’t want that? 😉
Just try it once and you’ll see why this is a BOMB core exercise. Perfect for after-bedtime TV watching, this pose can be done at any time, with or without a longer flow routine. Just turn on the news, or sitcoms, or the NBA Finals and push up to plank. Start with commercials – Hold the pose during every other commercial. Then see if you can hold it through every commercial break. Then see if you can hold it during the show you’re watching and rest during the commercial break. In no time you’ll see impressive results – your abs will be more toned (just skip the spoonful of peanut butter during your plank-holding breaks. Ahem.) and you will feel more strength overall in your arms, wrists and spine. And when you feel ready you can try Side Plank Pose… I’m obviously not ready for that one yet.
Hey, leave me alone, my son is ONLY 9 months. I’m pacing myself…