Before I got pregnant, I imagined my workout routine carrying on about the same — and my body growing stronger throughout the process. A rough pregnancy from day 1 left me feeling weak, tired, and unbalanced. I could barely drag myself from room to room, and spent many hours in the bathroom throwing up. I stopped running, biking, and lifting weights.
I tried prenatal yoga classes, trimester-specific workouts on youtube, and poured over books about ways to prepare my body for a natural birth. Despite there being a lot of information out there, I was unsure of what was safe, productive and useful.
All of this left me feeling a little frustrated — and also mind-boggled that something for pregnant women didn't exist as a trusted information space. I realized how disconnected I am with the process of pregnancy — and how a lot of innate wisdom has been lost.
As I kept seeking, I found repeated information patterns about body movements I'd never heard of:
- Emerging trends in pelvic floor health, and how the all-praised kegel was not the first place to start (and could actually harm the pelvic floor if you didn't being balanced).
- Gail Tully's Spinning Babies — I was fascinated on how she presented age-old information about my skeletal, muscle, and fascia structure — and ways to hold and move my body to have a balanced, easier passage for baby during birth.
- I became obsessed with a prenatal and body-balancing video Tully put out with Blooma's Sara Longacre, focusing on basic moves throughout the day and a yoga sequence.
- Tully's "The Spinning Babies Parent Class" DVD taught me how my entire body works together to carry and birth a baby.
- I discovered Katy Bowman and applied many of her pelvic floor movements to my routine.
- I became religious about visiting the chiropractor, massage therapist — and even began my acupuncture journey (more on this in an upcoming post!)
The movements felt strange to me — like I wasn't really doing anything. (This was nothing like pushing myself to do 100 burpees and timed kettle bell swings.) Yet I also found many of these gentle movements to be challenging.
I discovered that although attending group yoga classes wasn't for me (too spiritual), following the "Daily Essentials" DVD was just what I needed. I also realized that a lot of these "movements" that felt like nothing increased my flexibility, breath, body awareness, and strength. They took away a lot of pregnancy aches and pains in my muscles and skeletal structure. And even more — they helped me to be more compassionate, gentle and kind to myself through this process of growing a human.
I became more aware of how I hold myself, how I sit, stand, walk and positioning while sleeping. The movements have helped me feel more confident in my body and the birthing journey that is to come. Below are just four of my favorite movements these genius women (Tully, Longacre, Bowman) teach. For more on body balancing, visit their sites and check out their videos. They really are fantastic!
In Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz they say "When a laboring woman squats, her pelvic outlet is 28% greater than in a lying-flat position." (p. 140) Practicing this movement from the beginning of pregnancy and throughout helps strengthen you muscles as your baby and your body grow. It also exercises and strengthens your pelvic floor muscles. Ina May Gaskin is known for saying "Squat 300 times a day, you're going to give birth quickly."
When you practice squatting, start by doing an assisted squat on a yoga block, and slowly work your way up to a full, unassisted squat. Be gentle with your body and muscles, especially as relaxin increases throughout your pregnancy.
- Gently lower yourself into a squatting position by pushing your pelvis backwards.
- Make sure your knees are behind your ankles, and your pelvis is in a neutral position.
- Slowly press your knees gently apart by straightening your arms.
- Breathe deeply and relax all of your muscles.
- Work your way up to hold positioning for a few minutes each time.
- Stand up by placing your hands on your thighs and rolling your spine up slowly.
Inversions are a great way to make more space for your baby by releasing the utero-sacral ligament. They also help balance your body, and allow for a breech baby to reposition for an easier birth. Do not perform this movement "if you have high blood pressure or suspect placental separation."— (Spinning Babies)
- Begin kneeling on a couch or bed.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground, placing your elbows on the floor and your arms at a triangle.
- Tuck your chin, and let your head hang loose.
- Push your tailbone toward the ceiling.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply.
- Slowly bring yourself to your original position.
*I used a spotter the first few times I did this until I was comfortable doing these on my own.
The side lunge helps make space in your inner legs and stretch these muscles. This is also a position during natural birthing that midwives may ask you to do to move labor along, as a comfort measure, or to make some more space for baby. This is also a good starting position to move into another movement to stretch your hip flexors and psoas.
- Start in a table top position
- Slowly bring a foot to the front of your body, parallel with your hand.
- Hold this position, breathing deeply into your hips.
- Rock very gently if this feels good.
- Slowly and gently move your leg back and your body into table top position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
This is probably my all-time favorite movement. It's also the one I feel the most ridiculous doing. I've found that after about 30 pelvic rocks, my body starts to feel really good. As pregnancy has progressed, in week 37 it took about 80 before I felt this same relief. The movement loosens the muscles around my belly and into my sacrum. The baby loves this rocking motion as well and she's always her calmest when I'm doing this movement or the Inversion.
- Start in a table top position.
- Breathe in deeply, letting your belly relax.
- Rock your hips (not your spine — let your hips do this movement), forward, letting all of your breath out, and tucking your chin.
- Return to table top by breathing deeply, untucking your head, and moving your pelvis back to the beginning position.
- Repeat! By the end of my pregnancy I was shooting to do 120 of these per day. Feel free to do them in shorter sets throughout the day. This is also a great movement that helps me fall back asleep during my insomnia hours.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or certified in midwifery, pregnancy, or anything to do with women's health. These are my own findings through my pregnancy journey. My form during these movements pictured above are probably not perfect. Refer to the resources I mentioned in the post for more information.