Continuing on from my last post regarding alignment…Stop a minute, right now, and check your postural alignment. If you’re sitting, are you leaning to one side? Are your feet flat on the floor? Is the small of your back flat against the back of your chair? If you’re standing, is your weight balanced between your feet? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Is one hip shifted higher than the other?
I know these may sound like funny questions -and you may be thinking what the heck do they have to do with my pregnancy or postpartum recovery, but hold on and bear with me here. This is so important and it’s something I wish I had known about during my first pregnancy, but even back in the â€œancientâ€ years of 2006/2007, there wasn’t all that much talk about this kind of subject matter and how it relates to prenatal and postnatal health and wellness!
Posture isn’t just about standing like a ballerina or walking around like you have a book balancing on your head. It’s about standing, sitting, or moving in a way that sets your load bearing joints/bones nicely in line with one another so that minimal amounts of stress or strain are placed on the body’s muscles and ligaments. When the bones and joints are aligned correctly, your muscles work in conjunction with one another. When posture is incorrect, some muscles overcompensate to support the body’s posture and experience additional strain while the underutilized muscles become weak. Proper postural alignment prevents such things like:
- Chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Foot, knee, hip, and back injuries
- Pelvic floor disorders
- Worsening of Diastasis Recti
- Muscle atrophy and weakness
- Difficulty breathing
- Digestion issues
- Impingement and nerve compression
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
As you can tell, this is especially important for the pre and postnatal periods in a mama’s life! Holding yourself in proper postural alignment during pregnancy helps to alleviate many of the aches and pains mentioned above, but it also helps to keep baby in a better position in utero as well.
When your baby is born, it takes a while (most people say at least nine months, although the first few weeks are generally the most critical) for everything to get back to the new normal. During that time, your center of balance still feels off, your body is still flooded with the hormone relaxin which loosens your ligaments so that the baby can pass through your pelvis, and your abs are weak from being all stretched out when they were holding in a baby.
Plus, your uterus takes time to shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size (about the size of your closed fist). Getting everything settled properly again in your core is less about how things look externally, and more about your ongoing health internally. We’ve talked before about the problems that can arise with prolapse or weakness in your core, and this ties in as well. If your posture is off, and your core is weak, it’s only a matter of time before you might hurt yourself.
So how do I get into proper postural alignment you ask? Well, let’s go over that now:
How to maintain correct alignment while standing:
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Balance your weight evenly throughout each foot and between both feet.
- Your toes should be facing forward. You can have them slightly turned out when you are squatting with both feet. In other stances like a split stance (lunge position), you will want to make sure that your toes are pointed forward.
- Maintain your normal curve in your lower back. Your pelvis should not be tucked under or tilted forward.
- Hips should remain level with one another.
- Your ribs should be stacked over your hips. Rib cage should not be flared up or pulled down excessively.
- Lengthen your spine by lifting the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Imagine someone pulling a string up at the top of your head.
- Relax your shoulders back and down.
- Tuck your chin slightly so that it does not poke forward.
- When carrying your little one, hold baby up close to your chest, so there is less of a tendency to push your stomach out when holding him/her in front. When holding baby on your hips, don’t hike up the hip on which you are carrying your little one. Keep those hips level.
How to maintain correct alignment while sitting:
- Sit on a bench, chair, stool or exercise ball.
- Feet should be flat on the floor.
- Position your feet about hip width apart.
- Toes should be facing forward.
- Balance your weight evenly between your sit bones.
- Maintain the normal curve in your lower back. Your tailbone should not be tucked under or your pelvis should not be tilted forward.
- Your ribcage should be stacked over your hips. Again, not puffed up or pulled down towards your belly button.
- Lengthen your spine by lifting the crown of your head towards the crown of your head ceiling.
- Relax your shoulders down and back.
- Tuck your chin slightly so that it does not poke forward.
- When feeding your little one, keep baby close to your chest and his/her belly button in line with yours. Stack baby up on some pillows so that you can stay upright and maintain proper alignment. Also, bring baby up to you rather than leaning forward when trying to get him/her to latch on.
To get stronger, what you need to do is start by getting your alignment right and then work on strengthening your core and pelvic floor through breathing and restorative type core exercises. Many moms run to do crunches and kegels, but the truth is that if your posture has already been compromised, you might need some more specialized direction to make sure you get back on track without causing more damage and hurting yourself more.
This is why VixieMama was created to help women maintain their strength and fitness both during and after pregnancy, and to remind women that as mothers they also deserve time for themselves and their health and wellbeing.
Too many fitness trainers are not familiar with the specific needs of prenatal and postnatal women. If you just dive back in with a trainer who doesn’t have experience with pregnant women, you may end up doing more harm than good. Start improving your posture today by contact VixieFit to learn about how to revamp your posture and strengthen your body so that you can be your healthiest you.
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