Pilates, rapidly spreading in popularity, is beginning to be recognized by the "thinking woman" to be a liberating and exquisite form of exercise during and after pregnancy. Given its focus on posture, abdominal and back strength, (and the pelvic floor) it is such a suitable and obvious thing to do when your body shape and positioning is being compromised!
So what does Pilates involve?
Pilates is a way of moving that recruits muscles in appropriate "patterns" -- getting away from bad habits and poor posture that have developed in our lifestyle. It replaces old bad habits with new good ones. It develops core strength and works deeply from the inside out -- providing your trunk with stability so the rest of your body can move freely.
It involves controlled, flowing movements in conjunction with breathing techniques -- stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (our natural "de-stressor") and leaving you feeling chilled out and yet energized. It is one of those types of exercises where you body (and spine especially) say "oooo, that's wonderful, thank you" after you've done it! Want to try it now?
How can it be modified?
Because Pilates can be done easily with as little as a mat, it is ideal for home based use and like yoga, can be practiced every day. Whilst some of the more vigorous and strenuous moves need to be left out during pregnancy, it can be modified and the principals applied wonderfully.
There is some controversy about women lying on their backs to exercise amongst exercise experts. So to avoid any risk of impaired blood supply to the uterus and baby, it is recommended that this is avoided in second and third trimester by UK and US Colleges of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
My DVD, Pilates in Pregnancy, incorporates this sensible advice and offers alternative exercises that are as effective for abdominal work, and use the weight of the unborn baby as a tool to make you stronger!
You should also wait until your six week medical check up post birth before re-starting any of the moves. Although, do make the effort to do static abdominal contractions and pelvic floor lifts straight after birth. Do them every time you feed your baby and your shape should return much more rapidly. It's amazing.
More key tips
- Take it easy if your blood pressure has lowered or changed. You may need to move slowly and avoid hanging your head upside down for too long!
- Have your feet a little wider apart as you get bigger -- this will help with your balance.
- Avoid one legged exercises or balances and replace with heel raises on both feet. This still challenges your balance without pulling your pelvis out of alignment.
- Avoid twisting.
- Start to notice your habitual stance now. Practice standing evenly on both feet and not letting your back over�arch as your belly gets bigger.
- Use static abdominal "lifts" like your own personal corset. (You know, your jeans are too tight and you're having to pull in to get them done up!) You'll be amazed what muscle tone this gives you and what a difference it makes to that tired heavy feeling as you get larger.
- Even post birth, stand symmetrically (in lines at the stores etc) and hold your child evenly with both arms. As they get heavier, (which happens all too quickly) any hanging on one hip will really put a strain on your spine.
Is it safe?
For a normal, healthy pregnancy, mat-based Pilates can be safely modified to suit the growing woman, still providing benefit for the months ahead. (You should still check with a medical practitioner before you start any new form of exercise regime, of course). If you can get a one-on-one Pilates coach, then you will receive valuable feedback on how well you are performing the moves.