Gentle stretches for new mums
As new mums we experience more than our fair share of shoulder pains, lower back aches and even hip pain. Our bodies have been through the marathon that is pregnancy and now with the lack of sleep, repetitive movements to feed, carry, lift and rock we really are in need of some TLC. Movement may be the last thing we want to do but it really is a great way to get our bodies feeling better, so I asked Kerrie-Anne, a pilates teacher in SW London and owner of Pilates At Your Desk for some tips on how movement can make us feel good and help us on our road to recovery.
Here are her top tips and moves:
1. Move every 30 mins
Even if it’s just for a little all over body shake, make sure that you stand up and move every 30 minutes. 2 minutes is fine. You just want to make sure that you are not in any given posture for too long, so keep moving!
2. Get out for a walk
Getting outside and walking while your baby sleeps is a great way to keep moving. Even if it’s just a walk around the block. I promise you’ll feel better for it.
3. Change holding arms
I know it sounds simple, but many mums pick a side to hold their baby on and then don’t change. This can cause imbalances between the right and left side of your body. Better to keep balanced as much as possible.
4. Try to sit well
Think of your body like a double L:
- Two feet flat on the floor
- Knees at right angles
- Sit on your sit bones – the bony bits under your bum
- Ribs over hips
- Shoulders wide and down
- Neck in line with your spine
5. Take big rib breaths
The middle bit around our spine can get super tight and breathing big helps with that. Put your hands on your bottom ribs. Breathe in through your nose expanding your ribs out to the side (like an accordian) and exhale through your mouth. Try and make that rib cage expand left and right, and front to back.
6. Shoulder release
They get tight, right? Tap the back of your arm pit. Now lift your arms slowly up to your ears from your armpits. Melt them slowly down your back. Feels good?
For the rest of the exercises please make sure that you have had the ok from your medical practitioner to exercise and this includes checking for diastasis recti
Keep both sit bones down and side-bend to the right and then the left. Lift up and away from your belly button.
8. Sit bone squeezes
Sit on your sit bones. Squeeze them together (you should bob up) and release them. This is good for those peachy bum muscles, inside thighs, working your pelvic floor and your deeper abs. Do 8-10 at a time.
9. Leg lifts
Sitting on your sit bones, lift your right leg off the floor from your tummy. Repeat on the other side. Try to stay on both sit bones - no shifting!
10. Leg Slides
Lie on the floor. Feet flat on floor. You want to have your bottom on the floor and a little gap between the floor and your lower back to honour the natural curves of your spine. If you are arching your back at your ribs, take a couple of breaths to relax your chest and this gap should decrease. Don’t grip!
Try to keep your pelvis still as you slide your legs out to straight. Now put your finger in the centre of your lower belly and try to bring your legs back in from your tummy, without moving your pelvis (or gripping your chest!).
Keep breathing and wear socks as it helps to slide!
11. Table top
Lying as before.
Take a couple of massive breaths. On the exhale sink your belly and your chest to the floor. Put your hands there to check. It’s not a gripping it’s a sinking with the breath. On the next exhale try to lift one leg to table top (like in the photo). Your tummy should still be soft as should your chest. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side. Can you do this alternating without moving your pelvis. Keep that bum down and your pelvis nice and heavy!
Go on all fours. Wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Starting from your pelvis: curl your spine up into a cat position (photo) and then from your pelvis, take your spine the other way into a cow (photo). In a cat your sit bones are together, belly is lifted, and chest is softening away from the floor. In a cow sit bones are apart, belly is stretching, and chest is reaching forward. Meowing / mooing optional.
13. Thread the needle
Starting on all fours again. Take your right arm out to the side and thread it under your left. Bend your left arm for the extra joy of a little tricep action. Press into the left to return your arm to start. Do on the other side.
These are just a few exercises to get you going. But remember that the most important thing is to keep moving on a regular basis and to keep it varied. If you slouch, don’t worry just do some of these movements to counteract it. The best thing you can do is be kind to yourself and smile while you move, not tell yourself off!
Thank you so much Kerrie-Anne, releasing the aches and pains feels so good and it's so important that we do listen to our bodies and start to counteract the repetive movements that having a baby so often means. I asked Kerrie-Anne which 3 moves she'd recommend if you don't manage to do them all regularly and she suggested cat/cow, side bends and the shoulder release. I hope this helps.
Kerrie-Anne posts easy-to-follow moves on her Instagram account (@pilatesatyourdesk) on a daily basis so do check it out.