Yoga provides a mechanism for new parents to come to grips with their roles. It forces the body to slow down and the mind to clear, and provides tools to deeply relax and find peace regardless of the external environment. You emerge from the practice energized, with more clarity and calm. The effects of the physical practice on postpartum bodies is just an added bonus.
Within the science of yoga, the role of breath has been given a lot of importance. It also holds one of the deepest and most important secrets for one’s emotional well-being—our emotions are linked to our breath. Each emotion has a specific breathing pattern corresponding to it. For example, when you are angry, your breath is short and fast paced; when you are sad, your exhalation is longer; or when you are praying or meditating, your breath is slower and more relaxed. So, breath gives you the power to control your emotions.
If you are a new mother, you may not be able to control negative emotions by just making positive affirmations because the mind has a tendency to do the opposite of what it is instructed to do, especially when it is stressed. Learning a few deep diaphragmatic breathing techniques can effectively help in managing the emotional yo-yos after delivering a baby and achieve emotional stability.
Correcting the Autonomic Balance
The balance achieved between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system is called the autonomic balance. While the sympathetic system is active in an emotionally tense situation like a flight-or-fight response situation, the parasympathetic system is related to the body’s resting phase. More and more wellness and mental health professionals are talking about the benefits of putting the body and mind in states where the parasympathetic system is active often.
By affecting the balance, yoga increases one’s awareness and acceptance of the moment while allowing deep rest for the body and an eased heart rate. This balance
- Positively affects mood and memory
- Activates neurochemical systems linked to attention, wellness and positivity
- Increases body’s capacity to deal with stress triggers.
The major trigger for postpartum depression—the drop in hormone levels—can be corrected with the help of specific yoga poses, or asanas, that work on improving the hypothalamus function in the brain along with pituitary and pineal glands. These glands regulate hormones in your body.
Yoga is crucial in managing sustained psychological stress caused by the increasing responsibilities of new motherhood and change in relationship dynamics in new parenthood.
Yoga helps eliminate stress by
- Improving body’s stress response
- Regulating cortisol levels (stress hormone that can cause blood pressure and sugar levels to rise)
- Switching the body’s rest mode on (parasympathetic nervous system is activated in resting period that eases heart rate and works up digestion)
- Stimulating the vagus nerve which is directly linked to well-being, thereby revving up the body’s happy and relaxed emotional state.
For Overall Well-Being
Yoga simply keeps you more physically active, improves neuroendocrine function that regulates hormonal secretions in the body, promotes weight loss, and improves sleep and overall fitness. This way, by managing symptoms of postpartum depression, yoga can help reverse the loop of depression triggers.
In a ground-breaking study carried out to learn about the effect of yoga in managing the symptoms of postpartum depression, half of the 57 women in their postpartum phase were assigned to a yoga protocol consisting of 16 classes over 8 weeks. The other half was part of the wait-list control group. The results showed that 78% of the women in the study reported ‘clinically significant changes’ in the form of improvement in depression, anxiety and overall quality of life.