1. EXTENSION IN LYING Many of our daily activities, particularly caring for young children, involve flexion of our lower backs (think: every time you bend to pick up your child, to pick something up off the floor, etc). If we don’t bend from our hips, and instead bend from our backs (which often happens when we’re fatigued), then these movements will increase the load onto our discs. (NB: for more on how to bend correctly, check this out!) Extension exercises will help to increase the mobility of our lower backs and help to decrease the load on our discs. Lying down on your belly, place your hands at about shoulder height. Keeping your elbows close to your body, perform a push up without lifting your hips from the floor. Breathing out at the end of the push up will help to further increase the extension of your lower back. This movement should be performed slowly both as you’re going up and as you go back down.
2. BOW & ARROW As women look after young children there is a constant rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine), particularly with breast feeding. So to avoid this area of the spine tightening up, and to be able to better use the shoulders as well, we need to stretch the upper back. If you have a foam roller, place it under your upper back and lean backwards on it. Support your neck by placing your hands behind it. Go back as far as it is comfortable. Hold it for 20 sec repeat 5 times. Alternatively, place a rolled towel under your upper back. Bow and arrow: Lying down on your side with your hips and knees bent to around 90 degrees, reach your arms straight out in front. As if you are going to shoot an arrow, bring the top arm towards your chest rotating to the side. Do 2 sets of 10 on each side.
3. HIP fLEXOR STRETCHES: Stretching the hip flexor muscles will ensure an adequate length also for the gluteal muscles, which are the biggest in our body and therefore work more efficiently as you walk with load in your arms as in carrying a child. Kneeling on the floor bring one leg in front with the knee bent at 90 degrees. Lean forward until you feel a comfortable stretch at the front of the hip on the leg that has the knee on the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, 3 times on each leg. By placing your back foot on a chair, you increase the intensity of the stretch, and make it a combined hip flexor and quads stretch.
4. PEC STRETCHES: Stretching the muscles in the anterior (front) part of our body is essential to maintain a healthy spine as well as shoulders. Mums spend long periods of time in a forward position tightening the pectoral muscles which can increase the risk of developing shoulder pain. Pec stretches are great for the mobility of the shoulders and for opening up the chest. Using a door jamb bring your arm to 90 degrees at the shoulder and elbow. Turn your body away from the door. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, 3 times on each side. Alternatively, both shoulders can be done at the same time. You don’t have to do all stretches at once. Spread them throughout the day to keep on top of your flexibility, and balance out the hard work you do across the rest of the day!