After Benji arrived I remember countless hours of maneuvering my body in awkward positions. There was sitting in a chair nursing and pumping, wearing a baby in a front pack (and figuring out how to use said baby wearing device), stroller-pushing, and falling asleep all over my house. My body was constantly stiff and sore from doing “all the things.”
Even now that Benji is older, not a ton has changed. Now my 28-pound toddler is often held in awkward positions as I struggle to keep him up. Truth is, motherhood is a full contact sport. Our bodies need a lot of TLC, especially postpartum as we work to restore alignment and function through our core and pelvic floor.
Below are eight of my favorite postpartum stretches to help easy tension. I loved these stretches and movements just before bed too. And in my experience, they feel good for anyone 🙂 My husband likes to join in too.
Not a stretch per se, but learning how to breathe correctly is the single most important thing you can do to keep your core intact during pregnancy and to help heal your body post baby. The diaphragm and pelvic floor work together as one awesome team. If the diaphragm is not working properly, neither can the pelvic floor. So, we need to retrain it after pregnancy. I also find diaphragmatic breathing pretty relaxing 🙂
Great visual and cues from Expecting & Empowered.
- Start by laying on your back (can also be done sitting, on all fours, or standing).
- Place your hands on your bottom ribs with your fingers facing forward underneath your bust and your thumb wrapped around the back.
- Take a deep breath in. On the inhale, feel your pelvic floor relax. Try to minimize the movement of your chest and breath into your lower ribs, feeling your hands expand up and outward under your fingers in the front, on the sides, and around the back. Your rib cage is a 360° canister! It has a front, sides, and back.
- When you exhale your pelvic floor should activate automatically.
Chest Opener on a Foam Roller
This one feels incredible for opening up your chest.
I think my face is the best part of this stretch
- Lay the foam roller down so it runs along your spine
- Goal post your arms and let them fall to your sides. Don’t force your arms down, as they may want to hover a bit above the ground if you’re super tight.
Note: As you can see in the above photo, my chest is super tight. My husband was also trying to make me laugh. If your arms don’t fall to the ground, it’s ok. Don’t force it to the point of discomfort. Repeat this stretch daily and add a few additional chest openers to your routine 🙂
HERE is an option for a simple foam roller if you do not have one.
This is one of my favorite stretches to release low back tension.
- From the supine position (on your back), pull your knees to your chest and send them off to one side.
- Keep arms in a goal post position and gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. Hips and knees remain stacked.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch with Overhead Reach
During pregnancy our body tends to shift into an anterior pelvic tilt position (booty out, lower back arch). We tend to hang in this position postpartum too, which often results in super tight hip flexors because of the position of the pelvis.
This “tightness” often translates to low back pain and pain elsewhere as other muscles try to pull the legs into position (IT Band, Hamstrings). Your hip flexors also tighten up to try to create stability. Usually the tightness is caused by weakness of the hip flexors and hamstrings. So, Step 1: Gain Mobility in the Hip Step 2: Strengthen. The half kneeling hip flexor stretch is a great way to create some mobility and release that tension.
- Start in a lunge position (use a mat/pad for knee support)
- Stay nice and tall through your spine (as neutral as possible). Since the hip flexor attaches to the front of our spine this is important.
- Tuck your butt underneath us by squeezing your glute (light contraction)
- Small range of motion here. Most often people push super far forward. In this instance you’re actually missing the muscle, so it’s not as effective
- Take your hands underneath your butt cheek and push forward (I found touching my booty helps me get into position).
- Option to reach your arm for a reach and stretch on your exhale breath (same arm as the leg behind you)
Figure Four Glute Stretch
Pictured here as Seated Figure Four, which is also a great option.
- From the supine position lift your knees and feet to a tabletop.
- Cross one ankle over your knee and flex your foot.
- Wrap both hands around your thigh and gently pull your leg toward your body as you breathe.
Banded Hamstring Stretch
You’ll need either a long resistance band or a towel for this stretch. I recommend this one HERE.
Extend one leg long, loop the band or towel around the other leg and send it toward the ceiling. With your foot flexed toward your face and a soft bend in your knee relax and breathe. On each exhale you can pull your foot closer toward your face if it feels good.
Squat to Stand or Deep Squat Hold
- Take a wide legged stance and come to a deep squat.
- Grab your toes with your hands and then send your hips high. Legs will maintain a soft bend and you’ll feel a good stretch in your hamstrings (back of your leg).
- Return to your squat. Move through range of motion for 30 seconds
Another great option is a deep squat. I recommend propping up on a yoga block to support your pelvis and low back.
Child’s pose with lateral reach
This was one of my favorite yoga poses / stretches during pregnancy and postpartum.
- Sink into your child’s pose position – big toes to toes, knees extend out towards the edges of your mat (only as wide as is comfortable). A great option to rest your belly on a pillow in front.
- From your child’s pose position take both hands and reach them towards one side.
Note: If you experience any pelvic pain or discomfort, please do not continue or try this stretch from a quadruped (on all fours) position, shifting your hips slowly towards one side. I also recommend taking this stretch in front of a wall, simply shifting your body to one side and feeling the stretch along the opposite side body.
Need more mobility and stretch ideas? Feel free to reach out – I’d love to help 🙂
Feel good mama.