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Vinyasa Yoga While Breastfeeding


To avoid a misinterpretation of meaning let me start with the obvious: every pregnancy and postpartum journey is different. This is a reflection on my own and some insights and awarenesses that might resonate with you. If they don't, that's ok too. Thanks for being here when things land and even when they don't. XO, Julia

I am practicing and teaching while breastfeeding. This has come with a few modifications that I think would be helpful for anyone else who is breastfeeding, or dealing with any limitations in their chest.


Prepare Your Tatas

Let's cover some basics. Pump (or feed) before you workout. No one likes to worry they are going to leak. Though, I've done it and it happened and if it happens to you - I see you and it's ok. Boob leak (like crotch sweat) is just a really unflattering way of saying, "Hello, my body is working!" Also we notice it much more than anyone else.


That brings me to my second point, have a bra and shirt situation that makes you feel very well supported. Under normal circumstances I really hate bras and barely wear them. But during breastfeeding I like to lock those ladies down while I flow, lift, or run.


Last, a little bit of emotional and mental appreciate for your titties goes a long way. Look what your body has done! It's incredible, and your breasts are incredible.


The Wisdom of Nah Versus No.

Typically, for me, the issue with yoga and breastfeeding wasn't a true 'no, I can't do that.' It's been more of a 'nah, that doesn't feel 100%.'


This is SO often the case when we are dealing with ailments or injuries. Very often people 'no' their movement and stop moving. Then, they never get started again.


I like to think, "nah."


A little less permanent.


A little more flexible.


A little more open.


Here are some 'nahs' and what I did to modify during breastfeeding that didn't interrupt feeling really great my practice - at all!

Supporting my Head in Belly Down Rest

Nothing felt better than sleeping on my stomach again... until it was the middle of the night and evidently the milk factory was gearing up for 3rd shift production.


In my yoga practice - samesies.


I always pump before my workouts and my yoga practices.


I've also gotten into the habit of putting my head on my hands. This forces my check to be elevated by propping up on my elbows just a little bit. The pressure is off, and my neck doesn't have to strain to hold my head up. A block or soft/thin yoga bolster could do the same.


Opting for Back Strengtheners Over Binds

In Yoga we like to 'open' things. Hip openers, shoulder openers.... it's a really non-specific way of saying, "This feels tight, please help me stretch it." Don't get me wrong, I use those terms too. They are hard to pull out of my teaching language because I've heard them repeatedly during my time in yoga studios over the past 20+ years of practice.


Yoga teaches us the value of awareness.

Awareness helps us identify issues with more clarity (and hopefully a little less reactivity.)


The awareness that something feels like it needs to be 'opened' is a signal that it probably has been closed for too long. In the world of muscles that probably means: short and weak.


The solution, short-term is stretch. It feels good. It stimulates the brain-body connection. It helps release tight tissue and start the process of balancing things out. It is not devoid of benefit. This is often why a bind feels so juicy-good for the shoulders and chest.


However, the long-term solution: strengthen what's weak to take some of the pressure off and return to balance.


This is why building strengthen in the upper back, and the whole back line, relieves a tight chest and improves posture in the long term.


In the Vinyasa Yoga world this might mean taking a practice that looks like this.


Shoulder, Upper Back & Thoracic Spine Focused Sequence

Bird Dog

Scapular Push-ups in Table Top, Beast, or Plank

Chaturanga Pushups and Standard Push-ups (Knees are fine!)

Sun A variations with Hands behind the head

Goddess with Goddess Arms

Locust pose - arms back, no binding

Warrior 3 - arms forward, no binding

Warrior 3 - airplane arms

Side Plank

Reverse Table Top or Crab-reaches

Camel with Hands on low back

Downward Dog

Wheel


Were you thrown off by the chest strengthening push-up suggestion?

Guess what, you also need to strengthen the tight and weak muscles too (hello push-ups.)


If you could use some upper back and chest love check out this flow:









Finally, Give Your Boobs Some Time Off

Maybe you're just really over it. The idea of any more focus being placed on this area of your body is absolutely not in the cards.


Then focus on the lower body instead. Walking is a great way to get movement in the body without the forward tightening that comes with swinging your arms while running, or tightening your chest in a typical flow.


A flow sequence that takes the focus of your upper body might look like this:


Not-uranga Hands-Free Flow:

1/2 Sun As

Chair with Hands at Heart Center

Step Back Transitions to Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 with hands at heart center

Supported Extended Side Angle

Standing Wide Angle Flow

Kneeling Crescent

Single Leg Balance

Tree Pose

Boat

Bridge

Reclined Bound Angle

Supine Twist

Legs Up the Wall

Ball Pose




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