After having a baby, it’s perfectly normal to feel like your body is a little off. "Your back, shoulders, and hips are likely to feel tight,” says Erica Ziel, a personal trainer in Newport Beach, CA.
These five moves will soothe common sore spots and help ease you back into a fitness program. “When you do these stretches, use your core muscles to deepen the stretch and get your core strength back,” Ziel says.
1. Hip Rolls
What they do: Open up your lower back and hips.
How to do them: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and arms along your sides. Press your lower back and heels into floor as you tilt your pelvis up. Slowly raise your hips off the floor until they are as high as you can lift them.
With your hips raised, bring your knees together and turn your toes toward each other. Slowly roll yourself down to the floor, one vertebra at a time, drawing in your ribs and keeping your knees pressed together.
Repeat five to eight times.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
What it does: Lengthens your lower back.
How to do it: Position yourself on the floor on all fours. Keep your wrists in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
Slowly straighten your legs and lift your hips until your body forms a V-shape. “Be sure to relax your shoulders away from your ears,” Ziel says.
Work up to holding the pose for 10 to 20 seconds. Release into child’s pose. To do that, sit back on your heels, knees apart, and bend forward touching your forehead to your knees or the floor, with your arms extended in front of you.
3. Pigeon Pose
What it does: Opens up your hips.
How to do it: Get on the floor on all fours. Move your right knee toward your right hand, then place your right leg on the floor in front of you with your right foot pointing toward your left hip.
Straighten your left leg behind you.
Sit up tall.
Then slowly lower your upper body, leaning forward only as far as it feels good for your hips to stretch.
Hold for a minute, and then switch sides.
“Don’t force the stretch,” Ziel says.
Or do this instead: If pigeon isn’t working for you, sit tall in a chair and place your right foot over your left thigh, just above the left knee. Hold for a minute, and then switch sides.
4. Mermaid Stretch
What it does: Opens the front of the body, especially your chest and hips.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right knee and let it fall to the right, down to the floor, the sole of your right foot almost touching your left knee. Bend your left knee and tuck your left foot behind your butt. “If it’s too challenging to sit on the floor in this position, try propping a small pillow under your hips,” Ziel says.
Put your right hand on the floor behind you. Reach your left arm up and over your head, and press your hips up, squeezing your glutes as you lift up onto your knees.
Hold the stretch and breathe, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Lower your hips back down to the floor.
Finish the move with a side bend: Place your left hand on the floor, raise your right arm overhead, and stretch your body to the left, keeping your hips on the floor.
Repeat three times on each side.
5. Roll Downs
What they do: Release tension in your neck, back, and hamstrings.
How to do them: Stand tall, and reach your arms overhead with your biceps by your ears.
Bend forward from the hips, keeping your back straight as long as you can. Bend your knees slightly as your lean over.
When you can’t bend any lower without rounding your back, reach your arms behind you to stretch your chest.
Then bend forward, rounding your back and keeping a slight bend in the knees. Drop your arms toward your toes, letting them hang, with your head and neck relaxed.
Take a few deep breaths, and then slowly roll up one vertebra at a time. Your head should come up last.
“Scoop your belly in and up so your abs help bring you up,” Ziel says. Repeat three to five times.