Whether you just had your baby or are about to, you’ve probably never felt this tired in your life.
So thinking about having a good posture is most likely, well, so not on your list! 🙂
But good posture is not only essential for the health of the spine and for the proper functioning of the organs, it also has a direct effect on our outlook on life, usually bringing upon a more positive frame of mind.
For the prenatal mama, a healthy posture encourages baby’s optimal positioning in the womb, and can help mama find more comfort during pregnancy.
For the postpartum mama, a healthy posture can help to stabilize the structural imbalance that pregnancy and postnatal carrying / feeding baby may have created in the body, thus playing an important role in postnatal recovery.
Such a powerful tool!
This is what we often look like pregnant:
– increased spinal curvatures
– weight shifts forwards
– increased anterior pelvic tilt
Which can lead to:
– upper back tension
– pain in the lower back and pubic area.
And this is what we often look like postnatal:
– increased posterior pelvic tilt
– slouched shoulders with forward “drooping” head
– right body/left body imbalance (due to holding baby usually on the same side)
Which can lead to:
– upper and lower back pain
– weakened abdominal muscles
– shortened pelvic floor muscles
And this is what we’re aiming for:
– earlobe • shoulder • hip articulation • ankle – aligned in a vertical line
Which can lead to:
– eternal happiness… just checking to see if you’re paying attention 🙂
So, it’s not magic, and even though you most likely have just enough energy to think (let alone think of having good posture), here are 10 tips for finding your healthy posture.
Try these exercises while going for a walk, whether it be a pregnant or postnatal stroll, and once you’ve practiced them while walking, they can be applied to day-to-day life, sitting or standing.
#1: CREATE LENGTH IN THE SPINE (GET “TALLER”)
If you do yoga, you’ve probably heard this one before. It’s a fantastic cue.
Imagine that you are adding space in between the vertebrae. Start at the bottom of the spine, and gently make your way up the spine, feeling that you’re getting taller and taller until you make it all the way to the crown of the head.
This simple action may very well already breathe lightness into your face and body, and things may even seem a little less “heavy”, a morale-booster! (When our posture is slouchy, this actually weighs down onto the muscles of the spine as well as the organs in the torso, thus actually making us feel heavier)!
#2: “ELEVATOR” BREATHING
Once you’ve found your long spine, we add the breath.
Inspired by 3 part breathing, this breathing exercise will help to bring the breath down into the belly and have it fill the entire body.
Start the inhale breath in your belly, then let it travel up the torso like an elevator, filling the rib cage, sides of the body and finally the lungs. Exhale, come back down the “elevator”, emptying the lungs, ribs and belly.
Inhale: belly, rib cage, lungs fill up
Exhale: lungs, rib cage, belly empty out
Nourishing for the body, this is also an excellent breathing tool in preparation for birth.
*You can add Ujjayi breathing here if you like
#3: SHOULDERS OPEN, “HEART SHINE”!
Roll the shoulders a few times, front to back.
Then do one last shoulder roll, forward, up and back – from there, very gently and lightly let the shoulders release and deposit themselves “onto” the rib cage, as naturally as you can. You should feel the shoulders more “open”, or wider.
Keep this “opening” action in the shoulders, and bring your breath into the space between the shoulder blades. Ahh….
From there, imagine that your heart wants to shine outwards 🙂 ! Gentle rays or voluminous I’m-filling-the-room rays, going with whatever you feel today. Let your heart “fill up the space” that has been created in the body by opening the shoulders.
If this “heart shine” idea doesn’t mean anything to you, just think of poking your boobs out a bit. 😉
* Avoid squeezing the shoulder blades together
* Helps remove stress in the shoulder area
#4: LIGHT UP THE ABS!
Activating the abdominal muscles will sustain and support the length in the spine that we are aiming for, and is essential in prenatal health and postnatal recovery.
To “light up the abs”, there are 2 actions to think of doing, simultaneously:
- Belly button (or baby if you’re pregnant) towards the spine
- Tips of the hips towards each other
This will activate the transverse abdominal and “core” musculature, creating a kind of corset of support around the spine. It’s a lovely way to feel supported, uplifted, and even a bit “lighter”. (And it feels so good to finally feel the abs again when you’re a postnatal mama.)
*”Tips of the hips” is actually referring to the right and left Anterior Superior Iliac Spine, the pointy parts at the front of the pelvis that you can press with your fingers
*The breath should remain steady and full, even while activating the abs.
#5: BACK OF HEAD ALIGNED WITH BACK OF PELVIS
Bring your attention to the back body, imagining that you want to align vertically the back of the head with the back of the pelvis.
You can use your hands to begin with if needed, by placing one hand on the back of the head and one on the back of the pelvis. Let your head move a little bit forward, then a little bit back, until you “align” vertically your 2 hands as best you can.
