25 Mar 2012

Yoga for Breastfeeding

My pregant belly bulged during a headstand
I practiced yoga throughout my pregnancy, including headstand.
Half-moon: balancing on one leg and reaching up while pregnant.
Half-moon pose helped alleviate back pain as well as nausea.
Did you know that yoga can have a beneficial impact on breastfeeding? While tight or ill-fitting bras (not that as a post-surgery transgender man I have anything to do with those, ha!) can damage breast tissue and inhibit the flow of milk, yoga can improve circulation in the chest and help the body to produce more milk. At least Diana West says so anecdotally in her book Making More Milk, and so does Geeta Iyengar in her impressive, enormous, virtually biblical, Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood - from personal experience, I agree with them both. I finally went again to a yoga class this week after an absence of almost a year (time well spent constantly breastfeeding Jacob - I just never felt like leaving him for long enough to go to a class).

I am far from an expert, but I did practice Iyengar Yoga for a few years before having Jacob. The Iyengar method is careful, thoughtful, and thorough. Geeta's book includes meticulous descriptions of poses to be done, and not to be done, in each trimester. Some sequences are said to alleviate pregnancy-related headaches, others are for treating nausea, others for dizziness, still others counteract high blood pressure. And, again in my personal experience, they work.

I began my yoga studies before I transitioned. I wanted to try a different physical activity in my new hometown of Winnipeg that I could do completely away from my new work colleagues. At the end of my second class I left the Yoga North studio only to see a man from my job, whose face was only vaguely familiar to me, rushing in just in time for the next session. Ugh! I came here to get away from you, I thought. Then I married him three years later. But that's a story for another time.

I kept going to the yoga studio despite Ian's presence there. At the end of my first year, I was ready to transition to male. I thought about quitting yoga - I wasn't sure I'd be at home in either the men's or the women's change room. A large and varying population of clients attend the studio, some of whom I know reasonably well and some I don't. I talked to the instructor, Drew, about my plan to transition, and he didn't see any problem at all. He didn't want me to stop attending class and said I should simply use the men's change room. He told the other instructors about my situation so that no one would be confused. When a number of my fellow students learned of my decision, they gave me a congratulatory card and a fancy razor, an incredibly kind though useless gesture since I maintained a terrible scruffiness and pretty much never shaved (and still don't). I felt completely welcome.

A few years later, in my second trimester of pregnancy, my back and hips started to ache. I didn't go to yoga because this time I really didn't believe there was any way I could stomach being seen in my unusual (for a man, anyway) state by the other students who ranged from friends and acquaintances to complete strangers. Ian mentioned my shyness to Drew, who immediately came up with a plan to teach me one on one. In the months that followed we worked together once a week right up until Jacob was born.

I am certain that these classes saved me from much discomfort during the pregnancy and helped me get through the hard work of a long labour. They also put more food in Jacob's belly. I worked with another instructor, Lisa, on creating space and lift in my chest. In addition to being an experienced teacher who has studied frequently in India with the Iyengar family, Lisa has practiced yoga through two of her own pregnancies. On days that I worked with her, I was able to express twice as much colostrum as usual. I diligently saved the precious liquid in syringes and stored it in the freezer in anticipation of Jacob's birth, fully aware that milk production would be an issue for me due to my chest surgery. Thank you Geeta, Lisa, and Drew for helping me to feed my baby in his early days some of the best food in the world.


  1. Just wait until you're doing that upside down pose and Jacob decides it's time to nurse ;)

    1. Hehe, I've seen a photo somewhere on the internet of someone doing that with her baby!

  2. What poses are good for lactation?

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