Pregnancy is an amazing time. So much is going on with your body as your baby grows inside of you. The right physical maintenance is crucial to keeping you and your baby feeling good throughout your full term.
There are many pregnancy exercises you can do to help you feel better and prevent some of the nasty side effects of pregnancy, like sciatica, lower back pain, and forward slouched posture.
If you are experiencing discomfort during any part of your pregnancy, I encourage you to try these four simple moves to relieve some pain, have some fun, and prepare yourself and your baby for the birth process.
I recommend pairing each one of these empowering pregnancy exercises with a song. You can choose any song you like — I love to use tunes that are upbeat or soothing with lyrics that make me smile.
Of course, music isn’t required, but it helps keep you motivated to do them long enough to really experience the benefits.
1. Standing Cat Cows
You probably have some lower back pain if you are past the middle point of your pregnancy. This exercise helps relieve lower back pain associated with pregnancy and also helps strengthen core muscles in a safe way. I use this exercise any time I am standing or walking around for longer than 2 hours and need to refresh my lower back.
Tilting your spine forward and back brings blood flow to all those muscles that get tight from carrying excess weight. The other benefit of this exercise is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. Just stop whatever you’re doing and start tilting that pelvis! Cat Cows are also believed to help coax your baby into the best head-down position for birth, which is a very welcome bonus.
Stand in a quarter squatted position with legs wide and knees slightly bent. Put your hands on your thighs just above your knees. Round your back, making a turtle shell shape as you exhale all the air out of your lungs. Then flex your spine the opposite direction, sticking your chest and belly out forward as you inhale fresh air. Repeat this forward and back motion as much as you need to in order to feel relief in your lower back. This also helps strengthen the core muscles you need most during pregnancy and delivery.
2. All the Way Down Squats
I learned these from my prenatal yoga classes and have been incorporating them into my routine several times per week throughout pregnancy.
Full-depth squats not only help workout your legs and keep them strong and toned, but they also stretch and open your hips. In addition, I find that working a full range of motion in a rhythmic way with music gets my heart rate up and also feels very relaxing and grounding. Put on your favorite jam and aim to keep squatting at your own pace throughout the entire song.
To get the most out of this move, start with a wide stance (heels can be propped up on a rolled up blanket or yoga mat if you like). Point your toes slightly outward. Reach your arms up overhead. As you start to bend your knees, bend your arms as well and squat all the way down to the bottom, finishing with your hands in front of your heart. Then, using your hands on your knees, give a big push to stand back up to the top, reaching your arms up overhead to stand as tall and straight as you can. Exhale every time you squat and inhale with each tall reach.
3. Seated Rope Climb
This exercise works all of your upper body muscles while avoiding strain on your core or anywhere else. By continuing for the full length of a song, you will be teaching yourself endurance. I know it burns! But if you can get through one full song of this exercise, then you can get through anything!
Soon enough, the song is over and you’re going to be just fine. This exercise is as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Also, what mama doesn’t want more toned arms and shoulders?
Take a comfortable seated position on the floor or on your yoga mat in a crossed leg position. Then reach both hands up above your head and imagine there was a rope for you to climb hanging directly above your head. Take alternating grips as high as you can reach and pull this imaginary rope down to your chest level. Alternate reaching as high as you can with your right, then again with your left. Keep climbing, mama, and imagine yourself strong enough and capable enough to climb any obstacle.
4. Half-Seated Kegels
Kegels are excellent for strengthening your pelvic floor and also for learning how to relax it! Whenever doing Kegels, make sure not to only focus on the contraction but focus just as much or even more on the release of tension and the softening of all the surrounding tissue. If you feel yourself flexing other muscles (like your butt or legs, or even your neck, face or hands), then relax and start over. These contractions should be very small and concentrated on the pelvic floor only.
Having a strong pelvic floor is a good thing for labor and delivery, but also knowing how and when to relax it completely will help baby come out with less of a struggle. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with those muscles down there. Better awareness and control of your pelvic floor muscles is beneficial for birth and can also help you control your bladder and even help you have better sex!
Sit on the floor or your yoga mat and lean back, supporting yourself with your hands behind you. Open up your legs as if you were ready to give birth. Keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Take a deep breath in and at the same time, tighten and tense your pelvic floor as if you were trying to stop your flow of urine. Make sure that no other muscles tense up. Relax your entire body except for the pelvic floor. As you exhale, let go of that contraction and fully relax your entire body. Continue contracting as you inhale and relaxing as you exhale.
Eventually work your way up to holding the contractions for longer periods of time. It’s hard at first to tell if you’re doing it right, but after some practice you’ll gain better control and awareness of these muscles.
I hope you will use these empowering pregnancy exercises and have some fun with them. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my body in brand new ways with this pregnancy. Learning what you can do to treat and prevent discomfort is so empowering and rewarding.
(Your Next Workout: 7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester)