Abdominal Exercises for Everyone
Exercises for your abs may bring to mind hard workouts that leave you gasping for breath. The truth is that even the smallest exercise can have a lasting effect on your abdominal muscles. That said, exercising your abs should always be a part of your workout. There are abdominal exercises that can be done by everyone, including when you are very pregnant or newly postpartum.
Your breath and breathing will be a very important key to many things in your pregnancy. Exercise and fitness are only the beginning of the need to be aware of your breath. Do not be tempted to ignore your breathing. It will be the key to relaxation in labor and will help you focus. It will help you to exercise and tone your muscles through appropriate concentration. It also tones your mind as well as your body.
Deep abdominal breathing sounds easy. The good news is that it is very easy. Learning to do true deep abdominal breathing while pregnant is simple, because you've got a great target — your baby. Sit in a tailor position and sit up with your spine as elongated as possible.
Close your eyes and inhale very deeply. Imagine taking the air in and directing it toward your baby. If you have trouble breathing slowly, try counting your breaths. Slowly count to five as you inhale. Hold that breath for several seconds and then slowly release the breath for a count of five.
Stronger and Tighter Abs
Sit on a birth ball with your feet about hip-distance apart. Sit up on the ball and elongate your spine (see FIGURE 10-4). You want to keep your spine elongated and pull your abdominal muscles in toward your belly button as you exhale. If it helps you, imagine coughing to find the abdominal muscles. Breathe normally as you do this exercise. Repeat the exercise ten times. This is an exercise that is appropriate for all phases of pregnancy and recovery. It is also great for beginning relaxation.
Seated on a birth ball, place your hands on your abdomen. Tilt your pelvis and as you inhale pull your abdominal muscles inward. Feel your abdomen move as your hands rest on them. Hold the pose for five seconds, while breathing. Repeat this exercise ten times.
Tilts, Curls, and More
Kneeling Abdominal Curl
Kneeling on the floor with your hands forward, palms down, tilt your pelvis in, pulling your baby toward the center of your body (see FIGURE 7-10). Hold this pose for a count of ten. Repeat ten times. You can also do this by leaning across a chair to support your upper body.
Pelvic Rock/Pelvic Tilt
This is a hallmark pregnancy exercise. It provides so many benefits. You will see it mentioned in many categories because of its importance to your health and fitness status. The basic pelvic tilt is done on hands and knees, with your back straight, not sagging (see FIGURE 5-7). Isolate your pelvis and tilt it toward your abdomen. As you do so, inhale and hold your breath to the count of five. Imagine pulling your abdominal muscles in at your belly button. Slowly release to a neutral position.
Side Bending (Tail Wagging)
This is a great exercise that can also provide you with a stretch. On hands and knees, with your back straight and not sagging, slowly pull your right hip toward your right shoulder (see FIGURE 10-5). The only part of your body that moves is your hips. Be sure to hold your shoulders and upper body still. Go as far as is comfortable for your body. Repeat this exercise ten times on each side. You can do these exercises one side at a time or alternate one side and then the next. To modify this exercise, try leaning over a chair or a birth ball to support your upper body. This is also a great exercise if you are having side pain.
Side Bending (Tail Wagging)