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Prenatal Yoga - Stretches for Back Pain

by Emeka Olumba

Pregnancy is a unique and wonderful time in a woman’s life and back pain is a common experience that can occur. I taught my students several safe, relaxing, prenatal yoga poses during their pregnancies to help alleviate their back pain. Some women may require a more individualized routine. If you are pregnant and experience back pain, you should first consult your doctor on the type of exercise appropriate for you.

The Causes of Back Pain During pregnancy

Your baby growing in the uterus and the associated weight gain pulls your lower body forward. To counter-balance this forward pull, the upper part of your torso and shoulders naturally tilt back. This change in physical posture, and center of gravity, puts constant tension on your lower back. Tight hamstrings can also put added strain your back muscles and spine during your pregnancy.

Hamstring Stretch

Start by sitting on the floor with your back against a wall, your legs extended forward in front of you and your toes pointing upwards toward the ceiling.

Bend your right leg and place the bottom of your right-foot against your inner left thigh. Take a slow breath in and gently lean forward as you breathe out. If possible, hold on to your left foot. If you cannot reach your left foot, hold onto to your ankle or wrap a belt around your left foot and hold onto the belt. You should feel a gentle stretch mostly on your hamstrings during this pose.

While you are in this position, be still; take calm, gentle breathes.

Hold this position for 10-15 seconds then gently let go of your left foot or the belt and slowly sit up. Repeat this stretch with your other leg. Stretch both legs again, this time holding the stretch for 15-30 seconds on each side.

Back Stretch: Cat and Dog Tilt

Kneel on your hands and knees, keeping your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Your arms should be straight but relaxed; keep your elbows soft, not locked.

Slowly breathe in and out, keeping your breath steady. As you breathe in, slowly arch your back upwards; tuck your buttocks under your spine, and gradually allow your head to hang.

 

As you breathe out, slowly arch your back downwards; tilt your buttocks up, and lift your head up.

Repeat each pose 5 to 7 times. Take a break in between poses for 3 to 5 seconds. Each time you repeat, hold each pose for 4 to 5 seconds, remembering to breathe.

The Open Twist

 

Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed; keep your back straight, opening the chest by pressing the shoulders back and down.

It is important to remember to keep your baby safe and comfortable in the womb by avoiding deep twists, which compress the belly. Avoiding deep twists is simple: do not extend your arm across your belly. This causes the deeper twist that will compress your belly.

Place your left hand on top of your left knee and your right hand on the floor beside your right thigh. Take a breath in, and as you breathe out, gently twist to the right turning your torso and your head to the right without forcing the twist. Hold the twist gently for 5 to 7 seconds, remembering to breathe gently during the stretch.

Now, twist in the opposite direction. Place your right hand on your right knee and your left hand beside your left thigh. Take a breath in, and as you breathe out, gently twist to the left turning your torso and your head to the left without forcing the twist. Hold the twist gently for 5 to 7 seconds, remembering to breathe gently during the stretch.

Staff Pose Against a Wall

 

Sit comfortably on the floor with your back resting against a wall and your legs extended in front of you. Place a small comfortable pillow between the wall and your lower back.

With your eyes closed, take deep gentle breaths and hold this position for 5-7 minutes.

Final notes

Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods; these positions will cause back pain especially during the latter part of your pregnancy. Always practice Yoga in a peaceful environment and wear clothes that are soft and comfortable.