Pre-natal 4-in-1 Stretch.

This post will take you through a stretch which can help to achieve the following:

  • Create mobility in your hips;
  • Improve circulation in your legs;
  • Improve flexibility in your legs and stability in your lower back;
  • Encourage digestive activity

You may need a yoga block, a stack of books or a chair for this one.  

This yoga pose is said to have many benefits ranging from help detoxify the digestive organs to encouraging flexibility in your hamstrings, buttocks and calves. Incorporating this pose into your weekly routine is a great way to target many of the key areas that if left un-stretched can lead to lower back pain particularly in the second to fourth trimester.

A larger bump means more weight and a more demand for your body to deal with than usual. One area that can show signs of strain is your legs with symptoms such as: leg cramps, water retention and restless legs. There is some evidence consuming foods rich in magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6 can help with these symptoms and of course staying well hydrated with at least 2.8 litres of water per day. Another well-researched way to battle and prevent these unwanted side effects of pregnancy, is regular stretching and exercise, to help encourage blood circulation back up from your legs. During pregnancy because your heart is working for two your circulation, particularly in the lower half of your body, can begin to struggle. So you will find you need to pay a little more attention than usual to helping your body function at its best.

The key aspect of this stretch is getting the 'hip hinging' forward bend correct. The bend must come from your hips, not from your lower back. If you hip-hinge correctly you will feel the full benefits of the stretch in your hamstrings and calf muscles. 

Hip hinge. Straight back and bend at the hips. A slight bend in the knees is OK for very tight hamstrings, aim to get the legs as straight as possible.   Image credit to: http://iiplab.com/the-iip-blog/   

Hip hinge. Straight back and bend at the hips. A slight bend in the knees is OK for very tight hamstrings, aim to get the legs as straight as possible.

Image credit to: http://iiplab.com/the-iip-blog/

 

These muscles make up a large majority of the muscle power that pumps blood from your legs back up to your heart, they need to be supple to perform this job effectively. Tightness here can also cause lower back pain due to the natural curvature changes of the spine, which occur during pregnancy causing an increased lumbar curve and anterior pelvic tilt.

Let's give the stretch a go…..

Start: Stand feet together on your yoga mat or on carpet, make sure your feet have a good grip on the floor.

Take a huge step outwards to the side and pigeon toe your feet i.e. heels apart big toes pointing towards each other.

Place your hands on your hips, activate your pelvic floor muscles and tuck your chin to keeping your head high and neck long. 

Action: Begin to hip hinge forward at your hips keeping your lower back joints completely still. There should be no change in your lordosis (lower back curve).  Keep hinging forwards, you will feel the stretch in your hamstring and calves slowing increasing. Stop just before your lower back wants to arch and place both hands on the floor. This is where you may need your yoga block, a stack of books or a chair, if your forward bend is not low enough to comfortably reach the floor without rounding your spine.

yoga forward bend and twist.png

Take your right hand, reach out towards the ceiling or place it on to your sacrum, with your fingers pointing away from your spine and elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Your left arm should stay straight and strong hands planted on the floor/yoga block. 

Take a deep breath IN and lengthen your spine. As you breathe OUT, aim to rotate your body round to the right, using your left arm as a lever. You are aiming to get your elbow/fingertips pointing directly to the sky. Breathe IN again and lengthen, breathe out and rotate a little further. Remember to keep your hips level, the twist is from your torso only

Turn your head to gaze up at your right elbow/fingertips remembering to keep your neck long and chin tucked.

Hold for 3-5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

To release, slowly unwind and return both hands to the floor. Then, bring your right hand to the centre and repeat the twist to the left for the same amount of number of breaths.

Then, return to centre and bring your hands to your hips.

On your next an inhalation, slowly return to standing with a flat back the same way you went down.

Couple...

...with a standing Psoas stretch. This will counter balance the forward bending action with standing tall and reaching up.