Guest post graciously contributed by Sarah Bannerman Andrews.
For a healthy self after childbirth; learn how everyday Ayurveda can help new Mommas find balance.
Ayurveda has a way of putting things into perspective. It teaches us that staying in balance can help prevent most dis-ease. It teaches us that the key to long lasting health and wellness is preventative not reactive. It works with Mother Nature to target the root of illness not cover up the symptoms. It understands that we are multi dimensional beings, which means that all aspects of total health are connected: body, mind, soul… and baby.
There is no doubt among mothers that becoming one is the most incredible thing that could ever happen to a woman. BUT if we are going to be honest, it is intense! It is hard to manage all the change, especially when combined with the pressures (from society, self, or otherwise) to be the modern day “Super Momma”.
Listed below are three simple concepts to become aware of during the first year of motherhood, along with suggestions for integrating them in a way that works for you…
Rebuild your digestive ability, aka, Agni.
Agni is your digestive fire, it is responsible for how you process the foods you eat (among other things). If your Agni is low you may not be able to extract the nutrients from the foods you are eating.
The simple act of digesting the food we eat can utilize an enormous amount of energy, especially after giving birth when our digestive fire is naturally low. Instead we want to conserve our energy in order to begin healing the rest of our bodies. Start rebuilding your digestive flame slowly with light easily digestible and nourishing foods for the first few weeks, then gradually begin to reintroduce a well balanced diet of local organic seasonal foods, including all six tastes, spiced according to your dosha. Agni is considered the key to good health, a low fire will likely cause you a lot of problems down the road such as low milk supply, malnourishment, trouble losing baby weight, depression, and fatigue.
Tips to help rebuild your Agni (first 1-6 weeks after childbirth):
- If possible avoid processed hospital food, have someone cook for you and bring it in.
- Begin with warm, cooked foods like oatmeal, vegetable or lentil soups, kitchari, cooked vegetables, stewed sour fruits, or fresh sweet fruits, and soaked nuts.
- Use ghee as your main oil and be sure to include spices such as cardamom, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, fenugreek, hing, cumin, turmeric and black pepper.
- Avoid processed foods of all kinds, raw foods, excess meat, excess dairy, gaseous foods such as beans, nightshades, and cruciferous. Caffeine and fermented foods are also to be avoided.
Nourish yourself, a.k.a. build Ojas.
Ojas is your vital essence, immunity, endurance, your energy bank. If you are feeling run down, often sick, or feeling depleted (i.e., you just birthed another human!), you are low on ojas.
According to Ayurveda the richest form of ojas resides in the heart. At the time of birth this special form of ojas is transferred from the mother to her baby by way of the umbilical chord. The pulsing of the chord is a mirror of the mothers beating heart. It is for this reason that Ayurveda recommends that the umbilical chord not be cut until it has stopped pulsing. After birth you will need to rebuild your own ojas so you will have the energy and vitality and endurance to care for yourself and your child.
Tips to help rebuild your ojas:
- Ojas drink – Soak 3-4 dates and 8-12 almonds in water overnight. First thing in the morning blend the dates, peeled almonds, almond milk (or milk) and cardamom to taste in the blender. Drink this on an empty stomach for the first 1-4 weeks or until you are feeling strong again.
- Take chaywanprash, a nutritive tridoshic tonic rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. You can eat it right off the spoon, or add hot water to make a tea. 1- 2 tsp. daily
- Practice Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) while your baby naps. There are many versions available, find one you like and save it to your phone. That way you’ll always be ready to go. Lie down in a warm cozy place and enjoy a deep state of rest.
- Do things that nourish you, and accept help.
Stay grounded, a.k.a. balance Vata dosha.
Vata is the biological force made up of the Ayurvedic elements air and ether. It governs physical movement of all kinds, and is also responsible for destruction and decay (among other things). It is present in each of us, some of us more than others.
At this time of rapid change, and the shedding of what was once needed to grow your baby, Vata dosha has to work extra hard to keep up. It is easily pulled out of balance making us forgetful, confused, anxious and fearful. To counter the Vata before it gets away on you try to incorporate these practices daily.
Tips to help balance Vata Dosha:
- Abhyanga (self oil massage) means with loving hands. Abhyanga has an enormous impact on Vatta. It calms your nervous system and in turn sooths your mind. Use a nourishing oil like Mahanarayan or sesame, make sure the oil is warm, leave it on as long as you have time for, no need to use soap when you shower it off.
- Yoga! Get creative with what that means. The days of 90min studio classes may be over for you for the next little while. The beauty of yoga is it can be practiced anywhere at anytime, and is not limited to the sequence of poses you do on your mat. It is a way of life, a state of mind; it’s the practice of presence, and the art of unconditional love. For yourself and your baby. If you are able to do mild asana right away, wonderful! If not, try to gently move your spine in all 4 directions (side to side, forward and back, and twist) to open up any blockages of prana. Practice pranayama (controlled breathing), especially alternate nostril breathing and Meditation – this is so important! Even if you don’t have a regular meditation practice try sitting still after your stretches and breathing. Sit in a place without any sounds or distractions, close your eyes, and let your body and mind settle. Follow the flow of your breathing. Hold your hands at your heart and feel gratitude for everything you have and everything you have become. Breathe and connect to that underlying abundance of Love and Joy that arrived with your little bundle. Every day feel blessed that your sweet little baby chose you. Stay connected to that as long as you can. Connecting to that sense of gratitude daily will have a huge impact on your state of mind, and in turn your over all health.
- Company – surround yourself with people who make you feel safe, supported and loved. Slowly make time for family and friends that support the new version of you, people who respect the beautiful mother you are becoming. It’s possible that some relationships which worked for you before might not work for you now. Acknowledge that everything is different, you are different.
- Herbs such as shatavari, ashwaganda or bala, can also help to mitigate a Vata imbalance, but must be taken under the strict guidance of an ayurvedic practitioner.
For more details on any practices, foods or concepts listed above please search Yoga International’s website.
Sarah Bannerman Andrews is YA 500hr E-RYT, HI AYS, AAYS, Mother and lover of life.