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Motherhood: Embracing Rest, and Postpartum Recovery

woman holding a baby

I always knew becoming a parent would be challenging, but I never expected it to shift my perspective on Rest as much as it has.


In this blog I’ll share what has changed, the truth about yoga practices that helped my postpartum recovery and didn’t help, and how I’ve managed my mental and physical energy. This entry is not meant as advice but rather my personal experience I would like to share with you.


The Evolution of Yoga for Rest

 

When I started yoga, I always wanted to do the most in class. In the early days I thought if I could do a headstand, it made me a good yogi. I was never really one to be ‘the best’ at anything growing up so I leaned into the ego boost yoga gave me in my 20’s. It felt good and all I knew was the physical practice (Asana).

 

As I shifted into my 30’s I made the brave leap to move to the UK and do a 200-hour Vinyasa yoga teacher training in Italy. This was something I’d thought about doing for years. During the training, my body got stronger, and I learned so much about what yoga is and is not. I soon became accustomed to the fact that yoga has nothing to do with pushing your body to its physical limits, it’s more about what you learn about yourself and not connecting with what your ego wants you to do.

 

Yoga helped me realize how strong my intuition is and I learned how to listen and lean into it. A skill that I’ve cultivated over the years and learned to trust. After my teacher training, I focused on a more holistic practice and found myself discovering how poses made me feel, how breath work eased my anxiety, and how meditation helped me feel grounded. This aided a strong physical and mental self-awareness.

 

As I hit my mid 30’s my instincts were telling me to slow down and be gentle with my body. It was at this stage I discovered Yin Yoga, and I trained in Yin Yoga in May 2019. This is when my Yoga for Rest journey began.

 

It felt like I’d found my calling in the yoga world. Whilst I always enjoyed teaching Vinyasa, I often felt like something was missing or I was not quite myself when I was teaching. A lot of this stemmed from the Westernized idea that “if you didn’t sweat in a class, then it wasn’t a ‘good’ class”. An idea that I don’t personally aspire to. I’m naturally a slow-paced teacher and student, I enjoy focusing on strength and stability over dynamism and speed. This is my preference I don’t believe that one is better than the other.

 

After Yin, I discovered Yoga Nidra and this took my Yoga for Rest practice to the mental and emotional space that allowed me to settle into my way of teaching. I unknowingly had been practicing elements of Nidra over the years so when I learned more about it, it felt natural to me. I had now found a style of teaching that resonated with students and other teachers. I finally felt like I was teaching as Eliza.

 

Now, I focus on teaching Yin yoga, Restorative yoga, Yoga Nidra, and sound healing. I practice Vinyasa for myself at a pace that I enjoy as I believe that a Yang practice is needed to complement my Yin practices.

 

Embracing Rest During Pregnancy

 

Then I got pregnant at 38 and my perspective changed again. First, it shifted towards wanting to do more dynamic practices. I wanted to do all the things my body used to do. I felt a strong desire to focus on strength and getting my heart rate up.

 

In the first trimester, I attempted to do some Vinyasa but it just didn’t feel right. During this time, I did a lot of walking and some mindful movement, but never pushed myself beyond my limitations.

 

"I’m finding ways to cultivate moments of Rest..."


From my second trimester, I took advantage of higher energy days with gentle Vinyasa, but most of my practice was still Yin and Restorative yoga. These practices helped me to embrace Rest. Admittedly I didn’t do as much yoga as I wanted. I listened to my body and intuition; they were both asking for deep Rest. I taught weekly classes until my 7th month and then put my feet up to prepare for the birth of my son. I spent the last few months of my pregnancy reading, going for walks, eating all the food, and occasionally crying for no apparent reason.

 

I was forced to ask Jake (my partner) for help with simple things that I used to be able to do on my own. Whilst it was so lovely to be taken care of, I’ve always been independent, and it was a perspective shift to allow someone else to do things for me. This was my first obstacle, learning to Rest and letting go of control.

 

Before I got pregnant, I thought of Rest as gentle yoga, meditation, long walks, reading, and breath work to calm my nervous system. Now, with a 3-month-old, all the things I used to have time for are not available to me and my awareness of Rest is very different. I’m finding ways to cultivate moments of Rest instead of trying to find a large chunk of time to do yoga.

