Stretching may seem like a straightforward task, but things do get a bit complicated in pregnancy because of a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin’s job is to help loosen ligaments in your body to make room for a growing baby – and to help open up your hips to make baby’s passage through the birth canal a bit easier (thank you, relaxin!!). A few months after birth your relaxin levels will return to normal, and this will help everything pull back into place a bit.
While your relaxin levels are high (usually from your second trimester to 2 months postnatal), you’ll also find that you have newfound flexibility. While you may not be able to drop into a full split like it’s no big deal, you will be able to stretch farther than your normal reach. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but can be dangerous if you’re not careful when stretching. Over-stretching during pregnancy can lead to injury or even torn ligaments, and that’s definitely not something you want to be dealing with at 8 months pregnant.
But fear not! We’ve got our quick rules for safe stretching during pregnancy, and a simple 5-minute stretching circuit that is safe for your entire pregnancy ahead.
Rule #1: Only go to 90% of your stretching capacity.
Rule #2: Gently ease into every stretch, do not bounce into or out of a stretch.
Rule #3: Always stretch on warm muscles, whether that’s after the shower or after a good exercise or proper warm-up.
Follow along with our below stretching circuit that’s safe for pregnancy and your relaxin concerns! It should only take 5-10 minutes and is a great way to relieve pregnancy aches and pains and reduce and stress or tension you may be holding in your body. Just make sure to breathe steadily and deeply through every stretch. It’s up to you how long to hold each pose but aim for at least 3 breaths in each. If anything hurts or feels uncomfortable, be sure to stop right away. Let’s begin…
1. Roll out your yoga mat in a quiet, calming place
2. Start in Mountain Pose – standing tall and still with arms at your side and feet about hip-width apart. Use this pose to focus your breath, quiet your mind, relax your body, and find your balance.
3. Step your feet out so they are more than hip-width apart. Leading with your chest, bend at the hips into a Forward Fold. Focus on keeping your chest open, back as straight as possible, and a soft bend in your knees so you don’t hyper-extend them. Make sure to keep your head slightly higher than your heart for this pose, and breathe into it, feeling a wonderful stretch in your lower back and hamstrings. If it helps, you can hold onto something for support in front of you.
4. Walkout carefully into Downward Dog. Focus on maintaining a straight line from your tailbone all the way to the top of your head. Push through the palms of your hands, and feel your hips lift upwards. Hold for 2-3 gentle breaths.
5. Lower down to your knees, and bring one leg forward into a modified Pigeon Pose. Keep your chest lifted and your hips square. When you are ready to switch, come back to all fours and then bring your opposite leg forward.
6. Move back to all fours and then push your hips back into a Wide-Legged Child’s Pose. Depending on how far along you are you may find that it helps to place a pillow or bolster under your hips or place your hands on a chair for a modified child’s pose. Focus on doing what feels good first and foremost. Make sure you’re not putting pressure down on your belly.
7. Come back to all fours, and spend a minute or two in a modified Cat Pose, gently pulling your abdomen in and rounding your back to stretch out your neck and shoulders, and lower back. Return to neutral and repeat a few times, as needed.
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