Thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week can keep complications at bay and help maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. Even so, it’s important to talk to your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new exercise regimen. Don’t expect to have the same level of activity you had before pregnancy, and don’t be alarmed if your energy diminishes as you progress through the trimesters. Here are five great exercises to keep your back (among other things) strong and flexible while you’re pregnant.
Supta Udarakarshan Asan (Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose)
Lay on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the ground. Let your arms rest by stretching them out to the side or locking your fingers behind your head. Keeping your shoulders on the ground, let your knees fall slowly together, first to the left and then the right, breathing out. Turn your head to the side opposite your knees, allowing your spine to gently stretch. Return to your original position between alternations, breathing in. Keeping your spine limber can help alleviate the aggravating spasms and tightness that accompany most pregnancies.
Arm and Leg Lifts
Kneel on all fours on the floor, hands shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight and aligned, pelvis facing forward, lift your left arm and right leg as high as you can without discomfort -- don’t let your back cave. Breathe deeply, maintaining the position for a count of 5-10. Gentle lower your limbs, and lift your right arm and left leg. If you find balancing is difficult, try lifting one appendage at a time until you feel more confident. This is a gentle way of working on those core muscles in the abdomen and back that are so important during labor and delivery -- and makes it a little easier to cart around that growing baby!
Stand so that your back presses firmly against the wall, while your feet are roughly two-feet out. Slowly sit, until your knees hit 90 degrees. Tilt your pelvis down to keep your back and buttocks against the wall, weight pushing down through the heels of your feet. Reaching your arms up, elbows bent at the shoulders, make a flat bottomed “U” with your arms to work on your chest, as well. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute and a half. Wall squats are not only good for the back, but also your posture and pelvic floor muscles. If you’re feeling really bold, try squats without the wall.
For another great spine stretch, try to touch your toes. Bend forward until your back is bent at about a 70 degree angle, leaving room for your belly. Relax your arms, allowing them to hang with your fingertips towards the floor. Sway gentle from side to side. Breathe deeply, relaxing your back further into the stretch. Do not reach farther down than is comfortable!
As your belly becomes more pronounced, find an elevated platform to place your hands on to give your baby belly room. You can even use a wall later in the third trimester, placing your hands about 3 feet up from the floor so you don’t actually have to maneuver your belly towards the ground. Place your hands on your platform, slightly farther apart than shoulder width. Lower yourself slowly downwards, bending at the elbow, and keeping your body in sync -- hips, back, chest, and shoulders all aligned and moving in tandem, face towards your fingers, spine straight. Go down as far as you can comfortably while maintaining your form, then push back up to your starting position. Aim for 5-15 repetitions.