Your changing body!
During pregnancy the weight of the belly and growing breasts makes for extra strain on the spine and neck. Mamas shoulders often become rounded forward, especially once we start nursing and constantly holding our babes. After my daughter was born I was recovering from a week of labor, and a Caesarian section. On top of that she had colic and wouldn't calm down anywhere but in our arms. The physicality of life when your baby arrives is at times overwhelming. My postpartum recovery was very much like many of yours: stressful, painful, confusing and at times also very lonely. I of course felt blessed to have my little Ivy, but I was lost and amazed by how much my body had to adjust.
With this pregnancy (over four years later) I realized how important it was to get my body ready for the journey. The journey of the forth trimester and beyond! Last week I posted some of the exercises I do to strengthen my legs and tush, this week I'll go over what I've been doing to keep my upper and middle body in shape. The great news is that you don't need a gym for any of these! I use either 3 or 5lb weights, or cans of food.
For Mama's belly: Diaphragmatic Breathing.
(This information is taken directly from Anne Martens Prenatal Pilates Book.) Diaphragmatic breathing will not only support your overall well-being, but also promote core conditioning. This exercise can typically be practiced during pregnancy and immediately after birth. In fact, practicing this exercise directly after birth will help the uterus contract, help manage the pain of these post delivery contractions and help the body rid itself of medication. Incorporate this exercise into your recovery routine directly after birth by practicing 5 deep breaths every 30 minutes- 1 hour.
Why does the diaphragm weaken during pregnancy?
As baby/babies grow during pregnancy the diaphragm becomes compressed within the base of the ribcage, making breathing more difficult. To breathe, the body requires recruitment from the muscles within the upper shoulders and upper back. The recruited muscles often become tight and may contribute to a kyphotic posture, one where the shoulders are rounded forward. Also the diaphragm shortens and stiffens, the quadratus lumborum (QL), a muscle that anchors the rib cage and aids in diaphragmatic breathing, becomes tight. As the QL muscle tightens it spreads the ribcage laterally and puts greater lateral force on the rectus abdominus, contributing to a diastasis within the recti.
How to promote core strength with breathing exercises?
Diaphragmatic breathing stretches the diaphragm during the inhalation and contracts/ tightens the diaphragm during the exhalation. During the diaphragmatic breathing the diaphragm will work synergistically with the core muscles, especially the TVA, obliques and rectus abdominus. A stretched and strengthened diaphragm will promote optimal breathing capabilities, proper posture and strong abdominal support.
Start seated with your back against the wall or a straight comfortable chair. Place one of your hands on the bottom of the ribcage, and the other hand on your naval aligning the hands over the midline of the body. Begin with a deep exhalation and empty the lungs keeping your shoulders and chest relaxed. Notice how the muscles underneath the top hand tighten the ribcage, pulling both halves of the ribcage together and down. Notice how the muscles underneath the bottom hand pull the navel in toward the front of the spine, and up closer to the heart. Notice how these muscles narrow the abdomen (front, back and sides) as a corset would. Inhalation: Keeping the shoulders and chest relaxed and still, take a deep breath in and fill the lungs up. Don't force it, just imagine they are filling up completely. Now notice the muscles underneath the top hand streching the base of the ribcage and abdomen in all directions. Notice how the muscles of the bottom hand realx and passively allow the naval to float into your hands. Gradually as you progress, focus on breathing lower and deeper. As your strength grows be aware of the navel moving further back to the front of the spine and and then slightly up closer to the heart.
You could sit back and let your exhaustion get the best of you. Some days I do. But having gone through this once I will suggest you find time and prioritize the exercises that are right for you. You and I are different, and you know what is best for you and your growing baby. I urge you to listen to your body, but also to not entirely give in to it. If you keep a consistent and gentle but lively exercise routine during your pregnancy, you will be very thankful you did. It's much easier to get back on track after baby comes if you have never truly gotten off track.
If you have any questions about any of this information, or if you want to share something that is going on in your body and mind, PLEASE do. We are in this together, and know that I am always here with open ears.
Best to you this week Mamas!
ps I made pumpkin almond muffins twice in the past couple of weeks- I am going to share MY recipe and also the original. Enjoy!! We did for breakfast, snacks and fun.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Almond Muffins!
1 cup almond meal/flour
1 cup canned organic pumpkin
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs maple extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of chia seeds
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well by hand.
Use paper liners and divide muffin mix among 10 cups.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until muffins are cooked all the way through.
Cool and then serve, and eat with a smile.