5 yoga and Pilates exercises to transform your core and leave you strong and refreshed!

While natural and healthy, not all the transformations we experience during pregnancy are welcome, or glamorous. Whether you want to lose weight, regain muscle tone, find stress relief, or simply feel better, yoga and Pilates offer excellent, low-impact ways to strengthen your core, inside and out. These mind/body disciplines are also super-efficient, making them great choices for busy moms trying to fit a workout into a full schedule.

Before starting this or any other exercise program,get the okay from your midwife or doctor.
On average, you can start six or seven weeks after delivery.
If you’ve had a C-section, you’ll probably be advised to wait a few weeks longer.

To start all you need is a mat and a commitment to yourself. Remember that if you are feeling balanced, happy and good about yourself, you will have more to give to your baby and your family. Schedule your workout like you would schedule an appointment for your baby. You can do it at home when your little one is napping, or practice with your baby right next to you for inspiration.

1. Downward Facing Dog
Energizes the body and calms the brain. Helps relieve stress and mild depression. Strengthens legs and arms, while stretching the hands, wrists, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and arches of the feet.

– Come onto your mat in a hands and knees position. Knees should be directly under your hips and hands slightly in front of shoulders. Spread palms, and have inside of elbows facing one another. Curl toes under.
– Exhale, lift knees away from floor, lift sitting bones toward ceiling and lengthen your spine.
– Engage your thighs, pressing the tops of your thighs toward the wall behind you, as you press your heels towards the mat.
– Press into the outer three fingers in each hand. Create space between shoulders, as you draw them down and press into your back. Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine, keeping your head between upper arms.
– Hold for 1-3 minutes.

– Keep knees bent.
– Heels don’t need to reach the ground.

– Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term
– High-blood pressure
– Carpal tunnel syndrome
– Diarrhea

To practice with your baby:
– Place your baby next to you – or in the middle of your mat where you can see your little bundle while in the posture.

2. Plank
Strengthens arms, legs, wrists, back and abdominal area.

– From Downward Facing Dog position, inhale and draw your torso forward until your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your torso is parallel to the floor.
– Press into the outer three fingers in each hand, and keep elbow creases facing each other.
– Firm shoulder blades into back, and down away from your ears while creating space between them.
– Activate your legs, glutes and abdominal muscles and press through your heels
– Hold for 30-90 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!

– Place knees on the mat
– Place forearms on the mat

– Carpal tunnel syndrome, or any pain in wrists or arms

To practice with your baby:
– Place your baby at the front of your mat, and let him be your inspiration to make it just 10 more seconds!

[photo caption- model info:]
Mariya Merca, mother to Matthew (6½) and Andrew (8 months), demonstrates Plank.

3. Goddess Pose (aka Plié Squat with Weights)
– Improves posture and strengthens glutes, legs, abs and arms

– Begin in a standing position, feet slightly wider than hips in turn-out position.
– If you are using weights (optional), place one 3-5 pound weight in each hand and reach arms directly out to your sides. Draw shoulder blades down your spine, and shoulders away from ears.
– Engage abdominal muscles, and maintain a tall spine – you could balance a book on your head!
– Inhale to prepare, exhale as you bend knees into a plié/squat position and hold. Check in with your posture: lengthen your spine, and draw your shoulders down.
– On your next exhalation, bring hands together in a “hug a tree” movement, repeat 10 times.

– Don’t use weights.

– Use caution if you have a history of knee injury.

To practice with your baby:
– Instead of weights, hold your baby! Draw baby in for a kiss, out for a smile, 10 times.

4. Modified Roll Up, with Exercise Band
Strengthens abdominal muscles, stretches the spine and legs, and awakens the muscles controlling spinal articulation.

– Begin in a seated position, legs extended, with Thera-Band (or similar exercise band) around feet. Arms are extended, sitting bones rooted and abdominal muscles engaged.
– Inhale to prepare, exhale and slowly articulate one vertebra at a time down, activating and extending your legs by pressing through your heels. Eventually, you’ll move all the way toward lying down, but only go back as far as you are able while maintaining control.
– Inhale and articulate one vertebra at a time back up toward a tall, seated posture, lengthening at the top of the movement.
– Repeat, working up to a set of 10 slow and controlled movements.

– If you need to, bend your knees slightly until you become more flexible.
– As you become stronger, try doing Roll Ups without the Thera-Band.

To practice with your baby:
Keep baby right next to your hip. Remember, this is a piece of cake after carrying your baby around for nine months – especially if you had twins!

5. Grasshopper
Moms need tummy time too! This pose improves forward leaning posture, which can be an issue when you are carrying baby or breastfeeding. It strengthens the back and abdominal muscles, opens the chest and improves breathing.

– Begin in a prone position, with feet together, legs activated, abdominal muscles engaged and pelvis pressed into the floor. Place arms by your sides, palms down, with forehead on your mat or a folded towel.
– Inhale as you slowly lengthen your spine and lift through your sternum, lifting off your mat and engaging your upper back. Reach fingertips towards toes, and lengthen through the top of your head. Take care not to overarch your back. Keep abdominal muscles actively drawn in and shoulder blades pressed down.
– Hold the pose for 10 breaths, then release. Repeat.

To practice with your baby:
Put your baby at the head of the mat for some shared tummy time.