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5 Simple Yogic Principles to Help You Recover from Postpartum Depression

Keya Williams
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Like many young students I was first drawn to yoga for the grace, strength and beauty of the postures. It was the perfect exercise compromise. I could channel my inner gymnast and go upside down without being “strange.” And I could perform dancer-like movements and call it a workout!
 

“You can’t give from an empty cup. So fill your glass often.” – Unknown

 

Having a Baby Changed Everything . . . Even My Yoga Practice

Everything changed when a baby entered my life. With a newborn son to care for, beauty, grace, and strength on a yoga mat were the farthest thing from my mind.
 
Stress and the fear of the unknown during this big life change can be overwhelming, especially to new moms. And it can sometimes plunge us into an emotionally dark place.
 
But yoga offers help and relief! Explore these 5 simple practices that are rooted in yogic philosophy that you can use, even in the midst of sleep deprivation and diaper changes. These simple tools are what brought me peace as a new mom . . . and they might just lessen your anxiety and lift your mood, too.
 

Here are 5 simple yogic principles to help recover from postpartum depression:

 

1. Let Go of Things (Ishvara Pranidhana)

Ishvara Pranidhana is a Sanskrit word that translates to “surrender.” Surrender to whom? Well, surrender to yourself, or the Universe, or whatever greater energy you believe in.
 

This practice reminds us that there is something greater than us that keeps everything in perfect order. And everything is just as it should be.

 
So, give yourself permission to let go of the piles of dirty laundry that are stressing you out. Give yourself permission to let go of the need to be the perfect mom and do everything “right.” And give yourself permission to be flawed, tired, frustrated, and b*tchy on occasion, because that’s just part of this motherhood game.
 
 

2. Pray Without Ceasing (Japa)

The cool thing about yoga is that it encourages us to be deliberate thinkers. Even more so, yoga invites us to focus on and speak about the things we want to cultivate in our lives, like joy and peace.
 
But what does this have to do with prayer? Well, a prayer just be a thought, repeated over and over again. We’re “praying” when we constantly berate ourselves for being a “bad” mom. And we’re also “praying” when we constantly remind ourselves how “good” we are too.
 
In yoga, positive statements that focus our attention on our innate goodness are called mantras. And when you repeat your mantra many times in one “sitting,” that practice is called japa.
 
The best part about a mantra is that you can use it to improve your mood and decrease your stress – all day and anytime you need it. A simple mantra like “I am doing my best. And my best is good enough.” is a wonderful way to ease anxiety and lift your mood.
 
 

3. Study Yourself (Svadhyaya)

In the yogic traditions, svadhyaya is your practice in studying truth. You can study truth by reading sacred texts, like the Bible, Koran or Yoga Sutras. You can also study truth by going to church or some other spiritual community you feel aligned with.
 

Finally, you can practice svadhyaya by studying the inner workings of yourself – your thoughts and your patterns. This is a powerful practice to lift us out of postpartum depression.

 
Begin this practice of self-study by asking yourself empowering questions. Questions like: “What am I really sad about?” “Am I currently living in my worst case scenario?” “If I am living my worst case scenario, what do I think it says about who I am as a mom?”
 
Did you know that guided meditations can help you better understand and study yourself? Read this: A Guided Meditation to Answer the Eternal Question “Who am I?”.
 
Almost always when we continue to question our negative emotions and go deeper and deeper towards our inner truth, we come to realize two sacred truths:
 

1. You are Enough

You are already whole and enough just the way you are. No matter what you’re going through as a new mom, you are enough of a woman to move through any temporary challenges you face. There is nothing lacking in you.
 

2. You Already Have What You Seek

You are already in possession of what you seek. So if you were hoping to be a happy, excited, and energized mama, know that those feelings already reside in you RIGHT NOW. I bet you’ve felt this way before in your life. I bet you can recognize those qualities in other people’s lives. Know that they are within you, too.
 

 

4. Cultivate Stillness (Samadhi)

When my mommy fear and sadness was at its worst, I found that allowing myself to slow down and actually be still was a life saver. It wasn’t an easy thing to do at first, but it was definitely worth the effort.
 
When our bodies are constantly going: doing laundry, feeding a baby, and changing diapers, our nervous system doesn’t get a chance to rest and recover. This leads to burnout, agitation, and “mom rage.” Just taking a moment to sit down and be still with your baby while she sleeps, or handing her off to your partner for a little while, gives your body time to restore and rest.
 
Samadhi is the yogic principle of deep peace and stillness, usually attained during meditation. For some of us, stillness takes the form of a formal yoga, meditation, or relaxation practice. For others (especially new moms), it may be a much-deserved nap with your baby or a long, hot bath.
 
Want to practice yoga poses with your newborn? Read this: 5 Stress-Relieving Yoga Poses You Can Do with Your Newborn.
 
 

5. Shut It All Out (Pratyahara)

This yogic principle translates to “sense withdrawal”. In my book, Secrets of an Energized Mama, I dedicate a whole section to this topic and playfully call it the “art of giving everybody the middle finger and taking care of YOU.”
 
In the context of a yoga class, we practice Pratyahara by doing our postures in a dimly lit, quiet room, so that we aren’t bombarded with visual and auditory distractions. When you’re off the mat, you can practice sense withdrawal by shutting out the noise (opinions, actions, beliefs) of others whose messages do not resonate with us.
 
This may mean tuning out those picture perfect mommy bloggers on social media, or graciously tuning out your mother-in-law’s opinions on childrearing. The point is to make sure that those opinions from outsiders are not stoking the fear and sadness that you’ve worked so hard to address.
 
 
The bottom line is simple, mama. Yoga, in all of its facets, is a wonderful way to help you take care of yourself. And there is no such thing as taking good care of your baby, your work, or anyone else, if you have not taken care of yourself first. Yoga for postpartum depression may offer you relief, comfort, and time for self-care.
 

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Keya Williams

Keya Williams is a wife, a busy mom of 3 and a Yoga Lifestyle Consultant. She teaches moms on the go how to use yoga as a tool to juggle life and kids without burning out. Could you use a little more peace, energy and focus in your mom life? Check out Keya’s free video and learn 3 yoga-based steps to help you do motherhood with more ease and joy!

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