A few weeks ago, I looked in the mirror. I stood sideways sizing up my postpartum tummy, wondering if it might have miraculously flattened a bit overnight. My eyes drifted up to my nursing-padded boobs, mommy-muscle-arms, and then my shoulders. What the? When did my shoulders round forward so much? Didn't they used to be pulled back more, and didn't I stand up much straighter? The answer is yes, most definitely. Certainly, five months of cradled breastfeeding, 5-S's swinging, Skip Hop play-matting, hunched baby stepping, and gentle placement into and extraction from the Mamaroo, Rock n Play, and Jumperoo had taken its toll.
But not to fear, yoga is here. Over the past few weeks, I've incorporated the following five heart (chest) opening yoga poses into my daily routine, and I'm already feeling taller again and my shoulders are less rounded. You can do these poses right where your baby is tummy-timing and playing, and they don't take too much time. If you stand sideways in a mirror, and notice that you can see more of your scapulae (shoulder blades) than pre-baby, then you likely have upper cross syndrome " the fancy way of saying having a weak back and tight chest muscles " and I encourage you try to make these poses a part of your day as well.
1. Camel Pose: This is by far my favorite, and it helps stretch the chest, quads, abs, and hip flexors, while increasing spinal flexibility. Begin by kneeling upright, with your knees hip width apart. Place your hands on your back hips, fingers pointed downwards, and lean back. If you’re not too flexible, you can stay here, or you can take it deeper, and place your hands on your heels while lifting through your pelvis. Hold for 30 seconds, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
2. Cobra Pose: This pose strengthens your back and arms and stretches your chest, shoulders, and abs. Begin my lying on your stomach with your palms under your shoulders and elbows tucked in close to your body. Press into your hands, lengthening your arms to raise your chest as you inhale. Keep your shoulders back and down and don't let your pelvic bone leave the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing with ease.