Warming up is especially important for a mom-to-be because it prepares her, both mentally and physically, for what is to come. Many women are afraid that exercise will put their pregnancies at risk. Before you begin, inform students about your training in prenatal fitness and discuss the benefits of movement. Explain that exercise may help reduce muscle pain commonly associated with pregnancy and also prepare participants for labor. Mention that they all have different capabilities and that it’s important to listen to their bodies. Offer modifications and make refraining from movement an option, too.
Teach this mind-body-inspired sequence to help students warm up large muscle groups, increase body awareness and connect with their babies.
Connect Breath With Baby
Begin in a comfortable, cross-legged, seated position on the floor (place a pillow underneath the buttocks for cushioning and support). Close your eyes, and place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Take deep “yoga breaths,” inhaling and exhaling through the nose, mouth closed. As you breathe, focus on extending the love and compassion in your heart to your baby. Repeat 10–15 times.
Lengthen the Waist
The second and third trimesters can leave moms-to-be feeling breathless. This stretch “opens” the rib cage and helps increase oxygen flow. After the breath connection exercise, stay seated and walk your left fingertips out about 2 feet away from your hips. Extend the right arm, inhale, and reach toward the ceiling; exhale, bending left. Keep the right hand over the top of your left ear and bend the left elbow toward the floor. Keep your sit bones on the floor. Hold for two breaths and focus on lengthening the waist. Repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides 6–8 times.
This exercise helps release tension in the buttocks and hips. Place your feet approximately 3 feet apart and squat down as low as you can so your knees open out to the sides. Bring your hands to the inside of your legs, about a foot in front of your feet (on the floor), and look up. Inhale, exhale, straighten the legs as much as possible and release the head down. Repeat 8–10 times (inhale, bend the knees and look up; exhale, extend the legs straight and look down).
Bring heat to the muscles and tone them at the same time with this flowing posture. Begin standing with your feet approximately 3 feet apart, toes turned out slightly. As you inhale, bring the arms overhead. Exhale, bending the knees into a plié squat, and with a flat back, bend over at your waist and “sweep” the floor with your hands. Use your thigh muscles to come up to standing with a flat back. As you stand, raise your arms back overhead. Repeat 8–10 times.
Modified Cat and Cow
It’s common to feel discomfort in the low back in the second and third trimesters. This move helps release tension while strengthening the abdominals. Begin standing, with feet hip width apart. Place your hands on your upper thighs about a hand width above the knees. Inhale, sway your back and look up; pause. Exhale, tuck the abdominals and look down. Repeat 8–10 times.
Sara Holliday is a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, speaker and workshop presenter with a passion for helping pre/postnatal women become fit from the inside out. For more information, visit www.fitbysara.com.