By Danielle Leonard
Getting into shape after childbirth can be overwhelming to a new mom who may be struggling as she adjusts to motherhood. From sleepless nights and fussy babies to Caesarian section recovery, finding time and summoning energy may be the biggest hurdles to re-introducing exercise into daily life. Speaker, mother and celebrity yoga instructor Kristin McGee offers a perfect solution with her new book, Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You.
McGee describes chair yoga as “a practice made up of simple exercises you can do daily that will help strengthen and stretch your body while focusing your mind and helping you tap in to your breath.” It’s ideal for new moms who are more apt to sneak in a few minutes of gentle activity throughout the day than set aside an hour for vigorous exercise at the gym.
McGee, who discovered yoga in the early 1990s, is a yoga and Pilates teacher, celebrity trainer, and host and star of more than 15 fitness DVDs. She draws on her vast wealth of experience and knowledge to assemble 100 unique yoga poses that are performed with a chair. Her relaxed style of writing combined with clear step-by-step instructions and photos make the book an enjoyable read.
The book should appeal equally to beginner and seasoned yoga practitioners who want to mindfully introduce holistic exercise into their lives. For many poses, McGee describes both the physical and emotional benefits. The goddess side stretch and twist, for example is effective for working inner thighs, abdominals and waist and, McGee writes, is recommended when someone is feeling creative, is pre- or postnatal or in need of soothing energy.
The poses are divided into practical sections that make it simple to flip between poses, depending on one’s needs. Readers can choose from sections titled warm-up, standing exercises, upper body, face, shoulders, arms and wrists, torso, lower body, and lower back.
New moms may find themselves sitting for extended periods in the months following childbirth due to breastfeeding and recovery. Add the repetitive motion of lifting and lowering baby, and it’s possible many will develop lower back pain. McGee’s chair poses help moms release the tensions that can build up in this region while building muscle strength, all while sitting in a chair.
Torso poses that strengthen core muscles will also benefit post-natal mamas. The book indicates that many activities depend on a strong core – from housework to sex. Poses, such as seat lifts, offer the added bonus of strengthening the pelvic floor, which is often weakened after pregnancy.
Chair Yoga conveniently includes 5- and 10-minute sequences comprising poses described in the book. With catchy titles such as “Five Minutes to Boost Your Immunity” and “Ten Minutes to Happiness”, it’s easy – and fun – to select a routine that suits one’s situation or frame of mind.
The basics of yoga breath are covered in the book and readers are encouraged to incorporate it into their poses. New moms will appreciate the calming effect of yoga breathing (referred to as pranayama) as they navigate the challenges of caring for a new baby. McGee reminds readers that focusing on the breath is an easy habit to develop and has an instantaneous effect on one’s overall health and happiness. Certainly, baby will also benefit from a relaxed mama.
No yoga book would be complete without a word on meditation. McGee delivers with a final chapter that describes the benefits of meditation along with simple exercises to develop one’s own practice. McGree writes “meditation is truly a way to just reset the mind and continue working on being present and open to every precious moment of your life.” And, what new mom wouldn’t want that?