If the first trimester of pregnancy (week 1 to about 12) is a time for nurturing through rest and gentle movements to prevent your body from turning into a piece of wood, your second trimester (week 13 to 26) should see you feeling more like yourself again, hooray! You now have more energy and although your bump will start to become more visible, it will remain manageable.
A whole series of hormonal changes have been taking place to make a comfy home for your baby. You may also have noticed that your body seems to have gained in flexibility and you are right. This is due to the increased production of the hormone relaxin which makes your ligaments softer and your joints looser in preparation for giving birth.
Although increased flexibility seems like a bonus ("Splits, here I come!"), it can sometimes translate into various discomforts such as flatter feet, pain in the knees, ankles, pelvic girdle and back. To alleviate this kind of ailments, the key is often to focus on supporting and strengthening.
In Maintaining Strength Part I & II, I offer you 10 poses or movements which will help create stability for those most commonly troubled areas. A big thank you to Pepa Yepes for taking the pictures! You can see her work on her website, Facebook page and on Instagram (pepayepes).
1 - Stand in Tadasana with your feet hip-width apart. Distribute your weight evenly onto the four corners of your feet and spread your toes. Grip your mat firmly with your toes, lifting the arches of your feet and release, relaxing the toes. Repeat 10 times.
If you prefer, do this exercise one foot at a time and if your balance is a bit off, come close to a wall. This exercise will help reinforce and support the arches of your feet.
2 - Next, lift your right heel off the mat, coming onto your toes and pushing your heel forward. Hold for a couple of breaths and roll over the toes, arching the foot and now stretching the front of the foot and ankle. Hold for a couple of breaths and release. Alternate 5 times on each side.
3 - Still standing in Tadasana, press down on your heels, bending your knees and maintaining your back straight. Your knees should be pointing forward. Next, straighten your legs and start lifting your heels to come onto your tip toes.
If your knees collapse in toward each other, place a Pilates ball or a block between your inner thighs. Check your alignment into a mirror to get some visual feedback and don't hesitate to use the wall if you are feeling a bit wobbly. Repeat 10 times.
4 - Squats: Establish a comfortable distance between your feet to accommodate your growing bump and check that they are parallel, toes pointing forward. As you exhale, bend your knees to bring your thighs parallel to the floor, lowering your hips back and down, reaching your arms out in front. As you inhale, straighten the legs to come up, bringing your pelvis back above your feet, lowering your arms by your sides. Repeat 20 times at your own pace to build endurance and strength in your legs and glutes.
Apologies for not having a picture for the following exercise. The tree trunks were far from smooth! ;-)
5 - Supported Chair Pose: Place your back against a wall, maintaining a neutral spine (you should feel a gap between the wall and your lower back). Step your feet forward and about hip-width apart. Bend your knees, bringing them above your ankles, hips in line with the knees or slightly higher but not lower. You might have to adjust the distance between your feet and the wall if you notice that your knees are going past your ankles. Hold for 8 breaths and repeat twice more.
You can stop here taking a few moments of silence with your hands in Anjali mudra or continue to Maintaining Strength Part II for the next 5 poses. If sitting onto your heels as shown on the picture above feels uncomfortable even for a few moments, raise your seat onto a bolster or a couple of blocks!