Stretching is a great way to find some relief from the aches and pains of the perinatal period. Your body constantly changes throughout this time and tight muscles can come with the territory. Learning how to stretch appropriately can really help you feel better!
Before we get into some guidelines, I want to talk about relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone that’s released into your system during pregnancy that creates laxity in your joints to allow room for baby to grow and for your pelvis to expand during a vaginal birth. Relaxin stays in your system all throughout pregnancy and, if you breastfeed, will stay in your system until you are done breastfeeding. So, your body will be more “flexible” during the perinatal period and you need to be mindful of this.
1. Stretching Shouldn’t Hurt
There may be some discomfort when you stretch, but it definitely should not hurt. If you are performing a particular stretch and it hurts, that’s a sign that you need to back off. Usually, you can still perform that stretch, just don’t reach quite as far. Keep in mind that the relaxin in your system can make you feel like you’re more flexible than you are, so you need to protect the integrity of your joints and ligaments.
2. Don’t Bounce
When you’re performing a stretch, reach gently and slowly and when you get to the point where you feel the stretch, stop and hold there. Don’t lean back and then quickly lean back into the stretch. Stretching should be slow and deliberate.
Because stretching can be a little bit uncomfortable, some people can have the tendency to hold their breath while stretching. Fight this tendency! Holding your breath can create tension in the body, which is counterintuitive for stretching. Reach to the point of discomfort, then take long, deep, slow breaths and focus on relaxing the muscle that you are stretching.
4. Hold Your Stretch for 30-60 Seconds
Often, what I see with stretching is that people don’t hold the stretch for long enough. You want to reach to the point of feeling the stretch and then hold it there for at least 30 seconds to get some good benefits out of your stretching session. (remember, if it starts to hurt, back off)
This week, I’ll be sharing some stretches for both your upper and lower body. With the stress of the holidays quickly approaching, take some time to stretch your body and you’ll reap some great benefits, both physically and mentally!