I’m thrilled to welcome back my wise friend Jen from Every Breath I take. Today she’s sharing two essential yoga poses moms should be doing everyday.
Mama on the Mat – For Alignment’s Sake
My three-year-old daughter, AE, and I were recently visiting my aunt. When it was time to head home, AE began to resist. I playfully asked if there was a fun way we could make our way out to our car. “Carry me upside down!” she shouted. As I swooped up my 98th percentile child and inverted her, my aunt said, “And that is why young people have the children.” There is no denying the physical demands placed on our mothering bodies.
From pregnancy to breastfeeding to babywearing and beyond, it is easy to pick up bad posture and alignment habits on our mothering journey. Pelvic floor issues, sciatica and back pain, neck and shoulder tension and chronic headaches are all common byproducts of poor alignment.
Since there is never a good time for a mama to be in pain or sick, I’m on a mission to help mothers restore and maintain healthy alignment through the practice of yoga.
I recently recorded a podcast about yoga and parenting with famous yoga teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater. She shared some wonderful encouragement for mothers who have a hard time making time to practice yoga. One of her suggestions was to start with one or two poses a day. So, I thought I’d share two of my favorite poses for mamas that can be practiced almost anywhere.
We wear shoes with heels (even our athletic shoes often have a heel); we sit for prolonged periods of time; we don’t stand with our feet in the proper position – and our entire body is paying the price!
Tight calves and hamstrings can result in everything from leg cramps and back pain to mensural cramps, incontinence and organ prolapse! We all need to stretch the muscles at the back of our legs – every single day!
Adho Mukha Svanasana is my all-time favorite pose for stretching the calves and hamstrings. The closer your hands are to your feet, the more intense the stretch is for the back of your legs. However, if you aren’t on your mat, you can still stretch the back of the legs! This pose can be practiced using your desk, your kitchen counter or a wall or chair anywhere you happen to be throughout your day.
Place your hands on the wall, desk or chair and step your feet back until your torso is parallel with the floor. Make sure the feet are pointing forward and not turning out. Now, bring your awareness to the low back. Most of us will find we’ve tucked the tailbone under and rounded the low back. Instead, lift your tailbone toward the ceiling to restore the natural lumbar curve. Linger here, breathing gently for two – three minutes. Come out of the pose on an in breath.
We see our kids doing it all the time, but most of us rarely “cop a squat.” (Name that movie reference!) Squatting is greatly underrated in our society. Much more so than the widely recommended practice of kegels, regular squatting, with precise alignment, is instrumental for pelvic floor health. All women should be squatting every day!
The key points of alignment for safe and healthy squats are:
- Feet should be slightly further than hip distance apart and pointing forward.
- Knees should be as wide as the ankles, with the shins and thighs parallel.
- Most woman cannot get their feet flat without turning them out, so a rolled yoga mat or towel under the feet should be used for support.
- The natural lumbar curve should be in tact (no tucking the tailbone under). Once you have healthy alignment in your squat, go ahead and practice those kegels – they are most effective when practiced in a squat!
Obviously, the more time we spend practicing yoga, the more benefits we will see. If getting to a class is difficult for you, and yoga DVDs grow monotonous, then come by and check out my virtual yoga studio, Stay-at-Home Yoga.
The current 5-class series is wonderful for moms (even if you aren’t a desk jockey). Designed specifically to restore and maintain healthy alignment, it will definitely help with those all too common mama aches and pains. Plus, it comes with 10 yoga break videos that can be quickly added throughout your day!
Jennifer Hoffman is not your average yogi. A public accountant turned certified yoga instructor, Jen now balances an active practice with her busy life as a blogger, mother, and wife. The key to this balance is simple: Jen lives life with intention. At EveryBreathITake.com, she encourages her readers to do the same, writing with a heart for whole and healthy lives on parenting, faith, relationships, and, of course, yoga. She is also the host of the Intentional Chatter Podcast. Jen teaches Virtual Yoga lasses from her home studio in Northern Virginia and relies on her husband Derek to keep their two lovely children – and two furry Labradors – off camera through Namaste.