by Anne-Marie Mougeot, B.Sc. Kin., D.O.M.P, D.Sc.O.
I have always been a lover of movement, whether it be walking with my dog, yoga, climbing, or generally being active. I was able to keep up most of my regular activities when I pregnant with my little guy, but I added a few therapeutic exercises to the mix to help my body adapt to the changes of my pregnancy. Many of these exercises are performed on hands and knees or elbows and knees, which creates a little belly hammock for the baby and is quite a comfortable position, especially as the belly gets bigger! These following 5 exercises are generally safe and great to do at any stage of pregnancy (and feel great even if you aren’t pregnant!), however, please consult with your primary care giver before beginning any new exercise program.
Here are my top 5 favourite exercises I did during my pregnancy:
1. Cat/Cow with Internal and External Hip Rotation
This famous cat/cow exercise is a classic for improving spinal mobility. It includes a variation to add hip mobility and engaging more vertebrae. Because the hips are so involved in pregnancy, this movement is great for balancing spinal and hip mobility. The hands and knees position is very comfortable for the baby as the mothers belly forms a hammock, suspending the baby to allow for good positioning.
Starting Position: On hands and knees, place your hands on the ground directly below your shoulders, and align the knees below the hips. Keep the neck in line with the rest of the spine and imagine lengthening all along the spine.
a. Bring the soles of the feet together and widen the knees apart to bring the hips into external rotation. Perform the exercise in this position.
b. Bring the feet apart and bring the knees together to bring the hips into internal rotation. Perform the exercise in this position.
Breathing and movements:
Inhale and round the back while tucking the pelvis (think of looking towards your navel) and bring your head towards the ground.
Exhale and arch the back while untucking the pelvis (think tailbone up) and bring your face up. Maintain a long spine the entire time.
6-8 with hips in external rotation
6-8 with hips in internal rotation
2. Half Moon Pelvis in Decline
Starting Position: On all fours, bring elbows onto the ground directly below the shoulders and the knees below the hips. You may rest your head on a pillow for comfort if desired.
Maintain a natural breath for the duration of the exercise.
a. Bring the pelvis towards the right while keeping the knees on the ground.
b. Make a half-moon shape by bringing the hips towards the heels
c. Bring the pelvis back to the left
d. Return to start position, while making a half-moon motion
e. Repeat to the other direction
Note: If back or pubic symphysis pain arises, make smaller movements. Avoid arching the lower back.
4-6 half moons in each direction
3. Child’s Pose with Side Reach
Starting Position: Same as #2.
Breathing and movements: On an inhale, reach forward with the left hand while keeping the right hand on the ground. Bring the arm slightly to the right to stretch the left side of the body. On each inhale, lengthen a little more along the left side to bring length between the shoulder and left hip to feel a stretch at the waist. Relax into the stretch with every exhale.
Repeat on the right, reaching across tot the left side.
Duration: Hold for 30-60 seconds
4. Glute Stretch in Decline
Starting position: Same as #2.
Breathing and movements: Maintain a natural breathing rhythm throughout the stretch. Bring the left leg out to the side into external rotation, and bring the left ankle in front of the right knee. The amount of hip opening will depend on the level of flexibility. This stretch should be felt in the left hip and buttock. Repeat on the other side.
Duration: Hold 30-60 seconds per side.
5. Forward Bend with Hip Sway
This is a great exercise to help with hip mobility, especially towards the end of pregnancy. By gently mobilizing the hips, the sacroiliac (SI) joints, and the middle and lower back, this movement targets key areas during pregnancy.
Starting Position: Standing facing a desk or chair, place elbows or hands on the chair and bend forward at the hips. Bring feet about hip distance apart (or slightly wider) with the knees straight.
Breathing and movement: Breathe normally throughout the exercises.
a. Gently sway the hips to one side
b. Let the pelvis sway and the back follow the movement. Keep both knees slightly bent while moving at a smooth pace that feels comfortable.
Duration: 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Did I say just 5 exercises? There are so many more wonderful exercises that I want to share, so I’ll just squeeze in one more little bonus one! Most mamas to be are probably already doing it because it just feels great and you can do it anywhere, any time that you are standing. It’s also a great one to remember for after the birth as it helps with rocking baby to sleep (oh sleep… precious precious sleep! zzz…).
6. Standing Figure 8
Starting Position: Standing with knees slightly bent; bring feet just wider than hips. Lengthen the spine as though a thread attached to the crown of the head was being pulled towards the ceiling.
Breathing and movement: Maintain a natural breathing rhythm throughout the exercise. Make a Figure 8 motion with the pelvis to one side, then the other. Make the movement smooth and fluid, working towards larger and larger movements.
Repititions: 8 figure 8’s in each direction.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed these exercises and wish you all the best for a healthy and happy pregnancy and delivery! For more exercises like these, I highly recommend taking a look at the book 75 exercises therapeutiques pour la future et nouvelle maman by Emilie Fecteau. Unfortunately the book has not been translated (that I know of), but the pictures are fantastic and it includes a program to follow during each trimester, as well as post-partum exercises.
75 exercises therapeutiques pour la future et nouvelle maman. Emilie Fecteau.