The benefits of stretching during pregnancy
Stretching makes you more flexible, prevents your muscles from tightening, and helps you feel looser and more relaxed. Use the following stretches after a workout as a way to cool down or when you need to relax. Be sure to breathe deeply and regularly as you stretch.
- While seated or standing, rotate your shoulders backward and down in the largest circle you can make. This opens the chest, counteracting the rounded shoulders so many pregnant women get.
- Standing in a doorway, place both hands at shoulder height on either side of the doorway, elbows bent. Step your right foot forward until you feel a slight stretch in the chest muscles (being careful not to stretch too much). Hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch feet, stepping your left foot forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Stand with your back against a wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart a comfortable distance from the wall, knees slightly bent. Inhale. Then as you exhale, draw in your abdominals, moving your chin toward your chest as you roll your torso down one vertebra at a time. “Roll” as far down as you’re comfortable going. Keep your weight centered between your feet.
- Inhale at the bottom of the roll-down, and as you exhale, roll back up, trying to “print” each vertebra on the wall. As you return to an upright position, make sure your head is the last part of your body to uncurl. Repeat.
Note: As your pregnancy progresses, you can modify this pose by doing it seated in a chair with your feet wide apart to make room for your belly. Sitting right on the edge of the chair, inhale, then exhale as you move your chin toward your chest and roll your body forward and down. Your hands can hang between your legs. Inhale, and then exhale as you roll all the way up.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability, knees slightly bent.
- Extend both your arms toward your left side at shoulder height while looking over your right shoulder. Hold the stretch and breathe into it.
- Moving slowly, reverse the motion, switching your arms to the right while looking over your left shoulder. Repeat.
Wall push-up and calf stretch
- Stand about 2 feet from a wall with your arms extended in front of your shoulders.
- Reach your hands to the wall and lean forward, bending your elbows on an inhale as your body tilts.
- Keep your heels on the floor to stretch your calf muscles. (Don’t do this exercise in socks or slippery shoes; you want your feet to stay put.)
- Exhale, contract the abdominals, and slowly push away from the wall to straighten up. Repeat eight to ten times.
- Sitting on the floor, sit tall with your knees bent to the right and heels close to your bottom. With your left hand, hold your left ankle for support as your right hand extends overhead. Inhale, then exhale and reach up and over to the left side.
- Inhale and hold the stretch. Exhale to return to an upright position. Repeat one more time on your right side before moving to the left. You’ll feel a stretch in the sides of your waist, hip, and lower back.
- Repeat twice while sitting on your left hip.
Thigh and hip flexor stretch
- Lie on your left side with your head on a pillow or a folded towel. Slightly bend the left leg for stability.
- Bend your right leg, moving your foot toward your bottom, and take hold of your right ankle. Gently pull the heel closer to your bottom and draw in your abdominals to support your lower back. You should feel a stretch in the thigh and deep hip flexors. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Release and switch sides, lying on your right side.