This week we got an awesome question from one of our readers:  Why barre and yoga for postnatal fitness?

I’m so happy this question was asked because it’s a question that I actually answer often when speaking with clients.  So here it goes…

If you’re a mom, you’ve probably realized by now that your body feels a bit different after birth than it did before you got pregnant.  This can be a bit shocking and overwhelming for a first time mom!  I’ve found that there’s so much time and energy put into preparing women for the changes that will happen in their body during pregnancy, but very little energy is dedicated to that sensitive time after pregnancy.  It’s almost like you get home with the baby and you’re on your own.  If you’re fortunate, you have family and friends to surround you and help you adapt to taking care of a newborn while still trying to do everything else (um, like shower.  Who knew that would be so hard to fit into the day?!).

Right around the 6 to 8 week mark, you’ll start to feel a little sense of normalcy in your day (sort of, but you’ll know what I mean soon if not already) and your friends/family will be coming by less often.  You’ll likely be cleared for exercise and get so excited to finally have your body back to the way you remember it.  But, how do you get there?  Can you get there?  These are great questions.  This is where post-natal fitness comes in.  DON”T BE FOOLED, post-natal fitness is NOT easy, but it is targeted and specific to the needs of the post-natal body.  If you injured a limb, wouldn’t you want targeted training to rehab it?  I know pregnancy isn’t an injury, but your transverse abdominal muscles have just been seriously stretched and need time and proper training to go back to their “normal” level of tone.  This is why you want targeted, specific training for your needs, especially the needs of your core.  If you work out incorrectly, you can stretch the muscles out even more, causing them to separate if they haven’t already.

Ok, so what’s so great about yoga and barre for post-natal fitness?  First of all, yoga and barre are both core-centric physical practices.  This means they focus on improving the strength of the core to support the movements of the body.  When yoga is practiced safely and correctly, the core is engaged throughout most of the practice to support the function of the body.  Barre exercises focus on posture and the intrinsic stabilizer muscles that support the spine.  This is why most ballerinas and yogis have such great posture, they have learned to functionally use their core muscles to support the movements of their body.  After pregnancy, your balance and posture are different because you just carried a large amount of weight in the front of your body, so your body learned to compensate by adjusting your posture (it’s amazing what the human body can do!).  Aside from the muscles getting stretched out, this is another reason your core became weak – because your back was compensating for the core when it became difficult for your body to effectively use the abdominal muscles.  So, yoga and barre are especially great for post-natal fitness because:

  1.  Yoga and barre focus on improving functional core strength, improving your posture and balance.
  1. Barre and yoga focus on working the large and intrinsic muscle groups together, therefore creating strong, functional muscles that are able to work synergistically.
  1. Yoga focuses on lengthening the muscles, while barre focuses on strengthening the muscles.  These practices are a great compliment to each other when trying to balance out the muscular compensations caused by pregnancy (weakened core & glutes, tightened lower back and shoulders).
  1. Barre and yoga (especially, yoga) are physical practices that focus on developing a mind-body connection.  Not only does this help with the physical obstacles faced during the postnatal period, but it also addresses some of the emotional obstacles during the postpartum period as well.

So there you go, the top 4 reasons why yoga and barre are the perfect combination for postnatal fitnessThere are seriously so many more, but I think these are the most important and why everyone should consider following a program that incorporates them.  By the way, I would consider the postnatal period up to 6 months postpartum, even longer if you never started an exercise program right after pregnancy.