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.