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Stretching and exercise is so important during pregnancy. Why, you ask? Well, now that you’re carrying around extra weight and fluids, it can make you feel sore, tired and downright uncomfortable. Stretching during your pregnancy helps relieve your aching joints, reduce muscle tension, relieve lower back pain, increase flexibility, help you relax, and, BEST of all, better prepare you for childbirth. All of these stretches are things that you can benefit from when you’re preparing to give birth. What pregnant mama doesn’t want that?
It’s time to prepare your body for labor by incorporating specific hip stretches into your prenatal workout routine. Remember that the hormones released into your body during pregnancy loosen ligaments in your joints naturally. This is intended to aid childbirth, but it also leaves you more prone to injuries. Get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise regimen during pregnancy. If you experience any discomfort in your hips, stop exercising. Do not stretch a sore muscle. If there’s any pain, talk to your doctor.
(Note: Obviously, I’m not expecting, but I wanted to take some photos to show you these stretches so you can perform them safely.)
Butterfly / Tailor Pose
This is a fantastic stretch for the inner thighs, hips, and groin. This pose not only helps widens your hips, it also helps ease aches in your lower back.
- While sitting on the ground, bring the soles of your shoes together, allowing your knees to point out to each side.
- Grasping your feet or ankles, draw both heels in as close to your body as is comfortable.
- Lean forward slightly and hold that position. Focus on taking big deep belly breaths.
- For an even deeper stretch, press your thighs down with your hands or elbows to bring your knees closer to the ground. Hold that pose and focus on the stretch and your breath.
Squats / Garland Pose
Squats help strengthen your thighs and open up your pelvis in preparation for childbirth. Ina May said, “squat 300 times a day, you’re going to give birth quickly.” If I were pregnant, that’s motivation enough for me! I don’t know about 300 though… lol!
- Stand with feet facing forward or slightly outward, shoulder-width or slightly wider than hip-distance, apart.
- Slowly and fluidly bend your knees and lower your body, extending the arms out in front for balance if helpful.
- Balance your weight on the balls of your heels and pause.
- Breathe and slowly rise back up and then repeat the action.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexors are the muscles at the top of your thighs that allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist.
- Kneel on your right knee and put your left foot in front of you so your leg forms a right angle.
- Put your left hand on your left thigh for balance and put your right hand on your right hip or also on your left thigh.
- Keeping your back straight, lean forward and shift your body weight to the forward leg. You will feel the stretch in the right thigh.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
With this pose, you can use a yoga strap or yoga brick to help you ease into this hip stretch until your flexibility increases.
- Sit on your mat with one leg extended behind you.
- Bend your front leg to 90 degrees and, if sitting on a mat, walk your foot to the inside edge of your mat.
- Inhale as you lay your knee down flat (at the opposite edge of the mat).
- Hold for a few minutes and repeat on the other side.
This stretch is an excellent way to release the hips and tight glutes! You’ll be amazed by how much easier you’re able to move — and deeper you can squat!
- Start lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Lift right leg and cross right ankle over the knee.
- Reach hands around left leg to meet under thigh (as shown).
- Draw the left thigh towards you while keeping your torso pressed against floor.
- Use your right elbow to gently press right knee away from you as you draw thigh in closer.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths, deepening the stretch with every exhale, then switch sides.
- Extend both legs out wide with your feet flexed.
- Press your pelvis and hamstrings into the floor to help straighten your spine.
- Stay in this position if this is enough of a stretch for the backs of your legs, or walk your hands out in front of you.
Remember, stretching during pregnancy helps protect your freedom of movement and prevent muscle injury. It’s important to keep your muscles and joints strong and flexible for an easier labor.
If you don’t stretch during your pregnancy:
- You could reduce your joint range of motion.
- You could make your muscles become short and tight, so that they function less efficiently.
- It can lead to spinal misalignment, which can cause mild to severe back pain and can cause specific muscle groups to tighten. Over time, spinal misalignment can distort the shapes of major muscle groups.
Other benefits of stretching during pregnancy are:
- It helps bring oxygenated blood into your muscles, to give you more energy and help flush out toxins and lactic acid, so you’ll experience less muscle soreness.
- If done properly with deep breathing, stretching also helps bring more oxygen to your baby to help him/her grow.
- It helps keep you loose, calm and relaxed.
- It keeps you flexible.
- Stretching before and after exercise prevents injury and sore muscles
- It helps to relieve physical and mental tension.
- It helps to lengthen your muscles to permanently enhance your flexibility.
- Stretching regularly helps to lubricate your joints so that they move smoothly and without pain.
- Stretching regularly gives you a greater freedom of movement.
- It helps counterbalance the biochemical effects that pregnancy can have on your body.
- It can also help you cope with the psychological and emotional stress of pregnancy.
- It not only helps you prepare for the birth of your child, but can help you get into the habit of taking time out for yourself to rest and rejuvenate before the demands of parenting become overwhelming, so that once your baby arrives you’ll remember that you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of him.
The list goes on and on! So stretch those hips and pelvis, ladies! You won’t regret it.