Why you should be trying prenatal pilates!Aug 29, 2022
The Pilates Method of body conditioning is an exercise habit training tool for centering, strengthening and creating discipline. Pilates was always designed to address the students' individual needs and prenatal Pilates is no different. Prenatal/Postnatal Pilates is Pilates taught to pregnant persons as a tool to address their individual needs throughout each stage of pregnancy and beyond. The way we teach prenatal students is very similar to the way we teach postnatal students.
The benefits of pilates
Pilates does not only help us get stronger, it helps us gain mental strength. As we learn the discipline of Pilates, we become more disciplined. You may have heard that Pilates is a mind body practice and this is why. The exercises on the reformer and the mat are learned in a set order. This type of repetition in exercise is scientifically proven to increase confidence, improve speed, and strengthen the connections in the brain that help us learn new skills. It transitions these skills from the conscious to the subconscious. This subconscious ability to flow through the exercises teaches us autonomy which aids in building an exercise habit and also aids in autonomy is all other aspects of our lives.
Other benefits of Pilates include increased flexibility and strength, improved focus and awareness, and improved circulation. Pilates is corrective exercise in nature and is truly designed to address the individual needs of every student that comes through our doors. There is a piece of equipment (called apparatus) to address every nook in crannie of our body from our head (the neck stretcher) to our toes (the toe corrector), our insides (the breathasizer) and our outsides (Reformer/Tower/Mat etc)
Specifically in pregnancy and beyond, some of the common individual needs that we see are sciatica pain, general fatigue, general back pain, constipation, neck pain, incontinence, muscle cramps, feeling weak, public symphasis disorder, Diastasis Recti, prolapse. All of these can be addressed by a highly trained and specialized Pilates teacher.
What are the best pilates poses for pregnant women?
The answer is that pilates is not taught as individual poses but very intentional sequences that are typically followed by individual needs exercises. Here is a great series for prenatal women:
Stand with your back against the wall and your feet far enough forward that everything from head to tail is touching the wall. breathing Against the Wall Start by taking 10 deep breath, with each breath feel your back getting wider and your spine connecting deeper to the wall. “Hug” your baby with each exhale, feel all of your muscles hugging in towards your baby. Add in arm circles. Keeping your arms long, inhale to lift your arms up and exhale to circle around. 10 circles each direction. Make your circles as big as you can keep your entire back long and connected to the wall
The Roll Down
Starting with your head, round down peeling one bone at a time away from the wall. Let your arms hang and circle 3x each direction. Continue to hug the baby with each exhale. Articulate your spine back up the wall (one bone at at time, lower back, middle back, upper back, shoulders and then head).
The Side Bend
Keeping your entire back long and connected to the wall, Inhale, reach one up and exhale side bend as far as you can keep both feet rooted and your hips nice and stable. Alternate sides 5 rounds. Side bends are great to open up the low back since rounding to stretch this area becomes increasingly difficult with an expanding belly and growing baby.
The Wall Squat
Bring your feel further forward and hip distance apart. Keeping your entire back long against the wall, sit down until your knees and hips are at right angles and take 5-10 breaths. Try to keep you back long and connected to the wall as you slide back up. Progress to holding for longer periods of time. You may need to place a small pillow or folded towel behind your head in order to get the rest of your spine to connect to the wall
Exercises to avoid whilst pregnant
- Crunches round the shoulders which is the last thing we need to be doing more of during pregnancy. The weight of our growing breasts and belly have already created rounded shoulders and a kyphotic upper back, we do not need to continue to encourage this trend.
- During pregnancy the increased pressure of the growing baby causes the linea alba to thin and stretch, allowing the rectus abdominus (six pack muscles) to separate. With this separation, crunches become ineffective and potentially dangerous because of the increased intra abdominal pressure.
- There is a human being sitting on your pelvic floor with a downwards gravitational pull any time to you are standing or sitting for 9 months. We would like to limit any additional pressure or impact that might cause pelvic disfunction or prolapse. I made this mistake and ran a 5K early on in my postpartum journey, increasing my bladder prolapse.
- Relaxin, a hormone produced at its height in the first and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, causes muscles, joints and connective tissue to be more lax and unstable, especially around the pelvis.
FULL PLANKS/PUSH UPS
- Gravity in combination with our increasing belly can be very challenging to work against while in a plank position. This can put alot of pressure on the low back. Modify planks by bringing the knees down to the ground and maybe even the forearms.
What can you not do in pilates when pregnant?
First of all, always refer to your medical professional for what YOU specifically should avoid in pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different and you are special and unique.
Similar to crunches, we avoided any LOADED flexion exercises in Pilates during pregnancy while Diastasis Recti is present. These include the roll up, roll over, short spine massage and the teaser as well as lifting of the head in exercises like the hundred/abdominal series of 5.
It is generally recommended that after 16 weeks, laying on your back is limited to avoid additional pressure on the Vena Cava. This might cause dizziness or lightheadedness if you lay on your back for too long.
HOWEVER I have had many clients that are totally comfortable laying on their backs all the way throughout pregnancy so listen to your body (and your medical professionals) and respond to what it is telling you.
As always, refer to your medical team first and foremost on your individual case. Generally speaking, yes Pilates is safe and effective through all phases of pregnancy. If you are new to Pilates and wanting to try it for the first time, make sure you are going to someone specifically trained and skilled in pre/postnatal. If I am taking on a new student that is pregnancy, I always do a consult with their doctor/physical therapist first to make sure I am fully versed in your individual needs and contraindications.
When should a pregnant women stop doing pilates?
Generally speaking, Pilates is safe throughout your entire pregnancy and beyond. I continued with lessons right up until my son was born, and I even practiced breathwork and Pilates based movement WHILE in early labor.
That being said, there are very clear guidelines on contraindications that would immediately put a stop to your Pilates practice. These can include but are not limited to:
Fetal growth restriction
History of miscarriages or premature births
Restrictive lung disease
Poorly controlled hypertension or anemia
How can pregnant women stay safe while exercising?
First and foremost, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Secondly, stay in constant communication with your teacher. Tell them what you are feeling and experiencing so they can best help you.
Early on in pregnancy focus on building strength in the center (your core)
during the second trimester strength and endurance training
all of this is safe to continue in the 3rd trimester with less intensity with added focus on release, breath, and visualization to prepare your body for the task of childbirth and the early stage of motherhood.
After birth HEAL first, recover, restore and then retrain.
Rest is CRUICUAL after childbirth an the way in which you train your body will change dramatically.
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