Stretches to Survive Pregnancy… and Beyond

In addition to the sweets cravings and nose twitches (add that one as weird pregnancy symptom #235), I have also recently started having a bit of sciatic nerve pain due to my latest pregnancy. It’s definitely manageable and only seems to flare up if I’m on my feet too long or after I exercise, so I’ve had to start incorporating more yoga and stretching poses into my daily routine to help alleviate the pain. With so many of my friends pregnant these days, I thought I should just compile a short list of my favorite stretches for those trying to survive through their own pregnancies. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are just as wonderful WITHOUT a baby bump, and I’ve done many of them post-delivery as part of my cool down stretches. While I enjoy them, I’m no expert in yoga so some of these may use “official” pose names, and some are just what I call them. Here is my list of favorite stretches to help you get through your day – with pictures of yours truly, my ever-growing belly, and a couple photobombs from my dog, Autumn.

 

Hip Raise

IMG_5434Sit in what I call “cheer pose” (one leg bent in front, one leg bent behind) and put your hand on the back leg’s hip. Raise your hip slightly toward the front leg and then return to a neutral, seated position. Switch your legs to stretch the other hip.

 

Pigeon Stretch

IMG_5435I discovered this stretch with my first pregnancy and love it. Bend one leg in front of you and lengthen the other leg behind you, however your flexibility allows. Lean over the front leg slightly to feel the stretch in your hips.

 

Cat-Cow Stretch/Pelvic Tilt

IMG_5436IMG_5437On all fours, exhale and round your back (like a cat) and curl your pelvis under. As you inhale, arch your back (like a cow??) and – for lack of a better phrase – stick your butt in the air. This should feel pretty relaxing and is great for preparing your pelvic muscles for delivery.

 

Pelvic Raise

IMG_5438IMG_5439I avoid doing these in public, but they are among the few stretches your OB will tell you to do to help prepare your body for delivery. Laying on your back with feet flat on the floor, raise your pelvis off the floor, then return to your starting position. (NOTE: As you get farther along in your pregnancy, you’ll want to use a pillow underneath you for stretches that require you to lay down. This is to prevent any circulation issues to you/your baby from the weight of your belly.)

 

Butterfly Stretch

IMG_5440IMG_5441This super-simple stretch is good for opening up the hip and groin muscles. For an added bonus, you can place one hand on one knee and “push away” with a straight arm to get a deeper stretch.

 

Bent-Leg Seated Stretch

IMG_5445My absolute favorite stretch for sciatica/lower back pain, and it’s super easy to do! Just sit in a chair, bend one leg at 90 degrees over the other leg, sit up tall and bend at the waist over your leg. You should feel the stretch pretty quickly and it feels a-maz-ing.

 

Tree Pose

IMG_5447Make sure you place your foot along your thigh, not your knee, for this pose. Use a chair for balance while pushing your foot and thigh together. This is a good stretch to help with hip and back pain.

 

Warrior 2 Pose

IMG_5449With your back foot facing forward and your front foot at a 90-degree angle facing out, bend your front knee as low as you can go toward a 90-degree angle of the leg (make sure you can still see your big toe so you don’t hyperextend your knee). Twist at the waist toward the bent leg while keeping your hips forward, stretch your arms parallel to the floor, and hold.

 

Triangle Pose

IMG_5452This is the same basic pose as Warrior 2, just with a straight front leg. Lengthen your upper body out as you bend at the hips and touch the floor/your shin/your thigh (or feel free to use a chair for added balance), or wherever you can reach while elongating your other arm perpendicular to the ground.

 

Side Stretch

IMG_5454I did this one a fair amount with my first pregnancy since I had mid-back pain that seemed impossible to alleviate with any other stretches. It feels good to stretch your sides and helps open up your rib cage to accommodate your baby.

 

Squat Pose

IMG_5455The most unattractive pose of them all, but supposedly very good for helping stretch your hips and groin muscles to prepare you for childbirth. It definitely gets harder to hold as your pregnancy progresses so I guess that means it works!

 

Wide Leg Stretch

IMG_5464This is my favorite hamstring stretch since I’m so inflexible. Let your upper-body hang down as gravity helps stretch your hamstrings, butt, and lower back.

 

Child’s Pose

IMG_5466You may be familiar with this stretch already, but the main difference with the pregnant version is to open your knees up to make room for that growing belly. This is relaxing since you’re essentially laying on the floor, but it’s also good for opening up your hip and groin muscles, which you’ll definitely feel if you hold the pose long enough.

 

Kegels

There’s no way for me to show you this – nor would you want a photo, I’m sure! – but suffice it to say that this is just a contraction of your bladder muscles, as if you are stopping urination mid-stream. Hold for a few seconds and release. The more you do these, the stronger those muscles become. These are excellent for helping with delivery and all the wonderful continence issues that may come afterward. The good thing about these is that nobody knows when you are doing them and you can do them almost anywhere (I try to do them while I’m driving)!

 

I hope some of these movements will help alleviate your body aches, baby-related or not, as they’ve been beneficial when added into my day. Happy baby-growing and happy stretching!

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