Early Postpartum Exercises for Recovery


Birthlight has developed postpartum exercises for recovery after the birthing process. These exercises are yoga-based, can be done immediately postpartum and anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never.”


After the birth of my son in 2018, I performed a series of exercises by Birthlight (www.birthlight.com) to help me heal and to essentially “close” my body after so much opening, giving and vulnerability following pregnancy, labor and delivery.  

The fourth trimester can be an overwhelming, beautiful, demanding, and unknown time for many mothers, whether it’s your first or your 5th child. Every pregnancy, postpartum period and child is different!

Even though I had my beautiful son Earthside, I felt this unsettling sense of emptiness inside me. Pregnancy is a long time to grown and nurture a baby inside. I now had to learn how to nurture him on the outside. And I had to learn how to adjust to my new body and this new phase of motherhood.

I started the Birthlight exercises almost immediately postpartum and continued them for several weeks after giving birth. These postpartum exercises were shared with me from a dear fellow yogi mama, Chantelle Cooper Relly, with whom I had trained with in Bali in 2015. She had also recently given birth, not much before me.

I found the postpartum exercises to be gentle, intentional, much needed and they just felt really, really good to my tired, sore and fatigued postpartum body. They didn’t take much time to do and I was able to do them (sometimes uninterrupted, and sometimes not!) while my little one lay in his pack-n-play close by.

My intention is to be able to do these exercises again following the birth of our daughter within the next few weeks.

What is Birthlight?

Birthlight (www.birthlight.com) is a yoga centered company, focused on yoga and exercise from conception to year 3. It began as birthing classes in the 1980’s in Cambridge by a woman named Francoise Freedman. She eventually developed pregnancy and postnatal yoga and baby yoga. Anyone can take the training courses to become a Birthlight practitioner.

There is actually a DVD and Prime video available on Amazon by Birthlight called Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond. (Full disclosure: This is an affiliate link, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you happen to make a purchase.)

About the Postpartum Exercises

The exercises are described as helping women to “re-claim your body after giving birth.” The postpartum exercises use a combination of deep, belly breathing along with small body movements and stretches for the body.

Benefits of Birthlight Postpartum Exercises

  • Improve your posture
  • “Close” and heal the body after giving birth
  • Help with pelvic floor health

When Can I Start Doing the Birthlight Postpartum Exercises?

  • For a vaginal delivery, you can start as early as 2 hours after giving birth.
  • For a cesarean delivery, you can start as soon as surgical drains have been removed.
  • You certainly don’t have to start this early, but you can if desired.

How Much and How Often Should I Practice these Postpartum Exercises?

This is completely up to you and how you are feeling. There is no particular number of repetitions or sets recommended. Do what feels comfortable to you.

Trust your body that it intuitively knows how much you should be doing.  You may choose to start out small and increase as you feel able to.

What Are the Birthlight Postpartum Exercises?

Step 1: Find Zero Balance

Birthlight postpartum exercises for recovery: zero balance.
  • Begin by lying on your back (bed, carpet, floor, or yoga mat)
  • Place a small support under your head (and lower back if needed). This can simply be a folded towel or blanket. The idea here is to get the spine in a neutral position.
  • Bend both knees and rest the feet on the floor. Rest your arms by your sides.
  • Notice the position of your pelvis. Then walk the feet closer and then farther away from your hips until you feel that your pelvis is “level.” This means that your pelvis is not tilted too far forward or backwards, but that it’s right in the middle of these two extremes.
  • This is considered pelvis in zero balance.

Step 2: Close Your Abdomen

Each of the postpartum exercises that follow employ the idea of “reverse breathing.”  Birthlight states that it can help prevent pelvic organ prolapse and stress incontinence, as well as help to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles.

Image of Birthlight postpartum exercises for recovery: close your abdomen.

Postnatal Breathing: Part 1

Perform this breathing technique until your pelvic floor muscles have recovered from birth.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance as described above.
  • Breathe IN and pull the abdominals inward.
  • Breathe OUT and pull the abdominals inward a little more.
  • Then, relax at the end of the OUT breath and take a normal breath.
  • Repeat.

Postnatal Breathing: Part 2

Perform this once your pelvic floor muscles are no longer sore. This is usually about one week after delivering vaginally.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance.
  • Breathe IN while tightening and lifting the pelvic floor.
  • Breathe OUT and tighten a little bit more.
  • Relax at the end of the exhale and then take a normal breath.
  • Repeat.
  • As it becomes easier to contract the pelvic floor, incorporate tightening the abdominals along with the pelvic floor.

Step 3: Realign Your Spine

This step will help to improve your posture following birth by realigning the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine as well as the pelvis/sacrum complex.

Image of postpartum exercises for recovery by Birthlight: realign your spine.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance with knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Breathe IN while pressing down through the feet and sacrum/low back area
  • Breathe OUT and pull the feet and sacrum energetically towards each other.  Try not to lift or tilt the pelvis.
  • Relax at the end of the exhale.
  • Perform this with feet in neutral or parallel to one another, then with the toes pointing slightly inwards and then again with the toes pointing slightly outwards.

Realign your lumbar spine (low back):

Image of postpartum exercises to realign the lumbar spine.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your arms by your sides with your palms facing down.
  • Breathe IN and press the palms down.
  • Breathe OUT and press the palms down a little more. Do not lift the pelvis.
  • Relax and repeat.

Realign your thoracic spine (mid to upper back):

Image of woman performing postpartum exercises for the thoracic spine.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest and rest your fingertips of each hand over the opposite shoulder.
  • Breathe IN and press the shoulder blades back and down, as in a shoulder blade squeeze.
  • Breathe OUT and press the shoulder blades a little more.
  • Relax and repeat.

Realign your cervical spine (neck):

Birthlight postpartum exercises for cervical realignment.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Breathe IN and OUT while turning the head slowly from right to left.
  • You can use a small support under the head or neck as needed.

Step 4: Close your Body

Part I: Buttock Squeeze

Image of woman demonstrating an exercise to help close the body postpartum.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with the legs extended out straight.
  • Cross one ankle over the other.
  • Breathe IN and squeeze the buttocks and the ankles together.
  • Breather OUT and squeeze a little tighter.
  • Relax and repeat.
  • Then, switch the cross of the ankles and repeat on the other side.

Part II: Leg Over

Image of woman performing exercise to close the body after giving birth.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with the legs extended out straight.
  • Cross one foot over the opposite leg, placing the sole of the foot next to either the shin, knee or thigh.
  • Ensure your hips are square and level after you’ve crossed the leg.
  • Breathe IN while pressing the sole of the crossed leg down into the Earth and the heel of the straight leg away from you.
  • Breathe OUT and press/stretch a little bit more strongly.
  • Relax and repeat.
  • Then, switch the cross of the leg and repeat on the other side.

Step 5: Rest and Relax after Your Postpartum Exercises

Image of postpartum exercises for rest and relax with palms in prayer position.

How to do it:

  • Start in zero balance with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring the palms together in front of the chest into Anjali mudra.
  • Keep the shoulders relaxed.
  • Breathe IN and press the hands together while also pressing the ribs downwards.
  • Breathe OUT and press a little more.
  • Relax and repeat.
  • Lie still for a few breaths until you’re ready to get up.

Getting Up after Your Postpartum Exercises

Follow the instructions below to get up safely and gently from the floor when you’re done with your practice.

How to get up safely from the floor after postpartum exercises.

How to do it:

  • Turn onto your side, keeping the knees and thighs slightly apart.
  • Gently transition into a hands and knees position.
  • Walk your hands back toward your knees.
  • Tuck your toes under and gently rise to standing.

Reference: Birthlight and www.birthlight.com. Permission has been granted by Birthlight to share these exercises.

What Exercises Can I do After the Immediate Postpartum Period?

Follow this 12 week program to prepare for a gradual return to running or higher intensity/impact exercise.

Then, you can transition into a gradual running program.

Looking for more personalized guidance on your postpartum journey to recovery, or an individualized run coaching program? Click here to connect. I also offer telehealth physical therapy.


I’d love to hear from you. Drop your comments about these postpartum exercises below.

Other Articles of Interest:

FREE Guide to Pelvic Floor Rehab after Baby!

Yoga Stretches for Runners

Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Neck Pain

Yoga to Open the Heart

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Rachel Pope

Doctor of PT, Perinatal Exercise Specialist, Momx4, Runner& Coach helping moms run without injury or pelvic floor issues. FREE Resources in Collections!
Running, Cycling, Trail Running, Triathlon, Ultrarunning, Hiking, Swimming, Open Water Swimming, Yoga, Road Biking
Vermont, USA

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