Reach Out

Relieve stress and tight muscles with three easy stretches.

During pregnancy, the weight of your growing belly can cause your body to pitch forward, affecting your balance and putting stress on your lower back and the ligaments that support your pelvis and uterus. In turn, you may feel tension in your lower back and experience leg cramps. Also, your chest muscles may shorten if your upper back isn’t strong enough to combat the forward pull of your growing breasts. The following stretches can help relieve such discomfort. Do them 4–5 times a week during pregnancy or whenever you feel the need. If you’re prone to back pain, try doing exercises 1 and 2 several times a day.

1. TOTAL BACK STRETCH Stand arm’s distance from a doorway and place your hands on either side of the doorjamb at shoulder height. Keep your arms straight, palms facing in, feet slightly wider than hips and abdominal muscles contracted [A]. Inhale, then exhale as you bend your knees and drop your chin toward your chest. Round your spine to create a C-curve with your back and tilt your tailbone down [B]. Continue to breathe and hold this position for 8–10 seconds, then lift your chin and straighten your back and legs to return to the starting position. Repeat 2 more times. Stretches entire back.

2. SIDE STRETCH Stand with your right side a few inches away from a doorjamb and cross your right foot over your left. Keep your legs straight but not locked and your abs contracted. Place your right hand on the doorjamb at shoulder height and your left hand on the doorjamb above your head, shoulders relaxed [A]. Inhale, then exhale and pull your body away from the doorjamb until you feel a mild stretch on your left side [B]. Bend your knees slightly and push your left hip out. Hold for 8–10 seconds, then release; repeat 2 times. Switch sides and repeat. Stretches back, rear shoulders, side abs, upper hips and hip rotators.

3. CHEST AND CALF STRETCH Stand inside a doorway in a lunge position with your right foot in front of your left, feet hip-width apart. Place your forearms on the inside of the doorway, upper arms at chest height, elbows bent [A]. Inhale, then exhale as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your chest. Press slightly forward while maintaining an upright position. Keep your shoulders relaxed and lean into your right leg until you feel a stretch in your left calf [B]. Hold for 8–10 seconds, then release; repeat 2 times. Switch sides and repeat. Stretches chest, front shoulders and calves; strengthens upper back muscles.