I use birthing balls with my ladies in pregnancy yoga classes as often as I can. They are handy for sitting on and working with to ease up the aches and pains, to keep the back in a good position as well as strengthening the body ready for labour.
So in this blog post I wanted to show you five exercises that you can do yourself at home using a birthing ball. The reason that I am sharing this is that I find that ladies often buy these birthing balls or gym balls but aren't sure what exercises to do on them - so here are a few that you can do easily at home.
A few tips before you start:
- Make sure that you have a ball that is big enough for you (i.e. when you sit you want your hips to be above your knees)
- Make sure your ball is fully inflated
- Work on a surface where the ball won't slide away from under you.
- Pregnancy yoga is usually practiced from after 12-14 weeks of pregnancy (i.e. after the first trimester)
- If you are suffering from Pelvic Girdle Pain / Pubic Symphisis Disorder please see your GP or physio before embarking on any of these exercises. If this is the case, the advice is to keep the feel and legs closer together to stabilize the pelvic.
- If you are unsure about any of the exercises shown here please seek advice from a pregnancy yoga teacher or other professional (e.g. physio).
- Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and take big deep breaths. Listen to your body - if anything doesn't feel right - just stop and have a rest!
1. Hip Circles
Sit on the ball with your feet at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock i.e. the feet wide apart. Make sure the feet have good contact with the ground and are at a 45 degree angle with the ankles sitting underneath the knees or wider. This means that you are stable. Make sure as you move, the feet do not move up off the floor - they need to remain grounded throughout.
Place your hands on your hips.
Begin by circling the hips clockwise.
Go slowly and move with the breath.
Make the circles a little bigger as you work and pay attention to any sensations you feel.
After a few minutes switch to anti-clockwise.
2. Hip rocks and scoops
After moving the hips in circles, try rocking from side to side and rocking back and forwards.
Placing your hands onto your hips can help you feel this movement as you do it.
Once you have done this place one hand just under your bump and one hand on your lower back and try scooping the pelvis forward and up.
Any movements of the pelvis here on the ball will help to relieve lower back ache and keep the pelvic area supple and strong.
3. Forward Bend
After moving your hips using the instructions above, keep the feet in the same place as you sit on the ball - wide at 10 and 2 o'clock.
Begin to lean forward, tilting from the hips and rest your elbows onto your knees (see image above - lady on the left). Hold here for several breaths .
Wiggle the bottom a little behind you.
Relax the head and muscles down the back if you can and breath deeply.
Note: If you have low blood pressure and get light-headed easily keep the head up.
Some of you may be able to walk the hands down the legs to reach the floor (see image above - lady on the right). Only do this if this feels comfortable.
4. Squat Against the Wall
Find a wall and facing away from the wall, place the ball at the base of your spine and lean into it and the wall for support.
Set the feet wide with the feet pointing out at a 45 degree angle. You may need to adjust once you start - so see how this feels.
Leaning into the ball, slowly start to squat a little - maybe just bending the knees a few inches. Then straighten the knees again to come up.
Repeat several times seeing if you can go a little lower. In the image above, the lady on the left feels comfortable bending deeply but on the right she is keeping it really shallow and gentle.
Go slow and steady and don't hold the squat once you are down there - come straight up using your glutes (buttocks) to assist you. If you move with the breath it will stop you from holding the squat too low. Inhale to go down and exhale to rise up (try also lifting the pelvic floor at the same time).
This will help to work and strengthen the powerful leg muscles and buttocks.
5. Pelvic Floor Work
During pregnancy is is important to carry out pelvic floor exercises regularly as there is increasing pressure on the pelvic floor due to the weight of your baby and pregnancy hormones. The pelvic floor is the name for the group of muscles that form a hammock at the base of your pelvic.
You can either sit on the ball again or kneel on the floor leaning forward onto the ball for support (see image above for examples).
Close your eyes, tune into your breath.
Breath in (inhale) and squeeze the whole of the pelvic floor (like you are trying to stop a wee and poo at the same time).
Breath out (exhale) and release.
Do this for 10 counts.
Repeat three times.
Try not to squeeze your buttocks as you do these exercises and keep your breath flowing with the movements. It's ok to be using your lower abdominal muscles as you do the squeezes.
You can then try out any other pelvic floor exercise that you usually do using the ball as well.
Give these exercises a try at home!
You can also just use the birthing ball for general sitting. Why not replace that slouchy sofa with sitting on a birthing ball when you relax in the evening. Or lean forward onto it any time you need to relax. Use it at work instead of your work chair or bring it with you to the dining room.
A birthing ball is especially helpful when you are in labour too! If you are comfortable with using the birthing ball during pregnancy, then when labour starts you will be right at home. I personally spent hours of my own labour at home sat on a birthing ball (watching comedy programmes) rocking the hips or leaning forward over it. This and essential yoga breathing really were my best friends!
And finally a BIG THANK YOU to my two pregnant ladies (Louise and Janell) in the pictures above who stayed late after class to demonstrate these movements for the photos!
For more information on pregnancy yoga please click here.
For more information on Pelvic Floor see this article by the NCT
To take a look at my 7-day mini course in pregnancy yoga click here.
To view my online courses Relax Mama Relax - Guided Relaxations and Breathing Exercises for Pregnancy and Birth Preparation click here