Breastfeeding can play havoc with your posture. All those hours cuddling your beautiful baby and looking into their eyes as you feed and you'll soon find yourself hunching over, with shoulder pain, neck pain and general back un-happiness.
I've designed this short yoga practice following my own experience of poor posture and shoulder pain caused by over 9 months of breastfeeding. All these postures will help to release the tension in your shoulders, stretch your back and hopefully feel wonderful at the end of a busy day feeding. Well done wonderful boobies! Now reward yourself with some delicious me time.
Start your practice seated with your eyes closed and notice your breath. Take a few deep breaths and arrive in this moment, forget about the day you've had so far. We'll begin with some shoulder rolls to release tension in your shoulders. Roll them up by your ears then feel your shoulder blades slide down your back. Roll them 5 times forward and 5 times backwards.
From shoulder rolls move into big arm circles, moving slowly and in time with your breath. Breath in as you raise your arms, breathe out as they come down. Circle them 5 times forward and 5 times back.
Lower your chin to your chest and link your fingers behind your head. Don’t push down just let the weight of your hands create a delicious stretch for the neck that has been looking down all day.
Side neck stretch
Next lower your right ear to your right shoulder, use your arm to increase the stretch down the side of your neck. Take it to the other side.
Seated side bend (Parsva Sukhasana)
Rest your left hand on the floor with your elbow bent then reach your right arm up and over. Lean over to the left hand side but keep both bum cheeks on the floor. Ground your seat bones so that you don’t find them lifting from the ground.
Easy pose with a twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)
This pose increases spine flexibility as well as the shoulders and chest. Place your right hand on the floor behind you and bring your left hand to your right knee. Sit up nice and tall and balanced across your seat bones. Breathe in and see if you can twist a little further, gaze over your shoulder to the back of your room. Repeat on the other side.
Next let’s give our upper back a lovely stretch by bringing arms into Guradasana, Eagle pose. Cross your left elbow over your right and bring the palms of your hands together. Slide your shoulder blades down your back. If you cannot quite stretch enough to put palms together then don’t you worry mama, you’ll get the same stretch giving yourself a big bear hug. You should feel this right across your back. Make sure you alternate your arms and do the other side.
Triceps and Cow Face
Now take your time to come onto your knees for a tricep stretch which you can turn into Gomukhasana or Cow Face pose. To do this bring your right arm forward and overhead and bend your elbow to touch your back. Reach your left arm behind you and reach up to grab the hand. This really rotates and opens your shoulders. If you can’t reach to bind, grab a strap, scarf, belt, or muslin cloth to hold between your hands for the same stretch. Do the other side too.
Come on to your hands and knees for a few rounds of cat/cow. Inhale, rounding your back, tucking your tailbone and head down. Then stick your bum up and your head, letting your belly drop down. This is wonderful for spine mobility. End in a neutral spine.
Thread the Needle
From here we will Thread the needle. This is a wonderful stretch to open the shoulders, chest, upper back and neck. From all fours, and as you exhale, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm up. Bring your right shoulder to the floor and rest the side of your face on to the mat. Relax your back and soften your shoulders. Hold for a few breaths then repeat on the other side. Come back to all fours.
Next is my number one post for breastfeeding mummies, Puppy dog or Melting heart (Anahatasana). This is just a beautiful stretch to deeply open your shoulders, neck and upper back. From all fours send your hands forward with arms outstretched to bring your chest as close to the ground as possible. Hold for as long as it feels good then send your bum to your heels for a child's pose.
Slowly make your way to standing and widen your legs for a forward fold. This one has a long name; Pasarita Padottanasana. Stand up tall and link your hands behind your back and fold forward from your hips, bringing your arms up and over your head. You’ll feel a great stretch to the back of your legs and all up your back and shoulders. Shake your head yes and no to release your neck. Come up slowly.
Our penultimate pose is Utthita Trikonasana. Keep your legs wide and turn your right toes out. In hale and press the hips to the left and reach with your right arm. As you exhale rotate your arms, bringing your right hand to your thigh, calf, ankle or floor, whereever you can reach is fine. Raise your left hand up and look up. Another pose to open those tight shoulders caused by nursing. Do the opposite side and hold for a few breaths.
Rock it out
To finish, head down to your mat and have a full body stretch. Bring your knees up and hold them with your hands. Have a rock around to massage your back, rolling wherever feels nice to your upper and lower back. Take another full body stretch, you know you want to. Stay here as long as you like. Finish the practice laying out flat in Savasana if that feels good.
When you’re ready to move come up to seated and place your hands in prayer pose.
Thank yourself for giving yourself this time to feel better, thank your boobs for feeding your baby and thank your baby for feeding.