When I became a doula, it was important to me to support women in the…
Using Mindful Movement to Feel More At Home In Your Postpartum Body
June 14, 2021 • By Alissa Alter
Arriving in the “postpartum period” is like being a tourist in a foreign city where we don’t speak the language and don’t have an international phone plan to check google maps.
We feel like strangers.
We feel disoriented.
We feel alien in this space.
While the city looks beautiful, we don’t know up from down, north from south, where we begin and end.
And we’d love to reorient ourselves as soon as possible. Because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable and tense during this life changing adventure. Who would?
What we need is a road map. A guide to steer us toward the center of things so we can explore and experience this awe inspiring new place and also help us avoid and navigate any rougher areas.
I’m really talking about exploring and discovering your new postpartum body and self. We’re on the same page with this travel metaphor, right? Cool.
Movement can be your roadmap. It can help you explore and move through your feelings of disorientation, trepidation, and excitement during this postpartum transition.
To help you discover and navigate through all the feelings.
Because I know you’re feeling all the feels.
Movement can lead you through the winding corridors of your experience to discover hidden treasures and help you to exercise appropriate caution when you find unexpected trouble.
When we move our bodies with intention, we bring ourselves into the present moment. Our present selves. So we can feel what we need to feel, protect what we need to protect, and stretch where we need to create more space.
We give ourselves the opportunity to meet ourselves exactly where we are, without judgement, and get to know this new body. This new sense of self. This new mama.
Centering ourselves physically brings clarity to the postpartum haze which then empowers us to name, address, and meet our needs. We know what to ask for when we need help.
Is it ok if we go back to the travel metaphor again? I’ve chosen Rome as our metaphorical destination.
Moving without intention, or not moving at all, is like wandering through the Vatican Museum staring at your phone. You can say you visited, but did you experience it?
Alternatively, you can weave your way through the endless corridors, marvel at the vast collection of iconic works, and emerge into the Sistine Chapel.
Your heart flutters, your breath catches in awe. You realize there are tears running down your cheeks.
Because what happened at the Sistine Chapel invokes awe. Being in the presence of that is awesome. It feels divine.
(Even if you’re not Catholic. Even if you’re Jewish like I am.)
What happened in and to your body is awesome in the most true sense of the word. The work it takes to build and birth a baby is nothing short of divine. It certainly doesn’t always feel that way, but it is undeniably transcendent.
As you begin to gently, tenderly move your body with interest and curiosity you may find yourself in awe of what you discover.
At first you don’t know why you are crying and then you realize you’ve finally relaxed your shoulders, unclenched your jaw, and taken a deep breath for the first time.
You’ve been on guard since you got here.
And now you’re moving into a new space, motherhood, and you feel the sweet relief of safety.
Because you are safe.
Our bodies and emotions are so directly linked. And I know this can sound fluffy and woo woo (insert wind chimes, chanting, incense, tapestries, you know the deal), but it is all connected.
Here’s how the whole mind-body connection works.
When we are stressed, anxious, nervous our shoulders tense, our jaws clench, and our pelvic floor tenses. Our brain sends the signal that we are stressed and our body assumes the position.
Conversely, if we are feeling neutral and then “assume the stressed position” our brains get a signal that we’re in the stress pose so we need some extra cortisol and adrenaline to fill out the stress experience. Our brain doesn’t want us to miss out on anything.
But! We can use this to our advantage.
If we deepen our breath, unclench our jaws, release our glutes and pelvic floor, and shake out our shoulders we are sending a message to our brains that we are relaxed. We have “assumed the position” for relaxation.
As the brain catches on, it will turn down the stress hormones and up the endorphins. That’s when we can take a deep breath and feel our bodies unclench. Soften. Relax.
Now we are not only in the position of relaxation, we are in the state of relaxation. We can use this subtle trick to manipulate our nervous system and our general sense of wellbeing.
Gently, intentionally move your body and see what you find.
- Simply lifting and lowering your arms can bring up a LOT of sensations and expose any muscular imbalance postpartum.
- Shoulder and neck rolls, hip circles, quad stretches, and calf raises can also have a big impact on an exhausted, ravaged, postpartum body. Gently invite circulation and mobilization into your muscles and joints.
- Breathe into these areas that are stuck, tense, guarded, closed. Use your breath to remind yourself and your body that despite what happened during childbirth, you are safe.
Move your body in ways that feel nourishing, that unstick what’s stuck, that remind you how perfectly you belong here. In this body. At this moment.
You are actively creating space inside of you where you are no longer a stranger, but safe at home. A local.
You are healing from the inside out.
Looking for more guidance on where to start moving your body after baby? Learn the power of breath here and how to love your pelvic floor no matter your birth experience here.