This week I had the pleasure of meeting yogi Jennifer Allen (pictured below) who teaches amazing new, aspiring yoga teachers at Jayayoga. People travel from all over the world to train with Jennifer. This is not surprising given her background as a professional dancer and musical theatre performer in New York. It was then, as a practitioner of yoga and pilates, that Jennifer was able to nurture her mind, body and spirit whilst day-to-day going through the rigours of an intensive performing career.
Today, in her adopted New Zealand home, Jennifer provides classes at Jayayoga in Birkenhead comprising of Yin, Hatha, Flow, as well as community classes where her amazing newly graduated teachers have the opportunity to teach.
Alongside her class teaching, Jennifer offers one-on-one sessions in Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, Pre and Postnatal Yoga, Yoga Therapy and Pilates across Auckland. Perfect for the busy person who doesn’t have time to travel or get away from their desk.
As a specialist in yoga for the pregnant or new mum, we asked Jennifer how can women adapt in their new post-baby body and how yoga can help.
1. What’s the best pose/s to do after having your baby to regain your strength?
Regaining your strength after having your baby is a slow and steady process.
Other factors like breastfeeding and lack of sleep can also be at play, and cause Mum to feel exhausted, loose in her joints, and disconnected to her body.
My absolute ‘go to’ for my new Mums to re-create stability and strength in the core and pelvic floor utilises a yoga block between the thighs. Placing a block here and lying on the back for some very simple pelvic rocks and baby bridge movements is golden! Also, taking this same action against a wall into a gentle wall squat, we can add in those same pelvic tilts to bring a sense of connection back into our pelvic floor muscles (this is a very gradual process, so be patient!).
Lastly, I LOVE getting Mum into some simple shoulder openers such as gomukhasana (cow face arms – pictured above) and garudasana (eagle arms) to relieve sore, stiff shoulders and upper back.
2. How can yoga help you to cope as a new mum?
One of the most powerful yogic tools that we have right at the tips of our fingers is the breath. When the body is exhausted, sore, and healing post birth and in the early days of new motherhood, we can call on our breath to create a space for healing within the whole body, and into the deep energetic spaces of the self. A favourite breathing practice of mine is a simple ‘falling out breath,’ which is an expansive inhale of breath, and an open-mouthed sigh with the exhale. This practice is wonderful for restoring energy, helping reduce stress, aiding with sleep during restless nights, and helping release milk letdown.
3. What do you do with post pregnancy mums at Jayayoga studio?
Very simply… we hold space for them. Mum is holding space 24/7 for her new baby, and may even be responsible for other children and household tasks. She will already feel disconnected to her body and her new identity as Mum, as well as who she was before motherhood, it is a right of passage as well as a process of letting go. We offer our Mum lots of props, a warm cup of tea, space to breathe and feel, and tons of permission…permission to be and feel anything that she need in the safe and sacred space of her practice.
4. How did you use yoga after you had your children?
Yoga was my absolute saviour! Because new motherhood is busy and time to myself was short and precious, I wasn’t afraid to come to my yoga practice for small, bite-sized moments throughout the day. This might look like a few simple poses while my babies slept, a breathing practice while I was sitting for long periods of time feeding, or a guided meditation in the middle of the night when I was struggling to fall back to sleep. Yoga doesn’t have to be taken in one large mouthful every day, and even though this concept was hard for me to adjust to at first, now as a busy working Mummy I will take any small morsels of yoga that I can get!
5. What is the most common issue you see in mums and how can you use yoga to help?
It breaks my heart to see the internal battle that so many women go through after they have their babies. Almost immediately post birth society begins to pose the questions to us ‘When will you return to your pre-baby weight?’ ‘When will you go back to work?’ We are rushed back to life moments after delivering new life into the world, and this has the potential to shatter our already fragile state of being. Yoga offers us the tools of kindness, awareness, and self-acceptance, and through the practices of movement, breath and mindfulness we are able to be present with the beauty of what is.