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Prenatal Pilates: 4 gentle exercises for lower back ache relief

I don’t quite remember having much issues with lower back pain in general pre-pregnancy, probably due to my lifestyle which is generally quite active! I used to dislike sitting down, so I’m usually standing/walking around or otherwise lying down haha. But ever since I became pregnant, standing for prolonged periods has been out of the question (anyway it supposedly causes things like varicose veins to appear so I try to avoid standing still the same way for too long!) and instead I’ve found myself sitting a lot more. I do find it hard to find a comfortable position sitting sometimes, which results in lower back aches sometimes.

It’s certainly one of the most common issues that I’ve heard fellow mummies-to-be talking about, so here are some of my favourite exercises to relieve the aches.

1. Pelvic Rocks

While it’s not recommended to lie on your back for prolonged periods of time from the 2nd trimester onwards, this is still one of my favourite exercises! I guess when baby gets much bigger in 3rd tri, I’ll probably have to swap this out for the seated roll back (see below), but I really like how this one on my back really gets into that achy spot between my hip bone and buttocks.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip width apart. I suggest that you lie on your thickest mat/carpet for good cushioning (not on the bed though, that’s too soft). Imagine that you have a bowl of water filled to the brim on your pelvis (aka your hips). As you exhale, rock your hips towards you, imagining spilling water from that bowl onto your belly. Your lower back will flatten onto the mat. Inhale to rock the hips away from you in the opposite direction, thinking of spilling the water onto your thighs now, and creating an arch under your lower back. Relax your shoulders while you’re doing this – you want the movement to be mostly in the hips, not your entire body rocking up & down the mat.

2. Bridging

Bridging

This is a progression of the pelvic rocks. Hopefully you’ve felt some relief in your lower back after the rocking. Settle into your neutral spine position which is somewhere in between the two extremes of the rocking – where there is a little gap under your lower back due to the natural curve of your spine, but it’s not deliberately arched.

From the neutral spine, rock your hips towards you once more (just like in the pelvic rock), and imagine that you’re trying to spill even more water out of that bowl as you continue to tilt your hips in that same direction and lift your bottom off the mat. Peel your spine off the ground one bit at a time, from your bum, lower back, mid back and upper back – till you are balancing on the widest part of your shoulder blades. Take care to keep your tailbone tucked and reaching upwards for that lower back stretch (as opposed to having the lower back arched which is going to worsen the aches). To lower back down, start from the upper back, and lay the spine down one segment at a time from the mid back, lower back and finally the tailbone to come back into your neutral spine.

This is a lovely stretch for the lower back when done correctly, and also a great workout for your hamstrings & glutes.

3. Seated roll back

Seated roll back

As you progress in your pregnancy, you might not feel comfortable lying on your back for the pelvic rocks. If that’s the case, start in a seated position instead, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You might have your feet slightly wider than your hips when seated, to accommodate your belly. Sit up tall on your sitting bones (you should be able to feel them in contact with the mat when you wiggle your bum) and have your hands behind your knees for support.

The movement is similar to the pelvic rock. As you exhale, start to curl from your tailbone to roll down, while keeping your hands behind your knees and FEET ON THE FLOOR. This is essential for mummies-to-be! Don’t let your feet come off the floor, because you don’t want to lose your balance and topple backwards. Start with a small movement first, then as your breathe in, sit back up on your sitting bones.

4. Cat/cow flow

Cat/cow flow

Start in your all-fours position with your hands under your shoulders, knees slightly wider than your hips (to accommodate your belly as you flow). As you exhale, round your spine into the angry cat position, tucking your tailbone. You will already feel a stretch in your lower back when you do this. Begin to send your bum backwards towards your heels as you continue to round the spine and experience a further release in your lower back as you do so, ending in a wide-legged child’s pose. To return, inhale to lift your gaze and chest, and press into your fingertips to roll your bum off your heels, back into the all-fours cow position. Repeat this flow a few times, and you can also reverse this by flowing back to your heels in the cow position and rounding the spine to return to the all-fours cat position.

Hope you find these exercises helpful in releasing that lower back tension! Check our my IGTV video for the demonstration. It’s essential to be in the right posture when you are doing the exercises! If you’re unsure (especially for the bridging exercise), hit me up for a private prenatal Pilates session where I can give you 1-to-1 guidance to ensure that your form is correct, and also to customise a movement regime for you that is suited to your chaining body and needs.

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