There’s nothing like pregnancy to throw you off balance. Literally.
As you gain weight in your belly, your center of gravity shifts, and you start to feel awkward and off-kilter. You probably figure that your body won’t be yours again until after you deliver.
Not so, says Virginia Reed, M.A., A.D.T.R., a New York City certified movement analyst and president of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, who designed the moves that follow. These three simple exercises can be used throughout pregnancy to help you stay in touch with yourself — and improve your balance and body confidence — even as your body goes through significant changes. Reed also directs you to focus on breathing.
“Pregnant women experience a profound change internally and begin turning inward,” says Reed, who’s also a psychotherapist and movement therapist, as well as an assistant professor in the creative arts therapy department at Pratt Institute in Manhattan. “Breathing into those internal spaces — maximizing the intake of oxygen — inspires movement.”
A bubble of space
Laban (accent on the first syllable) theory, drawn from 20th century German modern dance pioneer Rudolf Laban, who also developed the famous Laban dance notation system, envisions the body as surrounded by a bubble of space called a “kinesphere.” Guided by Laban’s principles, fellow German movement theorist Irmgard Bartenieff developed basic movements to improve one’s interaction with the surrounding space — and even with the space inside you, hence the emphasis on breathing.
The exercises here, along with the breathing, help extend or contract your body along three dimensions: height, width and depth. The first exercise, side-lying reach, helps realign your head with your neck, an important move since pregnant women tend to allow their heads to protrude along with their bellies. The breathing component helps expand your chest, which can constrict due to poor pregnancy posture (thus causing upper-back muscles to overstretch).
The second exercise, sitting extension, helps lengthen the hamstrings and build strength in your thigh
muscles, enabling you to become less dependent on your lower back for support and less likely to strain it.
The third exercise, standing lift, helps extend your height. “There’s a tendency during pregnancy to drop into gravity,” Reed explains. “Instead, you want to lengthen your body upward and downward.”
These moves will help you adjust more comfortably to daily activities, as well as to labor. “No matter what exercise you’re doing,” says Reed, “keep the whole of yourself in view.”