Even just bringing our awareness to the relation back of head/back of pelvis is powerful tool for cultivating good posture.
If you’re pregnant, there’s a chance your bum is sticking out. Try reducing the sway in the lower back by slightly tucking the tailbone forward. (posterior tilt)
If you’re postnatal, there’s a chance your bum is tucked in. Try bringing a little bit more of the natural curve back into the lower back by slightly sticking the bum out (slightly!!). (anterior tilt)
*The base of the chin should be more or less parallel to the ground
*Keep a slight bend in the knees to avoid hyper-extension in the knees
*Relax the jaw
A healthy and toned pelvic floor is vital for a sense of global well-being and for good posture. In yoga tradition, the pelvic floor is known as the “battery” of the body, source of vitality and life.
In regards to bettering our posture, engaging the pelvic floor will help to sustain the core musculature at the base of the torso.
If you’re not familiar with Kegels, here are 6 exercises to get you started. Then, while walking, think of gently adding Kegels to your stroll. Activate the perineum for a few a strides, then release for a few strides, repeating 5-10 times.
You may notice that adding Kegels to your walk helps to generate an “uplifted” feeling to your body, while continuing to tone the lower body. To sustain a good posture, a healthy and toned pelvic floor is essential.
*Breath should remain steady
*By creating connections with and strengthening the deep core muscles, incorporating movement to any Kegel work will help to integrate the pelvic floor exercises into the overall functionality of the body, this is what we’re aiming for!
Sighing releases tension and invites us to breathe deeply. A full breath oxygenates the body, nourishing and helping to strengthen the postural muscles surrounding the spine.
It’s also a great way to release tension in the body and mind.
#8: THE QUICK TROT FOOT MASSAGE 😉
While keeping the spine long, the shoulders open and the abs activated, try walking a little bit faster (think Olympic Speed Walk 🙂 ).
Notice how this change in pace may bring you to “feel” your legs a little bit more.
Then, press and root your feet into the ground with each step you take, almost as if to massage the ground with the soles of the feet as you walk, and again, notice how this also “lights up” the legs.
This very simple tool will help to create more circulation in the feet and legs, and throughout the entire body, as well as build tone in the leg muscles. Toned leg muscles will help to support the body in its standing posture.
*After a minute or two of “quick trot foot massaging”, take a pause to see the effect on the legs and on your posture
*If you’re pregnant, improving circulation can also help to reduce swelling in the legs and feet
*If you’re pregnant and your belly is heavy, this exercise may not be appropriate or comfortable, save it for a postnatal stroll with your baby!
#9: FOLLOW THE LEADER
This is a very interesting exercise. Essentially, we will let our walking be “lead” by different parts of the body.
Start with the feet. Imagine that your feet are “leading the way” for a few steps, noticing how it feels to you.
Then go to the hips. Let the hips lead your walking.
Moving up towards the heart region, imagine that your walk is being lead by your heart, or upper torso.
Then finally your nose. Let your nose lead the way.
Then, all four! Imagine that your entire body is moving as one vertical plane.
There is probably one of these versions that will seem the most comfortable and familiar to you. (When you’re pregnant you may feel like it’s your belly that’s leading the way.)
See if you can apply this same “vertical plane” to your posture once you’re standing still.
While thinking of keeping the spine long and incorporating the previous exercises, this exercise can help to rectify subtle shifts in weight that the body reverts to during and after pregnancy to compensate for possible muscular or structural weaknesses. Make sure to apply the other tips when you try this one out.
*You may look a bit funny doing this exercise 🙂
#10: RELAX WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE “WORKING”
You might also recognize this cue from yoga classes, another wonderful tip for good posture, but also for finding focus and relieving stress in day-to-day life, as well as being an excellent tool for birth preparation.
What does it mean?
You know how sometimes when you’re working hard on something, you realize at one point that you’re tensing up other parts of the body, say the forehead, jaw or shoulders, as if these parts of the body want to “work” with you? (Nice of them, but no thanks 😉 !)
Bring your attention to the feet and legs, although we’re maintaining tone there, can the toes (for example) relax a bit more? Or maybe the hips?
Then see if the shoulders and jaw are relaxed.
And finally the facial muscles. Bring your gaze a bit further ahead of you and think of relaxing all the “skin” of your face.
*Helps to calm and focus the mind by bringing the attention back to the present moment
*Breath remains full
* These are all cues that can be applied to your yoga practice, just as yoga looks to create a feeling of space in the body, so does a good posture.
* These tips can be applied to the pregnant and postnatal mama. Even the ab work during pregnancy, in all gentleness, will help to maintain the health of the spine, promote deep breathing and will keep the abdominal muscles responsive and ready for pushing, come labor.
By aiming at feeling the spine long and our body properly aligned, we can most definitely feel the effects on the mind, possibly bringing upon a more positive, refreshed, or simply more awake outlook.
Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. 🙂 I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→
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