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Prenatal Pilates: 4 exercises to help you breathe better as baby gets bigger

Updated: May 1, 2023

As I progressed from the 2nd to the 3rd trimester, I was so amazed at how my belly seemed to be growing at an exponential rate! Even my students noticed whenever I came into class – week after week they would comment on how they could really notice my belly getting bigger. It was pretty amusing considering how many people said that they could barely tell that I was pregnant for the longest time! As baby starts to get bigger, some mummies might feel that it is becoming increasingly harder to breathe comfortably – especially while we have to don face masks whenever we head out this day (it’s really a pain!!!). Today I’ll share 4 exercises that you can do, to breathe deeper and more fully, so that you can get enough oxygen for both yourself and your growing baby.

Belly Breathing

Breathing is something that is so natural and unconscious, and yet when we get busy, we often end up not getting sufficient oxygen into our body because we take shallow breaths and only breathe into our chest. Instead, breathing deeper into the belly allows us to take more oxygen into the body, nourishing yourself and your baby, and allows us to connect internally with our deep inner core muscles, our pelvic floor, and our baby.

Find a comfortable seated position and have your hands under your belly, in a relaxed position. You don’t have to use your hands to hold your belly up, or grip it, just allow your belly to rest on your hands. As you take a breath in through your nose, send your breath deeper into your body, into the belly, allowing your belly to expand and fill your hands. As you breathe out fully through your mouth, think of drawing your belly button inwards and upwards, lifting your belly off your hands. Take 4-6 counts for each breath, slow down, and become more conscious of your breathing. Each breath is a cleansing internal shower for your body, and slowing down is a great way to cleanse the mind too.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing

If you feel like no matter how hard you try to breathe deeply into your belly but baby is getting in your way, it’s perfectly normal! The next 3 exercises will be about sending your breath into other spaces in your body, instead of trying to always breathe from the front and compete with baby who is pushing up against your ribcage.

For diaphragmatic breathing, wrap your hands around your ribs – four fingers in front and the thumb behind. It is a breath focusing on expanding through the sides of your ribcage. So instead of trying to breathe in from the chest, think of breathing into your hands which are wrapped around your ribs. As you breathe in, imagine that you are trying to push your ribs outwards (it is actually possible!). And as you breathe out, you may feel the ribcage narrowing in towards the center, and you might lengthen your spine a little taller.

Sidebend & breathing

Sidebend

If you find the previous of breathing a bit challenging to grasp (I know, sometimes your ribs just feel very stiff, and it’s tough to get them to expand outwards!), you can try this sidebend version as an alternative. Sit cross-legged, or in a Z-sit position (like in the picture), with your arms out to the sides in a T. Bring one hand to the floor as you sidebend and the other arm goes overhead, feeling a stretch in the side of the body and ribs. Breathe into that side of the ribs, and as you exhale, you can try to reach a little further. Return back to the center, and repeat on the other side.

Back breathing

Back breathing

The last exercise is about breathing into the back of the ribs. Again, this is something that might feel challenging to grasp, but be patient and keep trying! In a low kneeling position, have your knees mat-width wide, and fold your body forward until you come into this crouched position, with your belly resting in the space between your thighs. By coming into this position, you’re closing the space in the front of your body, which allows you to channel your breath into the back of your ribs instead. As you breathe in, feel your back widening and expanding – you can place your hand on your back to give yourself some feedback, try to breathe into your hand.

Ultimately, it’s not just about trying to employ just one of these breaths at a time. As you get more comfortable with breathing in the various ways, you can try to combine them all into one, breathing into the front, sides and back of your ribs to fully expand your thoracic capacity. Most importantly, don’t hold your breath!

If you need some additional visual guidance on how to do the exercises, check out my IGTV, or drop me a message to find out how you can join in one of my Prenatal Pilates classes!

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