Whether you’re in the first weeks or last few days of pregnancy, your chest, shoulders and ribs are common areas of the body to experience tension, restriction and pain. The following stretches can be used to help correct posture, open restriction and relieve tension, through all stages of pregnancy.
Make sure to use props, supports or modify any of the postures that may be uncomfortable for your body. Also be aware of compensation, such as collapsing into the low back or too much pressure into the wrists, as you stretch. Remember to breathe deeply and easily, and ideally practice poses and stretches for 5-10 mins through your day, always longer if possible!
Chest and shoulder opening work can also be continued post pregnancy to help relieve tension and improve posture from holding, carrying and nursing your baby.
*All of these stretches are safe for any trimester, but always remember to only do what your body is comfortable with on any given day.
Forearm on wall: shoulder opener
This pose releases mid and upper back tension and opens the chest and shoulders
- Interlock your fingers and place your forearms above the shoulders on the wall. Walk your feet back to below or past the hips, parallel to each other. Your knees can be straight or bent; do what is most comfortable for you.
- Release your head between your arms. Your head can also rest on the wall. Tilt your chin to your chest.
- Inhale and press your forearms into the wall, then press your shoulders and upper back towards the floor.
- Once you are satisfied with the stretch, push away from the wall and feel free to counter-stretch, creating a concave in the upper back, and settle into a neutral posture.
Standing shoulder stretch
This pose relieves tension in the chest, shoulders, mid and upper back.
- Stretch your arms up the wall keeping your palms flat and walking your feet under your hips. Be sure to keep your hips and feet parallel with each other.
- Your knees can be bent or straight. (Straighter legs will increase the stretch through the lower body.)
- Take an inhale and extend your arms up the wall. Exhale and press your chest and shoulders forward towards the wall/floor.
- To increase the stretch, press back into the thighs, remembering to not collapse into the low back.
This pose can also be done seated! This might be more ideal for you if you are in your third trimester to best support your hips and reduce pressure in the lower part of your spine.
- Place the front edge of a chair 1-2 feet away from the wall, sitting with your knees a comfortable distance apart. Turn your feet out slightly.
- Take an inhale and extend your arms up the wall as you would if you were standing. Exhale to stretch forward, dropping your chin and bringing chest towards the wall.
Elevated downward facing dog
This pose is great for the chest, spine and strengthening through the arms. It can also alleviate tension through the hamstrings and calves.
- Using a chair, hook your thumbs under the seat for stability (see the photo below for reference).
- Straighten the arms and walk the feet backward, parallel to each other. The knees can be bent as generously as needed or straightened to engage the hamstrings and calves.
- Inhale and push down into the palms to stretch the arms and shoulders, bringing length through the entire spine
- Keep the neck neutral, or bring the chin to chest, softening the gaze towards the floor.
- To release, walk the legs in and slowly come to stand.
*With all stretches and postures, be sure to listen to your body. Only deepen a stretch if it feels good to do so. Pain is not an indication of a good stretch. With any postures that bring your head below your heart, make sure you do not feel dizzy or lightheaded, and modify as you need.