The key areas of the upper body you want to pay attention to are the neck
    and shoulders, the chest, and the obliques. The neck and shoulders take
    on a lot of strain with not only the alignment changes that are happening
    but also the increased sitting of our modern lifestyle. It is important to keep
    this area free of tension to avoid neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and
    stuck tissue. The chest is also faced with tension and strain due to the fact
    that most of the activities we do day to day involve working with things in
    front of us, so we are always reaching and leaning forward. The chest as
    a whole is tight, and when you add on to that the weight of the growing
    breasts, the alignment changes(workout bike), and then all the breastfeeding and baby
    carrying that will happen, it can become a real source of held tension. The
    obliques are part of the abdominal wall, which we know faces significant
    change. Often, they are a muscle group that can start to be overworked when our overall core stability becomes challenged. The internal obliques
    rotate the trunk and bend it sideways, while the external obliques help pull
    the chest downward.

    Tension + Integrity = Tensegrity

    When looking at release work it is important to address the term tensegrity.
    This is a term that spawned from the work of architect Buckminster
    Fuller and it refers to forces of tension (provided by the muscles, tendons,
    ligaments, and fascia) that pull on the structure (the bones and joints) to
    help maintain stability and effi ciency of movement.
    Fascia is a web of connective tissue that runs seamlessly throughout the
    entire body. It wraps around every organ, muscle, bone, blood vessel, and
    nerve in the body and is literally what holds us together. Fascia facilitates
    or inhibits our ability to function and move as a body. It is located under
    the skin and is a three-dimensional web of support made up of collagen
    and elastin fi bers that line up based on the lines of force in the body. Fascia
    is essentially adjustable tensegrity around all the bones in the body.
    Things like overuse, repetitive strain, and injury can all contribute to the
    fascia becoming disorganized, which can impair optimal movement. Because
    fascia is a seamless web running through the entire body, when fi -
    bers become “stuck” in one area of the body(elliptical workout), movement can be impaired
    in another part of the body. Feeling tension in the shoulders might direct
    you to massage or bodywork that will target that area directly, but often
    the location of the tension is not where the problem is. Addressing the fascia
    system as a whole by incorporating whole-body movement and release
    work that considers the entire interconnected web will benefi t your overall
    function and comfort in pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

    Ear to Shoulder Stretch

    Focus and Benefits
    As the breasts grow and the center of gravity shifts, you might feel more tension
    in the neck and shoulders. This stretch helps relieve that tension and is great for
    everyone, even those who are not pregnant(buy fitbit).
    Stability ball or chair
    • Sit on a stability ball or chair with a neutral pelvis (or you can stand with a
    neutral pelvis) and allow your left ear to fall toward your left shoulder.
    • Close your eyes and enjoy the lengthening you feel on the right side of your
    neck and shoulders. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
    • For a deeper stretch, extend the opposite arm down the side of your body.
    • To come out of the stretch, slowly drop your chin toward your chest and
    then bring the head back to center.
    • Repeat on the other side and continue for three to five sets.

    Rotate and Reach Stretch

    Focus and Benefits
    Motherhood requires an increase in many of our typical movements, including
    rotation. Rotation is a movement generated by the midback or thoracic area
    which can get very stiff with the posture changes we have discussed. It is also not
    a movement we do regularly. By adding in some rotation and reaching movements,
    you will be better prepared for the many times you will need those movements
    in motherhood. This stretch also helps create length and release in the
    torso for better breathing and freedom of movement in general(exercise ball exercises
    Stability ball or chair
    • Sit on a chair or stability ball with a neutral pelvis.
    • Straighten your left arm and reach it gradually up to the ceiling as you rotate
    your torso to the left.
    • Only go as far as you can without letting the right butt cheek come off the
    ball or chair.
    • Hold for a count of 3-5 seconds then return to the starting position.
    • Repeat on the other side.

    Shoulder and Chest Stretch With Strap

    Focus and Benefits
    The neck and shoulders are tight in most people, pregnant or not. We can all
    use some movement to open the chest and free up tension in the shoulders.
    This is a great dynamic stretch to do just that.
    Yoga strap
    • Stand with a neutral pelvis and grasp your strap in each hand slightly wider
    than shoulder width with palms facing down.
    • Keeping the arms straight, lift the arms up and over the head until the band
    is no longer visible (stability ball exercises).
    • Hold there for a few breaths and return to start.
    • Repeat 10 times.
    Safety Considerations
    If you have any existing shoulder injuries or challenges, reduce the range of motion
    and don’t hold the stretch. If your shoulder continues to bother you in this
    stretch, discontinue.

    Standing C-Stretch

    Focus and Benefits
    The amount of sitting we do on a daily basis, coupled with the nonoptimal corestability
    compensations we often see in pregnancy, can mean rigidity in the
    torso, especially in the obliques. This is a great way to create length in the side
    body and free up space for better breathing.
    Chair or wall (optional)
    • Stand next to the wall or chair (if using) with your right leg (the inside leg)
    about one foot away from the wall or chair (the image shows the stretch
    without the chair or wall (swiss ball exercises)).
    • Place your right hand on the wall just below shoulder height or on the top
    of the chair (if using). Alternatively, link hands as shown in the photo.
    • Cross your left foot over your right foot and allow the left hip to move away
    from the wall as you reach your left arm up and over your head.
    • Your body will curve away from the wall in a C shape. Imagine your left side

    Seated Chest Stretch Over Stability Ball

    Focus and Benefits
    Many people would benefit by opening up the chest, especially pregnant women.
    This stretch is also great after nursing your little one. The roundness of the
    ball helps increase the stretch while allowing it to be restful.
    Stability ball
    • Nudge your ball into a corner or against a wall.
    • Sit on the floor in front of the ball in a semireclined position with your feet
    on the floor in front of you.
    • Clasp your hands behind your neck (inspire fitness).
    • Rest your head on the ball and allow your elbows to open to the sides and
    your chest to expand. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
    • Do three to five sets.

    Side-Lying Stretch Over Ball

    Focus and Benefits
    This is one stretch that you will truly love to do. It is relaxing and lengthening
    and a great stress reliever.
    Small, semi-inflated ball or a small cushion and mat
    • Assume a side-seated position on the floor. Begin on your right side.
    • Take the ball and place it between the top of your pelvis and the bottom
    your rib cage (on your waist) on your right side.
    • Slowly lie down on your right side with the ball between you and the floor.
    • Rest your head on the right arm and bend the right leg (the bottom leg)
    for support( yoga ball exercises).
    • Lengthen the left leg (the top leg) straight out and reach the left arm (the
    top arm) over your head.
    • Hold for 30 to 90 seconds and repeat on the other side.

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