The way you carry your growing load during pregnancy is the cause of many pregnancy issues like heartburn, back pain and dizziness. By adjusting the way you stand, and by regularly performing some easy exercise moves, you may be able to help keep these nasties at bay. It’s also important to keep in mind that you need to keep your circulation ﬂowing, explains yoga guru and creator of Yoga Mama in Johannesburg, J’anaki Ra.
“The pregnant human has two litres of extra blood in the body and the same heart muscles doing all the work. You need to keep moving even if you’re only doing light walking or swimming, or gentle yoga,” she says. The following moves target specific ailments, so choose the one you need the most or do all of them as a mini symptom-prevention workout. Aim to get moving three to four times a week for optimal benefit.
EASE LOWER BACK PAIN
Strengthening your core muscles helps to reduce discomfort in your lower back. The side plank engages your lower back muscles and side muscles, helping them to support the extra load. Lean against a wall if you’re feeling a little unsteady.
Lie on your right side on a yoga mat. Place your forearm on the floor, keeping your elbow directly under your shoulder and your hand pointing away from your body. Stack one leg on top of the other and place your feet against a wall for extra stability if you need to. Engage your abs, bum and legs and lift your waist up into a side plank. Lift your left arm above your head if you have good balance. Hold for 30 seconds, building up to 60 seconds per side. Do this three times on each side.
A little massage goes a long way – especially when it comes to releasing stress and tension. You’ll be surprised at how much anxiety you hold in your jaw – gently releasing this tension could help you beat insomnia. Raise your head on a stack of books or firm pillow, placing a tennis ball on top of the block. Place your cheek onto the ball and roll it into your jaw. Nod and shake your head as if gesturing yes or no, open and close your mouth and move around in small circles – one way and then the other. Move the ball to your temple and do the same. Breath easily when you do this, roll the ball around for 3-5 minutes and then swap sides. Do it once on each side. You can continue for longer if you wish.
SOOTHE SHOULDER PAIN
Your ever-expanding belly means you are now sitting further away from your desk and computer as well as the dinner table. This puts strain on your rotator cuffs, which can cause shoulder pain. By strengthening your shoulders, you prevent this from happening and lifting your bundle of joy for lots of kisses and cuddles when he arrives will be a breeze.
Stand with your body in the correct alignment – there will be a natural curve in your lower back, but do not over extend it. Let your arms hang down at your side, then bend your elbows, keeping them pressed in towards your side. Keep your palms up and pretend you are holding a tea cup and saucer in each hand. Move the cups away from each other by turning your hands out to the side, allowing your shoulder blades to move closer together and your chest to protrude. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then return your hands to the front again. Do this 5-10 times.
The first, and easiest, thing you can fix is the way you stand. Your centre of gravity is constantly changing as your tummy grows, which puts strain on your body and causes imbalance. By getting this foundation right, you can already help alleviate many symptoms. Get your alignment right, starting from your head all the way down to your toes.
- Hold your head directly in line with your heart. International fitness expert Jill Miller explains that for every couple of centimetres your head hangs forward, it adds around 4kg of stress to your upper back.
- Keep your shoulders back and down. By rolling them forward or throwing them back, you are putting your alignment out completely. As your baby grows, your ribs are displaced and instead of hanging over your pelvis, they are now pushed forward as your upper back tilts backwards. Try to keep your upper back straight and the bottom of your ribs pointing down.
- Engage your glutes to support your pelvis. This simple tip also prevents you from leaning on one hip and allows you to tone your pelvic floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and point your toes forward – you should feel less strain in your feet, knees, hips and spine.
STOP THE LEAK
Kegel exercises are great when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, but they only work the muscles that are involved in leakage prevention. The uneven squat is a must-do move that helps strengthen the entire pelvic floor and prepares you for the big push.
Stand with your feet wide apart, place your right foot on a low chair or stool and keep your left foot on the ground. Bend your left knee and make sure your toes, knees and shoulders are facing forward. Place your hands on the ground in front of you, or on any elevated, firm surface if you can’t reach. Keep your body weight on your heels and lean over to your left. Slowly straighten your left leg and bend your right, shifting your body weight to the right. Make sure you keep your back flat. Hold for 10-15 seconds per side. Do this ﬁve times on each side.
The added weight from your growing baby puts more pressure on your tummy and diaphragm. This may cause the diaphragm to become weaker and start letting more acid from the stomach leak into your oesophagus, causing heartburn. By keeping the barrier between your diaphragm and oesophagus strong, you can prevent this from happening.
Stand tall, making sure your posture is correct and perfectly aligned, as described on the previous page. Interlace your fingers in front of you, then inhale through your nose and bring your arms above your head as you do so – keep your palms facing up. Exhale through your nose then contract your stomach muscles to help spread your ribs apart so you feel an internal stretch in your back and core. If you feel a hollow suction-type feeling in your stomach you are doing it right. Hold for 3-10 seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times.
CURB FOOT PAIN
Swollen and sore feet can be a real drag. Roll a tennis ball under your feet to give yourself a mini foot massage, which will help alleviate foot pain. Hold on to the wall or a chair for support, place the ball under your feet in the arch and roll it around a few times. Place the ball under your heel, rest your toes on the ground and firmly roll your heel along the ball. Place the ball under your toes, allowing them to curl over it, and place your heel on the floor. Now move your foot from side to side. For a final stretch, roll the ball up and down the length of your foot a few times. Roll each section between 10 and 20 times, then swap feet.