Seasonal Moves to bring Laughter and Joy to your Pregnant Body
"And If you ever saw It, You would even say It Glows"
Happy holidays! I get a little silly with the descriptions of some of these movements, but they are seriously wonderful exercises that can be done at home with your own body weight to really support your hips, back, tummy, and neck while pregnant. Hopefully, in a little more cheerful way, too!
The song, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of those holiday songs that gets lodged in my brain to the point of no return.
It was also my favorite holiday movie as a kid. Looking back, I think it’s because it was ultimately a movie about accepting others despite their red-nosed differences. That message felt more comforting to me than a mug of hot chocolate filled with marshmallows.
So, harkening back to my childhood winter muse, here are some prenatal exercises and stretches, inspired by reindeer, that can help awaken the deep, tiny muscles that support your pelvis and can ultimately help prevent incontinence down the road.
Feel free to cultivate your inner spry reindeer while performing them. 8-)
PAWING THE GROUND
For this one, think of a reindeer saying “C’mon, Santa! I’m cold! Let’s get this sleigh moving!”
This movement activates your hip flexor muscles on the side that’s pawing the ground.
Hip Flexors usually get tight from sitting and, because they attach to both our hip and lumbar spine, tightness of this muscle can cause an aching sensation at the low back.
A multinational study estimates that 50% of pregnant women experience either pelvic girdle pain and/or low back pain, but with intervention (especially to muscles that attach the to low back, I wager) it gets better!
So, with this movement, on the side that is still, your gluteus medius is working.
This is one of the 3 gluteal muscles that helps with pelvic stability and preventing “hip drop”.
Additionally, I love that this movement challenges your balance and core too.
NIBBLING THE SNOW
This one is an active sciatic nerve glide by another name. Essentially, the different types of tissues in our body respond to different stimulus to promote healing. Nerves, studies have shown, that nerves respond well to gliding, or flossing type movements. This helps them slide around in their neural sheath, increase blood flow, and decrease sensitivity.
This movement also helps lengthen and stretch the hamstring muscle which, when tight, can compress down on the sciatic nerve and cause discomfort. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in our body, so it’s important for the wellbeing of our entire nervous system, to take care of it!
Don’t worry, I’m not actually having you pull a sleigh, or even a stroller for that matter.
Pressure management and not overloading your back/pelvic floor/deep core is important while pregnant for preventing incontinence down the road.
What this move does do, though, is put your body in a great birthing position--the almighty squat-- and work your triceps at the same time, which is an important upper body muscle group for pushing your immediately postpartum body up out of bed and then later lifting a cumbersome car seat carrier around. (The average weight of those things is about 15 pounds!)
Even famous reindeer need to take a leak sometimes. With this move, imagine you are quickly relieving yourself while Santa is down in someone’s livingroom unloading gifts.
Why would you simulate a reindeer peeing?
Well, to work your hip rotator muscles, of course!
There are 35 deep, tiny muscles that attach to the lower pelvis, and all are important for pelvic stability.
As the ligaments around your sacrum and pelvis start to relax with pregnancy hormones, it’s important to have these muscles in the proper length-tension relationship (so not too loose, too tight, or too deconditioned) in order to best support the pelvis during pregnancy.
The better these muscles are fine-tuned, the less pressure on your pelvic floor.
Awakening these tiny, deep muscles can also help decrease stress incontinence down the road, which is always a plus! (Stress urinary incontinence is estimated to affect anywhere between 4% and 35% of adult women)
You might otherwise know this exercise as “donkey kicks”, but that’s not seasonally sensitive! So, in the spirit of the season, we are going to call them reindeer kicks.
With this movement you want to be extremely mindful of keeping your low back and pelvis neutral, and not letting yourself over-arch your low back into what’s called hyperlordosis. This can just pinch the discs and nerve roots in your low back and cause some discomfort. Plus, swaying your low back like that essentially turns “off” the stomach muscles and puts a lot of pressure on the round ligaments.
The point of this movement is to activate your glute muscles and, another active stretch for your anterior hip capsule and hip flexors.
This movement is in a position that’s called “half kneeling”. The kneeling position, in and of itself, can help cue your deep core and glutes to activate. Alternate which foot is forward, and make sure your pelvis is neutral (stacked directly under your ribs and not tipped too far forward or backward) and then, you can either grab some light weights, or just use body weight, keep your elbows by your side, and externally rotate your forearms. This can help prevent rounded shoulders and tight, sore neck moms. So, deeping the tiny deep muscles in your neck activated, you can give your neck, shoulders, and upper back a little relief. This movement can be done in sitting, lying on your back, kneeling, or standing. I personally like to do this one when at a stoplight in the car and just gently press the back of my head against the headrest.
PRANCING AND DANCING
Also, don’t hesitate to turn up some holiday tunes and dance around. I’m a huge proponent of the non-repetative, organic, often rotational movement that comes along naturally with dancing. It’s great for keeping the hip joint well lubricated, working hip rotators, and getting some safe cardio in!
Let me know what you think @train4birth after trying out these movements to help keep your pelvis stabilized and decrease SIJ pain, PSD, low back pain, and long-term strain on the pelvic floor.
You might not be guiding any sleighs tonight, but you CAN guide your body into better prenatal health!
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