5 Ways Yoga Can Help Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

There is nothing worse than going from the feelings of pure joy and complete satisfaction to fear and frustration—sometimes in a single day. Many women get postpartum depression or anxiety after their babies are born, and many women do not. Sometimes these feelings do not even set in until well into the first year of a baby's life. It is more common than you think for a new mom to feel intense anxiety, fear, frustration or sadness.

The best we can do to prepare for any big change in our lives is to perform the practices of yoga, because our minds and our hearts will know what to do when the challenges begin to arise. These practices are intended to be sprinkled throughout the busy day of a mom. Taking between one and five minutes several times a day to center in can be a powerful practice, and should not be underestimated. Do what you can to take care of yourself on a daily basis, and just consider it part of your regular routine - along with changing diapers, preparing food and playing with your kids!

1. Breathe. Performing any type of breathwork can be extremely valuable to have in your toolbox when things start to get overwhelming. It is important to understand that you do not need to have tons of time on your hands in order to practice breathwork. You can breathe with intent for ten seconds and it could help change your perspective. Try this: Close your eyes. Focus on drawing the breath into the belly, expanding the belly as much as you can. On the exhale, release any held tension in the shoulders, eyes, jaw and forehead. Take 5 - 10 breaths.

2. Focus. Here I use the word focus, because it is much less intimidating than the word meditation. But really, I am asking you to do a few minutes of meditation. Try this: Close your eyes, and draw your attention to your third eye (the space between the eyebrows). Begin to pour your awareness into that space, perhaps visualizing an orb of white light resting there. Breathe consciously into this orb, perhaps expanding it. Take 5 - 10 breaths.

3. Love. Love is everywhere. You do not have to see it all of the time, but just know that it is there. Take the time to seek out love - in your child's face, in the sounds of nature, in the changing colours of the sky. Seek out love, and enjoy the sensations of it. Use the memories of love to bring you into that vibration when you begin to feel anxious, sad or lonely. Try this: Draw a heart in red crayon and write down the things you love inside. Tack it up somewhere so you can see it often.

4. Acceptance and Letting Go. This is a good practice to use when practicing asana. Some incredible poses for acceptance and letting go are: Pigeon, Fish and Forward Bends. Try this: Get into one of the above-mentioned poses, and work your way to the edge of comfort and discomfort. The idea is to go towards any feelings of tension, tightness or emotion. Breathe into that space, and perhaps even say in your mind, "I see you, and I accept you". By acknowledging the feeling, it will naturally soften, making way for more space and freedom in your body and mind.

5. Present Moment Awareness. It is important to remember that while many people will tell you that the baby and toddler years go by very quickly, it can sometimes feel like each day repeats itself and drags on. That is because you are forced to live in the moment, not as a chosen meditative practice or a soothing yoga class, but as your life. Try this: Greet each moment consciously and say in your mind what is happening, "I am walking into baby's room, I am saying hello to baby, I am picking baby up with love. I am sitting on the floor with baby, all she sees is me. I am loving my baby, I am loving my child." And once baby gifts you with a quiet moment to reflect on your day, relish it, forget the laundry and the dishes. And accept the gift of the present moment.

There is no way that I could go into detail here about the many challenges of motherhood, and the ways that I personally got through those intense first years. And there is no perfect way to cope with the ups and downs of becoming a mother. The most important thing to remember with the transition of motherhood is that you cannot get around it - you simply must go directly through it. Expand on these ideas in your own way, and be sure that once you have landed on the other side of the transition, that you pass on your knowledge and hard-earned wisdom to someone else.

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