Doula and Ready to POP Prenatal Dance founder Nacia K. Walsh shows us how the power of dance can help prepare you for labor.
We all know the importance of staying fit during pregnancy. Your OB or midwife will tell you to eat right, get moderate exercise, and of course drink lots of water. While walking, spinning class, or even prenatal yoga are great ways to maintain prenatal health, one of the best ways to actually prepare your body for birth is through dance.
I grew up attending the prestigious Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Pre-professional program. During these rigorous classes was the first time I learned how to connect with my body and control it. As a dancer you must be in tune with the music and the rhythm of the movement. And after having three children of my own, and supporting women as a birth doula, I believe the same can be said for birth.
Though no two births are exactly the same, there are some commonalities that most women experience: the undeniable change during transition where you have laser-like focus, the moment where you are ready to call it quits and wish someone else could deliver this baby, and if you allow it, the natural ‘figure 8’ like movement that your hips tend to make.
Each of my births took place in different locations (a traditional hospital, birthing center, and tub in my bedroom) but one thing was always consistent, making that swaying hip motion. Maybe it was because of my dance training or maybe it was some innate primal instinct we all possess, either way I knew it felt good.
A few months ago, the connection between birth and dance became so vividly clear that I knew I needed to share what I had learned with other mamas-to-be. Nancey Rosensweig, a certified nurse midwife based in upstate NY, who also happens to be an ex-professional dancer, echoed my sentiments by saying, “Surrendering to the natural movement of dance can be one of the best ways to prepare for labor.”
So I created Ready To POP Prenatal Dance as a safe, fun, and beneficial way for women to exercise during pregnancy and beyond. It incorporates simple ballet techniques for balance, hip-opening steps for stamina, and yoga postures for breath connections, all to music that makes you want to move and groove. As I tell all of my doula clients, “The sassy movements that got you pregnant are the same movements that will get you out of being pregnant.” *wink wink*
During pregnancy, dance helps your body maintain flexibility while toning your muscles. Throughout labor it can help move your baby into position and ease the pain of contractions. As a post-natal workout it can allow a new mommy a much needed hour out of the house and support a faster recovery.
As with any form of exercise, it’s important to work at your own pace and not over extend your ligaments, which are already loosened during pregnancy. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new routine and choose something that you really enjoy, which will help you stick to it.
Here are 3 simple dance moves to stay fit.
How to Move: Start with your legs apart and your feet turned out into second position like in ballet. You can do this in the center of a room or with one hand holding onto a wall or a sturdy chair. Make sure your hips are square and facing forward. Your back should be straight and your core muscles should be engaged to maintain that posture. Now bend your knees stopping half way down, keeping your heels on the floor. Do this for 4 counts bending your knees to plié down, then for 4 counts straightening your legs. With each plié exhale, then inhale as you come up.
How it Helps: Labor is a tiring process. You use every part of your body when it comes times to push. This move allows you to stay in control while strengthening your legs and abdominal muscles. It also does wonders for your butt.
Rock it Out
How to Move: Standing in second position again, slightly bend your knees. Push your right hip out and straighten your legs. Bend your knees again and bring both hips back to center. Push your left hip out and straighten your legs. Now do that back and forth to the beat “1, 2, 1, 2” or to a song like Katy Perry’s “Roar” which is one of my favs.
How it Helps: This kind of hip-opening movement can also relieve lower back pressure during contractions and help align your baby into a proper birthing position.
Pump it Up
How to Move: Put both hands over your head like you are pushing up the ceiling. Do that twice. Now push both hands down on either side of your body towards the floor, twice. So the motion is up, up, down, down. Now as you pump up, slightly bend your right knee twice in front of you. As you push down, bend your left knee twice.
How it Helps: Aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during pregnancy. It can also increase stamina for before, during, and after labor.
My Ready To Pop Playlist
Timber- Ke$ha & Pit Bull
Applause – Lady Gaga
Gone, Gone, Gone – Phillip Phillips
Treasure – Bruno Mars
Royals – Lorde
Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Roar – Katy Perry
Wings – Little Mix