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 injured 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 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 shoulder-width apart, and leading with your chest, bend at the hips into a Forward Fold. Focus on keeping your chest open, back as straight as possible, and knees supple so you don’t hyper-extend them. It’s absolutely OK to come into a halfway forward fold, especially if folding further puts pressure on your growing bump.
4. Walk out 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.
5. Lower down to your knees, and bring one leg forward into a Pigeon Pose. Keep your chest lifted and your hips square. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
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 this uncomfortable. Focus on doing what feels good first and foremost. Make sure you’re not putting pressure down on your belly, just helping your hips to open.
7. Come back to all fours, and spend a minute or two in Cat Cow Pose, gently transitioning between the two and making sure to breathe. Keep your core engaged to support your lower back.
8. Finish off by scooting your yoga mat up to a wall, lie down on your back, place a pillow under your hips and extend your legs straight up against the wall so that your body forms a 90˚ angle at the hips. This is Legs Up the Wall pose, which you can spend a few seconds in. Legs up the wall is great for helping blood and fluid flow through your legs, and can really help with cramping, leg discomfort, and swelling in pregnancy. However, as you progress in your pregnancy, lying on your back isn’t recommended for long periods of time, so make sure you’re only in this pose for 10-15 seconds. If you feel lightheaded at all, roll over to your left side immediately and slowly sit up once the dizziness has passed.
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