Our prenatal workout combines tai chi, yoga and pilates to help you relax and stay fit.
Prenatal Yoga Child's Pose
You know the feeling: Your pregnant body doesn’t move as it did before, your mind is mush and your emotions are all over the place. In short, everything has changed. A healthy way to deal with these changes is through exercise, specifically exercise in which the body and mind work together. “If women think they’re stressed before they get pregnant, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School. Exercise can be the perfect antidote to stress. “When a woman worries so—will my baby be healthy, will my marriage survive, will I make it through labor—exercise can help her gain control of her body,” she says.
Fit Pregnancy presents here a mind/body exercise program that incorporates moves and concepts from tai chi, yoga and Pilates—the types of disciplines Domar endorses—to help you feel strong and more able to manage your life and pregnancy. Developed by June Kahn, owner of Bodyworks Fitness/Pilates in Chesterfield, Mo., the program uses fluidity of motion, which relaxes the muscles and energizes the body. Also, the breathing techniques may help you feel more centered and coordinated. “The program increases stabilization of the torso and helps with flexibility,” says Kahn, who has worked with many pregnant women. “All of this really prepares the body for childbirth.” The workout is based on full-body movements and can be done throughout your pregnancy, preferably 2–4 times a week, with your physician’s approval. Do each move 6–8 times, coordinate each with a breath (see instructions) and move through the whole program as one flowing sequence.
1. Gathering Chi Stand with feet placed a bit wider than your hips, toes and knees turned out at a 45-degree angle, knees slightly bent. Bend elbows next to your torso, aligning them with your shoulders, forearms parallel and palms turned up. Drop your tailbone toward the floor, chest lifted (A). Inhale and bend your knees, reaching your arms down as if to scoop something off the ground (B). Exhale and straighten knees, pulling arms back to starting position. Strengthens legs, back, shoulders, arms and abdominals.
Tai Chi Thought: Visualize pulling the earth’s energy into your body for your baby.
2. Embrace The Moon From Gathering Chi, bring your feet hip-width apart with toes facing forward and open arms out to the side. Bend knees as if to sink gently into the ground (A). Exhale, drawing arms inward as if holding a ball, with your left arm on top, palm facing down, and right hand on the bottom, palm up. At the same time, rotate your upper body to the right (B). Inhale slowly as you open arms out to the side. Exhale, repeat with your right arm on top, rotating to the left. Stretches back, chest and shoulders.
Tai Chi Thought: As your arms fold in, imagine you are embracing your growing belly and baby.
3. Moving Child's Pose From Embrace the Moon, kneel on the floor, then sit back against your heels, knees separated enough to make room for your belly. Bring your forehead to the floor and place your hands, one on top of the other with palms up, at the base of your spine (A). Inhale, rising up onto your knees as you lift your arms above your head, forearms parallel, with palms facing in (B). Exhale and return to starting position. Strengthens thighs, back, shoulders and abs.
Yoga Thought: Feel the strength in your legs and torso as you fold and unfold your body.
4. Tricky Cat Get down on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, arms straight and knees under your hips. Inhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and extend your left arm in front of you and right leg behind you so your body forms a straight line (A). Exhale, placing hand and knee back down on the floor as you round your spine up toward the ceiling. Let your neck lengthen as you look down between your hands (B). Inhale, lifting your right arm and left leg to complete the move. Strengthens abs, back, buttocks and shoulders.
Yoga Thought: Create your longest body, from fingertips to toes.
This workout should be complemented with cardiovascular exercise—walking, light hiking, stationary bicycling, low-impact aerobics or swimming. Aim for 3–5 times a week for 20–30 minutes. (Remember to check with your doctor before undertaking any exercise program while you’re pregnant.)
5. Modified Saw Sit erect with your legs separated wider than hips in a “V,” toes pointing up. Open your arms out to the side at shoulder height, palms facing forward (A). Using your abs, inhale, then exhale, reaching the back of your left hand toward the little toe of your right foot (B). Do not lift your hips off the floor. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat, reaching your right hand to your left foot. Strengthens abs and stretches hamstrings.
Pilates Thought: As you do this move, imagine your hamstrings stretching and lengthening as you reach forward.
6. Round And Release Sitting erect with your ankles crossed, place your hands underneath your knees (A). Inhale, then exhale, pulling your navel toward your spine as you curl your back into a “C” (B). Inhale and return to the starting position. Strengthens abs and back.
Pilates Thought: In this exercise, use the strength within your body to find your belly muscles.