Isn’t it amazing how people come into your life when you need them? The other day I was at the end of my yoga routine when I decided to try a more complex pose I’d seen online. Of course at home in my pjs I got nowhere close to the move I’d seen some super-bendy yogi effortlessly pull off on a sunset beach. Yoga Fail. Then I met Elke. A yogi with 15 years experience, she told me something: yoga isn’t supposed to be competitive.
“I actually don’t try to get my body into harder and harder poses,” she says. “I find with regular practice you need less of the hard physical stuff to get the benefits.”
Mind. Blown. It’s funny how we can get caught up in things without realising, right?
As the founder of Free Girls Yoga (a not-for-profit offering yoga to girls in high schools) Elke has a specific interest in getting mums and daughters feeling great in their skin. So she kindly demonstrated this wonderful No-Sweat Love-Yourself Routine for Hipster Mum.
“Yoga is so great for mums because it actually induces a sense of calm that perfectly counterbalances the hectic reality of looking after kids, the physical stress of managing a household and overstimulation of being attached to our phones all day.
“For women and girls specifically, yoga balances the hormonal system reducing menstrual irregularities and problems, which helps from pre-puberty, through menarche, pregnancy and menopause.”
Best of all for mums with no time (aka all of us), Elke says that to get benefits you only need to devote 5 to 10 minutes a day. “Doing a little bit each day and creating a routine will help to make a difference to your health and outlook on life.”
“I have selected some poses you can try together at home that are specifically beneficial for women’s bodies. You will notice that these few poses done in the morning and evening will make a difference to how you feel going into your day or into sleep at night. Here we start with some foundational postures. Don’t feel you have push too hard or sweat it out to get the good vibes flowing!”
Before you start:
- Make sure you practice on an empty stomach (that includes not drinking water before and during practice). Allow about at least 20 minutes after drinking and 3 hrs after a meal for digestion before you do your yoga routine.
- Find a clean, open space that is not too exposed to the elements.
If you have any injuries or ailments please discontinue practice if you feel any pain or discomfort.
- Allow the breath to be deep and smooth throughout the practice. DO not hold the breath.
- Do not over-exert yourself. If you notice your body start to shake or find it hard to breathe deeply and smoothly in a pose then it is a sign you are tired. Come straight out of the pose.
- Over exerting in yoga poses actually stresses the nervous system and is not beneficial.
Please follow the sequence order given.
Note: although most of these poses can be performed by pregnant women. this is not a sequence designed for pregnancy. All pregnant women should seek guidance from a pre-natal yoga teacher as to what to practice at each stage of their pregnancy.
Essential Yoga for Mums #1: Cat Stretch Pose
Directions: Come onto all fours. Have the arms shoulder width apart. Spread the fingers, make sure the middle finger is pointing forwards and push the whole palm into the floor. Knees are hip distance apart with the thighs perpendicular to the floor. Bring the spine into neutral position (straight). This is the starting position. On the inhale arch the spine, opening the sits bones up looking up with the head.
As you begin to exhale start rounding the spine, pushing the back of the chest up to the ceiling, tucking the bottom, tucking the head in bringing the chin towards the chest. Continue to inhale arching the spine and exhale rounding the spine.
Make the breathing and the movement smooth, moving the body and the breath together.
Duration: perform as many rounds as you like, minimum 5 rounds.
Benefits: Gently soothes the reproductive system, giving relief from menstrual cramps and leucorrhoea. And for mums living on less than ideal sleep, the lower back stiffness and general backache relief is a winner.
Essential Yoga for Mums #2: Mountain Pose or “Downward Dog”
Directions: From all fours tuck the toes under so you are on the balls of the feet. Inhale here then exhale and straighten the legs and arms coming into mountain pose. Try to bring the heels towards the floor. Keep the legs as straight as you can (without locking the knees back). Feel the spine long and straight. The neck is straight, head/gaze looking back to the feet. Rotate the sits bones open the ceiling and lengthen through the lower back. Breathe in the final position. Exhale to come out back onto all fours.
Duration: Take 3-5 breaths, do not strain or get shaky. Build up to more breaths and longer holds over time.
Benefits: For anyone who picks up kids all day long the strengthening effect of this pose on muscles in the arms, legs and back is a godsend. Plus, by stimulating circulation in the upper spine between the shoulder blades, you’ll find stress less likely to knot up your neck and shoulders.
Essential Yoga for Mums #3: Easy Bow Pose
Directions: Lay on your belly with your legs outstretched feet together. Arms are back beside the body to start. Bring the forehead to touch the floor. Bend the knees bringing the heels close to the buttocks. Grab on around the outside of the ankles. This is the starting position of the pose. Inhale and pushing the legs into the hands start to press the thighs and upper body away from the floor. Hold in the raised position and breathe here. Exhale to come out by letting the thighs, chest and head come back to the floor. Then release the hands from the ankles, straighten the legs out and turn the head to the side and rest.
Make sure to keep squeezing the inner legs towards each other in the final position as the legs tends towards wanting to splay outward.
Do not strain and force the legs to high. Keep a feeling of lengthening the spine even as you raise up into the back bend, not crunching up the lower back.
If you have any back soreness or pain then discontinue the movement. This is a preliminary back bend pose but can still put pressure on the lower back if not done with care so take caution and go gently.
Duration: Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths working up the number of breaths over time.You may notice the body slightly rise and fall in this position as you breathe.
Benefits: Got belly bloat? You’ll notice improved functioning of your digestive, excretory and reproductive organs. On a superficial level (because we all are, just a little) this one also boosts posture and tightens leg, thigh and butt muscles.