Health & Fitness

Julie Nanyonjo, 34, with her personal trainer Celine Onyango at Key Fitness Centre, a Ladies only Gym at Nyali Golf in Mombasa. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT 

When and how to exercise after childbirth and especially after undergoing caesarean section is a challenge to most women.

After child birth, the extra weight gained during pregnancy causes a lot of restlessness as all woman desire to go back to their old self.

For 34-year-old Julie Nanyonjo, yoga has helped her lose weight and heal the backaches after undergoing C-section.

At a gym in Nyali Golf Club, Julie lies supine on a purple yoga mat next to her trainer doing a bridge pose (Setu-badha). Her shoulders are rolled under the back, while the hips and lower back are suspended in the air. Her feet flat on the floor from the heel to the toes. She breathes deeply and is very calm. Julie’s workouts, which are now getting into the fourth month have since improved her flexibility. She can easily lift her legs and climb high places without straining.

She started her workouts one year and four months after giving birth.

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At 18 months, most women find exercising a challenge because breast milk accumulates during the workouts. But Julie’s case was different. “By the time I started exercising, I wanted to stop breastfeeding. So I avoided foods that increased milk supply,” she says, adding that the exercises also helped reduce milk production.

During her first days, she started with hatha yoga which involves finding balance between the various flow of energy within the body. The hardest exercise was a headstand.

She then graduated to asanas postures, a combination of controlled movement, flexibility and concentration.

Her trainer explains that these poses help ease tense muscles, tone up internal organs, slowly increasing strength.

Julie is now comfortable doing bridge, cobra and relaxation poses which her trainer says are safe.

“I had backaches after childbirth and the doctor told me it was normal, but doing yoga eased the pain,” she says.

Not safe

Not all yoga moves are safe for a woman who has done C-section.

Celine Onyango, a fitness trainer and consultant at Key Fitness Center Ladies gym explains that modifications should be done to avoid straining the stomach wound and the back, which is usually weak after pregnancy.

“Those that are not safe for mothers who have undergone C-section are cobra, deep twists, bow pose, inversions, splits and planks which require one to stretch excessively especially on around the stomach,” says Celine.

The cat-cow pose, downward facing dog and supine twist help the back to be stronger after giving birth and they can be done by anyone.

“After giving birth, you need at least six months before you do exercises,” warns Celine.

To Julie, the one-hour yoga session has now become more than a fitness exercise. “Last week, I was extremely stressed and could barely think right. Immediately after the yoga session, I felt relived, I had forgotten about everything and my mind was clear enough to make a decision I was earlier unable to,” she says.

Health problems

To tone the abdominal area, she does planks which stretch the tummy muscles and also straighten the back.

She has since lost five kilos in three months that her trainer says is because the body is still adjusting to a new combination of diet and workouts.

“Unless you are on a crash diet, it’s hard to lose weight all at once,” Celine says, adding that one can combine yoga with aerobics and indoor cycling.

Yoga comes in many forms and most of the postures help strengthen muscles, joints and keep the spine lithe.

“Some men have back problems and the stretching and breathing can really be helpful,” she says.

“Most gym workouts make the muscles stiff. Spare a day to stretch the muscles. Meditation and breathing also helps you relax and aid concentration,” adds the yoga trainer.

However, she advises that it is important for yoga beginners to tell their teacher if they have any medical conditions.

“People with eye problems like glaucoma or high blood pressure are not allowed to do some yoga moves,” says Celine.