1. Squatting. Squat for one minute, ten times a day, with the idea of being able to squat for longer and longer periods. Squat to clean out the refrigerator. Squat to change the TV channel (and stay there awhile). Squat to fold laundry.
2. Tailor sitting. Chances are you did a lot of sitting cross-legged on the floor when you were a child. Spend ten minutes, two or three times a day, in this position, reading, knitting, having dinner, or doing something else that allows you to remember your posture. Gradually increase the length of time you sit.
3. Tailor stretching (a variation of tailor sitting). With your back against a wall (or front of a sofa) uncross your legs and put your feet together sole to sole. Then see how far apart you can get your knees. You should be able to improve your flexibility by using your hands and arms to lightly move your knees, one at a time, downward. Don’t force them, especially if you have a history of knee problems.
4. Rotate shoulders. Take the time at the end of a tailor stretch to do a few shoulder circles, bringing your shoulders forward and up, as if to touch your ears, and back around and down. Keep your arms relaxed. The shoulder and neck muscles you stretch with this exercise are ones that easily get over-tensed in labor (and when nursing a newborn).
5. The pelvic tilt. The pelvic tilt is great for alleviating pressure on your lower back during pregnancy. It can be done sitting, standing, on all fours, or in the “leapfrog” position. Keep your lower back completely flat while you “scrunch” in your abdominal muscles and pull your rear end under you. When doing the tilt on all fours, take special care not to sway your back. As you inhale, tuck your buttocks under you and hold for three seconds. As you exhale, return to the relaxed, flat-back position. Repeat fifty times, four times a day, or more if you have a backache. Some women do their pelvic floor exercises simultaneously. The pelvic tilt can also be done lying on your back, but only if you are in your first trimester. (After the fourth month of pregnancy, exercising on your back can be unhealthy for your baby as the weight of your uterus in this position could press on the major blood vessels that lie alongside your spine.) Lying on your back, bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Prop your head up a bit (a throw pillow works well). Take a deep breath; then, as you exhale, push your lower back against the floor. After a few repetitions, try the tilt with the pelvic rock (described above) by elevating your hips slightly and rotating them in a circle. You might also want to do the “buttocks curl,” in which you first do the pelvic tilt, then gradually bring your knees up toward your chest and hold for three seconds before putting your feet back on the floor.
6. The knee-chest stretch. This position relieves lower back pain and is one of the positions favored by laboring mothers. Assume an “all fours” position on hands and knees, and then gently lower your weight onto your elbows and forearms, supported by a pillow or two. Now lower your head, cradling it on your forearms. Keep your hips up, directly over your knees and supported by your stomach muscles. Practice staying in this position for five minutes at a stretch.