 

Stages of Postpartum Recovery

 

Here are a few ways I used my Yoga knowledge, life experience, and values to navigate my postpartum recovery during the first 3 months of being a mama, also known as the fourth trimester.

 

Involuntary Rest – My Recovery

 

After my son (Jaxon) was born, I was in recovery for 6 weeks. I had an unplanned c-section which meant I was forced to Rest in a way I never had before. I was in hospital for 5 days after giving birth. It was a mental challenge to not be able to get out of bed for the first 2 days, to not be able to change Jaxon’s first nappy or dress him for the first time. I told myself that there would be many more opportunities and the more I Rested the sooner I could do it all.

 

On day 2 I stood up for the first time. That was all, I stood and got back into bed. The whole process took about 15 minutes. On day 3 I got out of bed and took about 20 steps to get to the bathroom. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and walked back to the bed. This felt like such a win. On day 4 I did the same walk and managed to take a shower. Another win.

 

I felt a bit more human with every inch of progress and the movement, even though it was challenging made me feel so much better. By the time we left the hospital, I could walk a loop of the ward and felt stronger. I could feel the more I Rested, the more I was able to do.

 

At about week 2 the frustration of my body not ‘doing’ what it used to do got to me. I was forced into Resting in a way I’m not used to. My body ached from sitting for too long, my upper back and neck hurt from breastfeeding, and mentally I was struggling with my body image, and I still am.

 

I couldn’t do much, but around week 3 I started short walks, about 5 – 10 minutes at a time. It took a lot of energy to leave the house but thankfully I have Jake, who is amazingly supportive and motivating. He encouraged me to get out and I’m grateful I did. This is when I noticed my recovery ‘speeding up’ and each walk got a little longer and easier.

 

“Sleep When Baby Sleeps,” they say

 

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I love a good power nap. I’ve always been one to enjoy sleep and I’m not the same person if I don’t get enough sleep. I never anticipated how the sleep deprivation that comes with having a baby would affect me.

 

The advice of sleeping when the baby sleeps was not realistic for me, but I did find time for at least 1 nap a day and this helped with my recovery. I did get FoMO on some days and Jake had to force me to take a nap.


I know from all the research I’ve done that sleep helps your body with recovery, so even on the days I didn’t want to take a nap I did. I figured that this was in my control, so I chose to use this form of recovery. When I struggled to sleep I would listen to a Nidra for sleep recording which always helped me drift off quickly. Every minute of sleep felt so valuable at this stage.

 

Here is a Yoga Nidra for Sleep recording if like me, you’re struggling to catch some z’s.




Becoming a parent opens your eyes to the side effects of sleep deprivation; frustration, brain fog, and the inability to manage emotions are just some of the things I experienced. Jaxon would wake every 45 to 90 minutes for a feed, and I’m exclusively breastfeeding so the nights were all up to me.

 

Jake and I came up with a system where I’d do the nights and he would take Jaxon for a long contact nap before he came to bed. This meant that I got a solid chunk of sleep before starting the night shift. This helped me get through the newborn phase.

 

Through the first 6 weeks, it was all about the small wins. Getting as much sleep as possible, drinking enough water, eating nutritious food, and getting out for walks. I kept my focus narrow and small because all my energy and attention was being preserved for Jaxon. Even though I had all these feelings about myself and my recovery, it all melted away when he looked at me. I had to be gentle with myself and keep my cup full so I could preserve my energy for him.

 

Sometimes at night, I would have little motivational thoughts pop into my head, I called them “Moms Midnight Motivation’, it started with this thought:

 

“Tiredness doesn’t mean unhappiness. You can be happy and tired, focusing your energy on what fills you up. Finding balance preserves energy for what you love.”

 

Don’t Burst The Bubble!

 

Another way I conserved my energy was by not accepting visitors for the first 8 weeks. We stayed in our bubble and focused on Jaxon. This was the best thing we could have done. It meant we had time to discover what parenting looks like for us without outside interference. We were able to be completely present with Jaxon and strengthen our bond as a family.

 

"Freeing myself from the responsibilities that aren’t mine helped me feel lighter and less overwhelmed."


I’d heard too many stories of people feeling obligated to entertain friends and family in the first weeks of their child’s life and feeling so overwhelmed by it. We didn’t want this to happen to us and it’s one of the best decisions that we made. We discussed it with friends and family leading up to Jaxon’s arrival so the expectations were set from the beginning.

