The focus Imagine the abs pushing the baby down and the pelvis relaxing to let the baby out.
4. On all fours
The benefit This is a three-in-one exercise done on all fours—a position you might very likely find yourself in during labor (many women find this the most comfortable labor position, as it takes pressure off the back).
The move Get down on floor on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Balance your body weight [A]. Now, exhale and tilt pelvis under (your back will naturally round slightly toward the ceiling). You’ll feel a stretch in your lower back or throughout your back, depending on your flexibility [B]. Then, keeping back rounded, inhale, expanding belly toward floor. Exhale again as you pull the belly up in toward your spine. Holding abdominals tight, relax your pelvic floor muscles as you did in exercise 3.
The focus In addition to the focus suggested above, imagine that your abdominals are hugging your baby as you pull your back up toward the ceiling.
The benefit Squatting develops suppleness in your legs, which is needed to increase flexibility for delivery in any position.
The move Stand arm’s length from a bedpost, sturdy chair or table and hold on. Place feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and toes turned out [A]. Slowly bend your knees, bringing buttocks as close to heels as you can [B]. Keep your weight toward buttocks, knees over heels. Don’t let your ankles roll in. If you are not very flexible, your heels will come off the floor when you descend; as your flexibility increases, you’ll be able to keep them down. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Try to add 10 to 15 seconds each week until you can do at least two minutes of squatting. To come out of the move, turn to the side and place one knee and foot on the ground. Use that foot to push up to a stand, holding on to the chair or table for support. March in place for a minute to avoid dizziness.
The focus Practice different kinds of focus to determine which works best for you. First, try an inward focus, picturing the babymoving down through your wide pelvis. Second, try an outward focus, using a thought that automatically relaxes you. Or conjure up your favorite painting or landscape. It doesn’t have to be just an image in your mind, either: One friend of mine actually brought a beloved painting to the hospital. 3. Three in one The benefit By putting together three moves that are usually done separately—Kegel, pelvic tilt and abdominal contraction—you’ll get as close as possible to the experience of pushing. (Don’t worry, you won’t accidentally push your baby out!) The move Sit upright with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, hip-width apart and feet flat. Place hands on backs of thighs [A]. Now tilt back onto tailbone, rounding spine, shoulders and back. As you tilt back, your pelvic floor muscles will instinctively tighten. Inhale and let your belly expand [B]. Exhale and contract your abdominals toward spine, as in exercise 1. As you hold your abs tight, relax the pelvic floor [C]. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Build up to 8 to 10 repetitions. The focus Imagine the abs pushing the baby down and the pelvis relaxing to let the baby out.