To say that life has changed for me over this last year would be an understatement. Like all new mothers I’ve seen all of the immense changes, physically and emotionally, that the arrival of a new baby into an already busy family brings.
I’ve done it before, (twice!) the baby, the maternity leave, the return to work, the ‘getting back to normal’ afterwards.
So what makes this time around, this return to ‘normal’, so different?
In short it’s the knowledge that I’ve armed myself with. I vowed to connect to my body and allow it to determine how I move forward and progress. It’s been a precious time, not just in terms of spending it with my baby, but allowing myself time to be Mum to my older children. On top of this I have devoted so much in time and effort into beginning to grow my yoga business.
It was my desire to return to teaching that prompted me to have a women’s health physio check before starting back to exercise. My appointment and subsequent Pilates classes with Kathy and Mary Angela of Mid Ulster Pilates and Physiotherapy solidified my knowledge and helped me to bring together a phased and structured return to exercise. (Pilates and Yoga go so well together by the way!)
For all of us returning to exercise, we need to have the basics right and our base support strong. So bring on the Pelvic Floor! The importance of pelvic floor control and toning to rebuild core muscles is key to an effective return to exercise. This time around I've done it right and I can see the difference in an improved strength that I'm not sure I had even before baby number three!
Yogis have known the importance of pelvic floor exercises for centuries, it was just given a different name. In yoga we engage our Mula Bandha (essentially you lift and engage the muscles of the pelvic floor) to activate and balance the root chakra, the chakra or energetic wheel that lies at the base of the body. Associated with feeling stable, secure and physically nourished it’s the energetic seat that keeps us grounded and gives us a sense of security and belonging. From here we can find the confidence and drive to venture into the big wide world.
It strikes me that pelvic floor health has more than a physical significance. In that unique time when our lives have been turned upside down and we become mothers there is such a mixture of feelings and emotions. So much so that the need to feel grounded, to feel secure and steady is vital. We need physical strength to be able to get through each day and emotional strength to take on the challenges of motherhood and family life.
So together with the physical recovery of muscles after pregnancy and birth, our connection to our pelvic floor, to our root chakra is also important on an emotional level. This all round stability, beyond just the physical layer, has important knock on benefits to our mental health and well being, a topic for another day!
My advice for getting back to exercise is to pay close attention to what your body is telling you it needs. Get to know yourself again with an appreciation of the wonderful thing you have done in bringing your baby into the world. It's not starting from scratch to return to fitness, although I know there are days when it feels like it is! Look at it as starting again with a whole new set of experiences behind you and a whole new set of experiences to come. Some days may feel overwhelming, you're sleep deprived and weary, but with a strong base you can do anything.
So when we are feeling like the world is spinning beyond control, breathe, pause and focus on finding your strong base. In my yoga I pay attention to the base of each pose, allowing it time to feel strong and try to keep a steadiness through dynamic flows.
When faced with change and challenges, when you need to adapt and grow – remember to find that strength from your roots before you begin.