 

It made me realize, that choosing what I’m responsible for is a form of Rest. Freeing myself from the responsibilities that aren’t mine helped me feel lighter and less overwhelmed. (Another one of “Moms Midnight Motivations’)

 

Decluttering - Rest By Removal

 

I might be alone on this one, but I felt a strong need to declutter. I found that I constantly wanted to purge things that didn’t serve a purpose or were just taking up space. I spent lots of time removing possessions during my recovery.


This looked more like me asking Jake to do this while I sat on the sofa and fed Jaxon. The more we got rid of things the lighter I felt. Getting rid of excess stuff benefited my mental health by making me feel calmer, happier, and more in control. A tidier space always makes my mind feel calmer.

 

"Freeing myself of possessions I no longer need helped me feel lighter."


We decided from the start that we were going to approach parenting in the most minimal way possible. We stuck to the essentials on things for Jaxon, told family and friends not to buy us gifts, and bought things as we needed. Having too many possessions drained my energy and made the house feel heavy.

 

One night I was up thinking about how you know when it’s too many possessions for you. It’s when you release it and feel relief. (Another one of “Moms Midnight Motivations’).

 

Freeing myself of possessions I no longer need helped me feel lighter.

 

A New Work Schedule

 

A lot of change happens during and after pregnancy. Your physical body changes, your mental state shifts, and you become solely responsible for another life. My whole world is about Jaxon now. I do find that I have almost forgotten who I was before he arrived.

 

I’ve always enjoyed my work and worked hard. Being self-employed means you if you’re not working nothing is moving forward and you don’t get paid. Admittedly in the first 6 weeks, I didn’t even think about work, but as I started to feel a bit more like me, the anxiety of returning to work crept in.


"...find moments of solace to remember that we still exist as individuals and not only as parents."

 

It took a lot of mental energy to stop myself from sitting in front of my laptop during every one of Jaxon’s naps. I started doing small things, like planning the year. I was also completing an online Digital Marketing course that I had started during my pregnancy.

 

At times I felt like I was getting lost in the parent bubble, and as much as I love being in the bubble I must remember:

 

Even when it comes to Rest, we must be gentle with ourselves and find moments of solace to remember that we still exist as individuals and not only as parents.

 

Now I give myself 2 hours a day to get what I need done. This has taught me to prioritize what work matters most and focus only on that. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a while. I guess it took becoming a mom to put it into practice.

 

Active Rest

 

After my 6-week check-up, I started with gentle yoga movements. It’s been interesting to watch my body transform and see how it reacts to movement now. I don’t feel as strong as I once was and I’m working on meeting myself where I am now. A concept that I teach a lot in class.

 

We still go for daily walks, but now they are between 60 to 90 minutes and a way to get us out of the house and allow Jaxon to have a long nap.

 

Yin yoga has helped with any body aches, but I still have Relaxin (the pregnancy hormone) in my body for up to 12 months so I’m being extra careful with stretching. I do less of each pose and focus on stopping when I feel a sensation instead of going past sensations.

 

Yoga Nidra helps me to calm my anxiety when I think too far ahead about Jaxon’s future, work, or how I’m doing as a parent. Nowadays my Yoga Nidra practice is self-paced,


I lay in bed a take myself through the steps and it helps me feel more rested in the short periods that I get to sleep. You might have heard that doing 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep, but this isn’t true. What Nidra does do is give you better quality sleep. Here is a short recording for you to try if you want to find a moment of calm:

 



When I don’t have time to do anything, I simply practice some deep breathing for a few minutes, and this always helps. I’ll be sharing some breathwork practices on the Rest Radio podcast in the coming months, you can follow the channel here if that sounds like something you would like to experience.

 


We are nearly 4 months into parenthood and still have so much to experience and learn but what I will say for now is I’ll continue to find moments to Rest and meet myself where I am. Hopefully, I can teach Jaxon to do the same for himself as he grows..

 

Restful Regards

Eliza

xxxx

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautifully said ♥️🌹

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Apr 11
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Such a great post Eliza! Huge congratulations on baby Jaxon’s arrival. 2 years PP and still this is a great read. I don’t mean to discourage you in any way, it certainly does get easier, but the lessons keep on coming! Georgina x

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Thank you for your lovely comment Georgina. I appreciate your words so much. I fully expect a lot more lessons and I have a way to go with recovery too. X

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