Proper breath work is important at all stages of life but especially important during and after pregnancy as it pertains to pelvic floor and abdominal health. Through years of study, I have come to believe less in static Kegel exercises to maintain healthy pelvic floor tone, and more in breathing exercises that work the diaphragm, abdominal wall, and pelvic floor together as a system. In fact, this integrated breath is how we should be breathing as we sit, exercise, and walk.
If you’re like me, a breath holder from many years of pulling my abs in tight, learning this style of breathing was challenging but very effective. I now know and teach mamas-to-be to really connect and feel the system working, lengthening, retracting, and toning through BREATH! Working these core muscles together with inhales and exhales is, in my opinion, the best way to work your core during and after pregnancy.
The below four moves are ways you can integrate your breathing core-system all while relaxing and connecting your mind to your body and your baby. All you will need for these is permission from your healthcare provider, a stretchy band, and a sturdy chair or sofa. Make sure you’re warm before you begin or try these after a warm shower. (Note: It is always better to warm the body up internally verses externally with a shower).
Due to increased hormones, do not stretch beyond your normal range of motion when you are not pregnant for safety.
Heat the body with this amazing plie squat that works the pelvic floor, abs, and diaphragm as a system. Turn legs out and step feet out wider than hips. Keep knees and feet pointing in the same direction. Keeping spine neutral (see here) hinge entire torso forward and bend lightly into the legs. Keep the body more upright as the heat builds in the body. Support your belly by gently holding. Keep your shoulders down. Inhale and feel the rib cage, belly, and pelvic floor expand. Exhale, and feel everything close and lift. Do not let your hips tuck under here. Stand up. Repeat eight times.
Due to the growing front torso heaviness, it’s easy to have poor posture and feel even tighter in the chest from the load of the front and the internal rotation of the shoulders. Stand comfortably, hold the band in both hands and reach up. Inhale. Exhale and bring arms back and behind you to open the chest muscles. Release the band and separate your hands further apart if you feel any straining. Do this at least eight times. Hold the last stretch for a few breaths as Sweden is showing above.
Sitting on the edge of a chair or sofa, bring legs comfortably underneath you and make sure your tailbone is behind you. (I often ask my children, “If you had a tail,
would you be sitting on it or would it be behind you). Stack your shoulders over your hips. Relax all points on your face. Allow your teeth to slightly come apart.
Place hands on your belly. Consider the breath we did in Plie Core, and lightly inhale. Don’t allow your shoulders to lift up. Instead feel your rib cage and abdominal wall expand and pelvic floor lower. Exhale and feel everything draw back up. Breathe like this in and out at least 16 times.
Holding onto the back of a sturdy chair or sofa, step back and keep your legs under your hips and your toes pointing forward. Arms should be in line with shoulders. Hinge your body over and allow shoulders to drop. If you feel too much stretch in the backs of your legs, be sure and bend your knees rather than let your back round.
Hold this shoulder and lower back release as long as it feels good, possibly up to eight breaths. Remember to feel your rib cage, abs, and pelvic floor expand on the inhale, and recoil on the exhale.
This program is a wonderful way to connect your mind to your body and to tone your pelvic floor and abdominal wall through breath work. I give credit to Julie Wiebe, PT, for teaching me about this amazing type of breath that I now incorporate into all my training, especially prenatal. Use this breath work instead of squeezing your pelvic floor tight at the stop lights. Allow this “system” to move with your breath while you maintain a neutral spine and feel your abs and pelvic floor working. You won’t believe the incredible core work you will feel without putting your abdominal wall or pelvic floor in a compromised position (by flexing) OR doing ab work during and after your pregnancy.
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