You Are Not Out of Shape. You Are In Recovery.

By Alexa Rittichier, Prenatal Yoga Facilitator & Doula


The New York Post reported on a study of pregnant people in 2019. Researchers studying the limits of human endurance have determined that the physical intensity of pregnancy is basically like running a 40-week marathon. “Pregnancy is the most energetically expensive activity the human body can maintain for nine months,” Duke University evolutionary anthropology professor Herman Pontzer, who co-authored the study, tells The Post.

This study reports to us that pregnant people reach the limit of human endurance. So, go on with your badass, pregnant self! I like to tell my pregnant clients and students that they are multitasking ALL THE TIME. No matter what you are doing to live your life, you are also growing a human!

An important part of this report is that it proves just how taxing pregnancy can be on the body. No one has to tell endurance athletes that they need recovery after an ultra-marathon. What an achievement! We celebrate them and recognize their need for recovery and rest. How much more should we celebrate what it takes to carry and birth a baby and affirm the need for recovery?!? Instead, all the attention is shifted to new baby and postpartum people get one check up 6-8 weeks after giving birth. Our culture puts pressure on postpartum people to “get their pre-pregnancy body back” and “lose the baby weight” and “get back into shape.” If you take anything away from this post, I hope it is this: 

You are not out of shape. You are in recovery!

Once you get the green light from your healthcare provider for physical activity, it can be tempting to jump right into intense physical exercise that you may have been missing during the later stages of your pregnancy. Ilona T. Goldfarb, MD, MPH, writes, “By the time they arrive at their office at six weeks, most people who give birth have survived the pain caused by tearing during a vaginal birth, a surgical incision after cesarean delivery, and/or hemorrhoids in the first two to three weeks. Many are coping with the physical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding. They’ve grappled with sleeplessness and may have overcome their initial baby blues.” That in and of itself is a lot to recover from. 

After being cleared by your healthcare provider for physical activity, a general rule is to start activity and exercise where you left off in their 3rd trimester. If available to you, I highly recommend seeing a pelvic health practitioner to evaluate the health of your pelvic floor and to give you care specific to your own body and how pregnancy and birth affected you. 

Let’s take some inspiration from endurance athletes and bring intention and focus to the recovery period by focusing on nutrition and sleep. I know, I know, that last one there makes all new parents roll their eyes. Sleep deprivation is something I’m still dealing with and my youngest is 19-months-old… When will it ever end?!?! The fact that sleep deprivation is normal for parents of young children doesn’t change the fact that our recovery will be enhanced, that we will get the most bang for our buck, by embracing these two main recovery techniques. 

Speaking about recovery for endurance athletes in The Best Recovery Practices for Endurance Athletes: Nutrition and Sleep, Lynda Wallenfels says, “There are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, rolfing, cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, supplements… and more.”

New mom carrying child

When you do come back to your yoga practice, I invite you to keep a recovery mindset and embrace yourself and your body where it is in this journey of pregnancy and parenthood with compassion and patience. Postpartum recovery yoga classes will aim to meet you where you are and help you progressively build your body to regain your strength and stamina. In the Awakened Spirit Yoga Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training Manual by Julia Forest, Postnatal Posture Groups are created to focus on the specific needs of the postnatal experience. 

  1. Stabilizing + Strengthening:  To rebuild core stability and strength after the birth, focusing specifically on toning the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, adductors and pelvic floor. Also to regain full-body strength and stamina.

  2. Breastfeeding + Baby Caring Counterposes: To relieve neck and shoulder tension and rounding of the upper back caused by frequent breastfeeding and daily baby care in the early months of parenthood.

  3. Inversions + Twists: Balance the hormonal system as well as tone the uterus, internal organs and the waist.

  4. Releasing: To continue to stretch the muscles that became tight during pregnancy as the spine was pulled into deep lordosis.

  5. Restorative + Relaxing: This is where the rest part of the recovery model become the focus. 

Take your time. Embrace where you are. Celebrate the amazing feat you just completed. And find people and practices that support your recovery from this journey to the peak of human endurance.


Alexa J. Rittichier is an artist, mover, maker, yoga and movement teacher, birth doula, anatomy lover, and pre/postnatal exercise specialist. She has been dancing her whole life and practicing yoga for over 20 years. Teaching, tutoring and mentoring have been part of Alexa’s life since 2005. She has taught visual art, creative movement, drama, dance, and yoga in a variety of settings to all ages from 3-years-old and up. Alexa has been training yoga teachers since 2016.

Study with Alexa in the upcoming Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Trainings ONLINE & In California.

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