We all know that working out during pregnancy is a must. But what if you could take your workout to new heights? Like, um, ceiling-level heights? For aerial dancer Jen James, dangling from a sky-high hammock while 8-months pregnant is just another day at the office.
As aerial manager at NYC’s Body & Pole, owner of MIXT Dance, and founding member and choreographer for aerial dance company AERA Dance, Jen used her unique dance style to maintain strength, control and agility during pregnancy. “Aerial dance allowed me to experience the creative and movement outlet I crave while also providing information about my body and how it is/was changing week to week,” she says.
While Jen concedes that picking up an aerial practice during pregnancy might not be the safest for those that haven’t practiced before, non-aerial dance during pregnancy can be beneficial for anyone. “I love dance because you can really get a full body workout. You can find a dance class for any style, level or interest and modify the movement to fit whatever your body is telling you it needs to feel comfortable, productive and safe -- especially during pregnancy. Dance classes also provide a social outlet and give you an opportunity to think creatively.”
Below, the Brooklyn-based mom of two explains how to easily incorporate dance into your own pregnancy and postpartum exercise routine.
Pregnancy: I'm that girl that wiggles around to anything but the best situation is to put on music that literally and figuratively moves you. Play with moving your body in small ways since even just a little movement can help ease joint pain and discomfort - small and incremental rotations or isolations of the neck, shoulders, wrists, ankles, etc feel great. If you are willing to break free from inhibitions, do it! Dance around like you are a kid again! I just like to keep my joints mobilized so that they are prepared for all the next steps that are about to happen in life.
Postpartum: Once your baby can keep his/her head stable enough, it's fun to make them part of your exercise routine. I like doing “baby presses” while laying on my back (bench press with a babe). Make the typical “airplane ride” more fun and challenging by doing it like a Pilates roll like a ball exercise. Start in a seated position on the floor, with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Have baby situated so that their body/torso lays over your shins, crotch seated on your ankles and their armpits just over your knees. While holding baby underneath his/her armpits, keep your feet flexed to help hold their weight, round your spine, and slowly roll backwards. Then rock forward to return to seated. You can add the press and more oblique action as your body is ready. Beware: babies like it a lot so your abs may be sore!
Photography by Jason Gibson.