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Energizers for New Moms

Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead to exercise after you've had your baby, you might consider yoga. "Yoga promotes strength and relaxation, and it's very convenient for people who don't have a lot of control over their time," says Mona Shangold, M.D., director of the Center for Women's Health and Sports Gynecology, in Philadelphia.

Rachel Schaeffer, author of Yoga for Your Spiritual Muscles, offers these poses below -- to help you energize, soothe, and relax -- for different times of the day.

She recommends the following breathing technique: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose so your belly, rib cage, and chest expand. Then slowly exhale through your nose. As you do, you should feel tension flow out of your body.

The Bridge
(In the morning; energizes, relieves back tension, strengthens quadriceps)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat, about hip-width apart. Inhale and lift your hips, curling your back up gently until just your shoulders are touching the floor. Keep your arms flat, and clasp your hands together underneath your buttocks. Slowly roll back to the starting position. Repeat twice more. On the third lift, hold the position for five to ten deep breaths.

Down Dog
(Throughout the day; relieves fatigue, stretches hamstrings and calves, strengthens arms and back)
Kneel on all fours with your knees about a foot apart and your arms straight, fingers extending forward. Turn your toes under and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Tighten your thigh muscles and straighten your legs so your body forms an inverted V. While pressing heels and hands into the floor, inhale through your nose, keeping your head and torso as far away from the floor as possible. As you exhale, move your pelvis up and back, bringing your torso towards your legs.

Child's Pose
(At the end of the day; teaches conscious relaxation, quiets your mind before bed)
Kneel on a mat or folded blanket. Sit back on your heels and spread your knees about a foot apart. Press your buttocks to your heels and reach your arms straight in front of you to stretch your back. Bend forward at the hips and slowly lower yourself until your forehead touches the ground. Consciously release tension from your spine and chest, breathing deeply until your whole body feels relaxed.

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