Growing a human inside of you is nothing short of a miracle, but if you are or have ever been pregnant, then you know that it can come with its fair share of unfavorable symptoms. Nausea, mood swings, back pain, swelling, fatigue and constipation are some of the most common symptoms. While there is not much you can do besides take medication to ease severe nausea, a proper prenatal workout can help alleviate all of the other symptoms. I had such bad morning sickness in the first half of my pregnancy that working out or any movement for that matter was nearly impossible, but after 20 weeks when I started to feel less nauseous, I welcomed a regular fitness routine. With my growing belly, back pain became constant. Doing these daily pregnancy-safe prenatal Pilates exercises and stretches gives me a lot of relief by increasing circulation, lengthening my spine and maintaining core strength. Pregnant or not, these moves will increase your strength and flexibility in a gentle and safe way.
1. Cat Cow– Warm up the spine, safely condition your core and release lower back tension. This move originates from Yoga but has become a regular exercise for Pilates classes for its benefits to the core and spine. Get onto all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Take a deep breath in and on your exhale, move through your abdominals to pull your navel into your spine, rounding the back and spreading your shoulder blades apart as much as possible. Your tailbone and head will be pointing down. On your inhale, reverse the movement into cow pose by moving your navel down to the ground as you open and lift your chest up and point your tailbone upward. Be careful not to crunch the spine. Keep length by pulling your tailbone away from your head. Do this 10 times.
2. Bird Dog– Once you have finished with your cat cow warm up, neutralize your spine so that your back is now flat while on all fours. Your neck remains in line with your spine and your shoulders pulled down your back. Keeping your core centered and square, extend and lift your right leg up to hip height without disengaging your abs and arching your back. Simultaneously lift your left arm up to shoulder height without disengaging your lat. Hold for one breath in and out and then lower back down. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating arms and legs until you have done 5-8 on each side.
3. Quadruped Plank– Stay on all fours with a neutral spine. Keep your abdominals engaged and your lats strong as you lift your knees off the ground one inch. If you are far along in your pregnancy or have a larger belly, you may tuck your tailbone slightly under to round the lower back a little and give more support to that area. Hold this quadruped plank position for 10-15 seconds before lowering the knees back down. Repeat 2-3 more times.
4. Push-Ups On Knees– From all fours, walk your hands forward so that you can get your body from your knees to your shoulders in one diagonal line. Keep your neck in line with your spine and bring your hands slightly wider than your shoulders on the floor. Lift your feet up off the ground. Keeping your abs pulled in, bend your arms to lower your torso down to the ground as low as you can comfortably go. Straighten your arms to come back up. If you are in your third trimester or your belly gets in the way, you can try an incline push-up by placing your hands on a sturdy raised surface like a bench or countertop. If you do this, your push-ups can be done either on your knees or standing, depending on the height of the surface. Do 15-20 push-ups to strengthen your core, chest and arms.
5. Running– This move not only stretches the calves while lengthening the spine and taking pressure off the lower back, it also helps to reduce swelling of the ankles and feet. Straighten your legs back from your pushup position, pushing your heels into the ground. Your arms are straight and your hips in the air, similar to a downward dog position except your feet will be close together. Press one heel into the floor as you bend the other knee. Continue to alternate legs, working through every part of your foot.
6. Side Hip Dips– Sit on your left hip with your legs stacked and bent to the right. Place your left forearm down, making sure your shoulder is directly above your elbow and your body from your knees to your shoulders is in one line. Place your right hand on your hip or extend the arm straight up. Use your obliques and lat on the supporting side to keep your hips and ribs lifted off the mat as high as possible. Dip your left hip down to tap the floor and then raise it back up without disengaging your supporting shoulder blade. Do 10 hip dips. Stay on that left side to do the next 3 exercises before switching sides.
7. Side Leg Lifts- Stay in your side plank position with your left shoulder over your elbow. You may do this exercise sitting on your left hip or for more of a challenge, in your side plank with your hip lifted. Place your right hand on your hip or behind your head. Lift your right leg up to hip height in parallel and then slowly lower it back down. Tap the floor lightly before lifting your leg back up. Do 10 reps. If you want more of a challenge, you can perform 5 small leg circles in each direction.
8. Mermaid Stretch– Sit down with your legs bent and stacked to your right. If you have sensitive knees, you can stagger your legs with your knees bent. Hold onto your ankles with your right hand and stretch your left hand up and over to the right. Hold for several breaths.
9. Rock The Baby Stretch– Increase hip and glute flexibility. Sit on the ground cross-legged. Take your right leg that was just worked and lift it up, placing your foot either in your left hand or in the crook of your left elbow. Hold onto the outside of your right leg with your right arm and pull your leg towards you. Gently rock the leg side to side several times. (Repeat the entire side series on the other side starting from hip dips and ending with the stretches.)
Do you have a regular fitness routine that helps ease your unwanted physical symptoms? Have you tried prenatal pilates?
Also by Crystal: 4 Diastasis Recti Exercises That Heal & Strengthen Your Injured Core
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish