Caring for a new baby puts you in positions that strain certain areas—yoga for the shoulders, neck, and back can help.
In the postpartum period, there’s a lot going on in the pelvis and belly as the organs reorganize themselves and the core and pelvic floor heal. But as many new moms know, having a new baby can be hell on the neck and shoulders.
Nursing is one of the things that can be really hard on these areas of a new mom’s body. We’re hunching down, lifting and holding up the baby as they fall asleep on us, and we are often gazing down lovingly at the little miracle in our arms—causing ourselves a lot of neck pain!
Birth injuries can also affect the neck, shoulders, and back. When something is out of balance in one part of the body, it often goes off in other parts as well. I injured one of my ribs during late pregnancy and birth, and it caused some lopsidedness to my body. Tightness in the chest can even cause numbness down the arms and into the hands.
Yoga for Shoulders and Neck
Here are a few yoga postures to help with the shoulder, neck, and back pain that arises in the postpartum period.
Whether you do this seated or on all fours, it is almost guaranteed to feel amazing in the postpartum period. Simply inhale into a backbend shape, squeezing your shoulder blades together and down your back. Exhale and round your back, spreading the shoulder blades apart. This feels great on the upper back, but we also get the lower back, hips, and belly moving, which feels amazing all over.
Yoga Shoulder Stretch with a Strap
From standing, hold a belt or strap behind your back. Hands face forward about shoulder-width apart (and you can experiment with going closer together or farther apart). Bend the elbows and hug them together as you try to pull the strap apart behind you. Stretch the arms towards the floor, pulling the shoulders down away from your ears. You can also try this in a forward fold or laying on your belly.
A little bonus stretch here is if you flex your wrists, stretching the soft part of your wrists and bringing the knuckles up behind you. You may feel a nice little extra stretch in the forearms.
Lay on your belly with your arms in a cactus shape, elbows in line with the shoulders. Engage your legs and press your pubic bone down into the floor. Lift your chest up, pressing into your hands and lifting your elbows off the ground as you inhale. As you exhale, lower your back down. Keep the neck long and hug your shoulder blades together and down your back. This is a little massage for the lower back and will help realign anything that’s gone a little wonky.
Put your hands down about shoulder-width apart on a desk, table, or the back of a chair or couch. Begin to walk your legs away and melt your heart towards the floor. Aim for about a 90-degree angle between your legs and spine, but keep your knees at least a little bit bent.
Neck and Chest Stretch
Sit up tall on a cushion and place your fingertips down on the floor beside you. Tuck your chin in gently, and lean your head to the right. As you do, pull the shoulders down the back and turn your left hand forward, maybe even lifting the arm up away from the floor and slightly stretching it back. You can also try lifting your chin away from the left shoulder to stretch the front of the neck and throat a bit. Again, you can experiment with flexing your hand back to stretch your inner forearms. Hold for five breaths, then gently return to center and switch sides.
Yoga for shoulders, neck, and back is a wonderful way to love and care for your postpartum body.