In a former life (four years ago) I was in massage school. I was loving it and discovered I am an anatomy geek. It was totally my calling until I hurt my wrist at work and had to quit halfway through the year long program. I learned a lot and it is still a part of who I am, that massage therapist wannabe. Then I discovered Bikram Yoga and made huge strides with my physical and emotional wellness and also with recovering from my surgeries. Most other forms of yoga have a flow/routine to them that includes lots of pressure on your hands and wrists that my body just can’t handle. I also used to be an avid bike commuter, sometimes getting in a hundred miles on my bike a week.
Well, now I’m a nursing mom who sleeps horribly, has no time to exercise, and is usually lugging a 20lb baby or two around. Wallace only sleeps on me so there is no chance for some self care while he is sleeping. I could totally use a massage but can’t leave my son with a babysitter even if I had one. I wake up with my whole body aching from my neck to my feet, and the pain only diminishes slightly throughout the day.
I’ve decided to combine all of this experience and come up with a quick stretching routine to see if I can alleviate some of my issues. Maybe I can’t get it all done in one go, but instead do one stretch per diaper change or something like that. Any chance I get to set him down, I should take one of those minutes for self care and I don’t just mean emptying my bladder. I’ve already become a pro at stretching my wrists while I drive and my calves in the shower (on the rare occasion I am alone for one).
I learned this in massage school from my amazing anatomy instructor who did a class on self care for us. Here’s a link to a good description with how to and how not to do it. There are also videos on YouTube if you need some more visuals.
I chose this because as a nursing mom I am constantly hunched forward. This puts lots of stress on the upper back and neck and tightens/shortens the front of the neck, chest, and arms. This also helps develop core muscles as they are needed to stabilize the back against the wall. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing some work on my core after having a baby! This strengthens and stretches and will help correct a hunched posture. It’s hard work so be prepared!
Rabbit and Camel
I have found these two yoga poses helpful in relieving back and neck pain. They are difficult and there are lots of little details to get a great pose. Rabbit (here and here) looks easy at first but you really have to bear the weight of your body on your hands and not your head. As for Camel (here) it takes a bit to be able to go back all the way to grab your heels. You can start by keeping your hands on your lower back and getting used to hanging your head back and opening up your chest. When you do get to grabbing your heels, you don’t rest your weight on but pull up on them, threatening to throw yourself forward. Not up for these? Try some Cat and Cow poses to work up to it. Just be careful not to flip flop between these poses. You want to pause and breathe and focus on lengthening one side of your body and tightening the other.
Door Frame Shoulder Stretches
This is another one I learned in massage school. It’s great for stretching the front of the shoulder, specifically pectoralis major and minor, which is the weakest joint in the body.
Wanna know the best way to injure your shoulder? Reach from the front seat into the back to get something or try to calm your baby! This video seems sufficiently entertaining. I had to watch it on mute because Wallace is napping on me. I like to move my arm to slightly different heights in order to stretch different parts of the shoulder. You can also extend your arm down to get a different area.
Simple Neck Stretch
I’m sure I’m not the only one who spends a lot of time sitting on the floor… This is a quick neck stretch to work on your sternocleidomastoid, one of my favorite muscles, and the trapezius muscles. I didn’t like the instructions I found with this picture but I like the picture (from yogaoutlet.com). Start but sitting up however work for you, cross legged or on your feet, and use your hand to help stretch your neck gently. You can slightly rotate your head to change the areas being stretched, just go slow.
What do you think? Going to try these with me? I’m going to do them first thing in the morning and after his naps. If I can fit in a couple more singular stretches throughout the day, I will try to remember. Maybe a few squats if I get ambitious!