Discovering that you’re going to be a mother brings joy as well as change, whether it be for the very first time or you already have children.
There are many changes and adaptations you will have to make to your lifestyle in order to prepare for a new addition to your family, such as decorating a new bedroom, finding the perfect pram and even altering your work schedule.
In addition to these long-term changes, there are also things that need to change in the shorter term while you are pregnant, such as switching your wardrobe to include maternity wear, avoiding certain foods and of course, changing your workout routine.
For women with active lifestyles, falling pregnant can cause worry about the impending upset to their exercise program. However, this needn’t be the case.
Pilates is a type of workout which can be adapted for the specific needs of anyone who does it. With many benefits such as a stronger core, better balance and a toned body, doing Pilates before, during and after your pregnancy is entirely possible and a great way to stay active in the run-up to becoming a mother. It can also be a great couples activity for men who want to support their pregnant partners.
So, whether you’re already a Pilates junkie planning a family, or you’ve just discovered you’re pregnant and are looking for ways to keep fit during pregnancy, read on to learn more about pregnancy Pilates and get inspired!
What are the Benefits of Pilates for Expectant Mothers?
The Pilates method is based on six principles: centring, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. By doing a total body conditioning workout which is both built on and promotes these six things, you will improve your core strength, body awareness and your ability to listen to your body.
The founder of Pilates, a German man called Joseph Pilates, developed his method based on his belief in the fundamental link between the wellness of the mind and body, in that good physical health often leads to good mental health and stamina.
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Pilates took inspiration from many other forms of exercise whilst perfecting his method, and the importance placed on using breathing techniques as part of exercises is often why Pilates is often regarded as a more dynamic type of yoga. In Pilates, breathing is not only used as a relaxation technique, but also a means of enhancing the effects of each exercise so you can enjoy the full benefits of the practice.
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” – Joseph Pilates
There are countless benefits to doing Pilates, however, some of these benefits are particularly useful for pregnant women.
Here are the specific benefits that keeping up a Pilates routine can have for expectant mothers:
- Strengthen pregnancy problem areas
The principle of ‘centring’ in Pilates is all about making the centre of your body (lower torso and pelvis) the powerhouse of your movements. When following a Pilates routine, you should try to control all movements from this area. The effect of focussing on the centre of your body or powerhouse is a strong core that supports the rest of the body and improves posture as well as performance.
Problems with muscular weakness in the centre of the body are not uncommon during pregnancy. Weaknesses in the abdominal and spinal areas can put a strain on your body as your baby grows, while weak pelvic floor muscles make for a poorly-supported bladder, bowel and uterus.
As Pilates works towards strengthening these exact areas, it is perfect for pregnant women who are looking to relieve the strain on the body and their risk of injury during pregnancy as well as preventing other kinds of accidents, too!
- Reduce back pain
A strong core means strong spinal muscles and a better posture – two things known to prevent injury and reduce back pain. In addition, having stronger abs will also play a role in ensuring that your back is well-supported as your baby grows and your body changes.
- Maintain good coordination
As your due date gets ever closer, you may find yourself losing your balance more often than usual. This is due to the rapid changes to the weight distribution in your body as your baby gets ready to enter the world.
By doing Pilates, you will maintain a good awareness of your body in relation to itself and its surroundings as you concentrate on the sensations in your muscles while moving through your routine. Not only will Pilates help you acknowledge these changes, but it will also help you strengthen the areas which contribute to a good balance with your bump!
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Prenatal Pilates Workouts and Adaptations
When you fall pregnant, the amount of information on what you can and can’t do can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a caffeine enthusiast or lover of hot-tubs and jacuzzies.
However, it’s important that you don’t let the overload of advice stop you in your tracks, especially when it comes to keeping fit. Maintaining a good level of fitness is important for a healthy pregnancy, so favouring adaptation over giving up completely will benefit you as well as your baby.
The beauty of Pilates is that it can be altered and adapted according to anyone’s needs or ability.
Doctors recommend that you avoid Pilates exercises laying on your front or back while pregnant and that you should also be cautious when it comes to flexibility by not pushing your joints too far during mobility exercises.
So, what should you do if you want to do Pilates while pregnant?
The best way to get comfortable doing Pilates during pregnancy is to seek help from a professional by attending a Pilates class, practising Pilates at home is not advised for pregnant women. Pregnancy Pilates classes and prenatal yoga sessions can usually be found at local leisure centres or dedicated Pilates studios. However, if your local gym does not provide these, you can always ask your instructor about their experience in teaching expectant mothers. If your regular Pilates instructor is appropriately qualified, they may be able to make adjustments for you during a normal Pilates class.
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Here are some common exercises you are likely to do in pregnancy Pilates classes:
- Wag the Tail
This appropriately-named exercise is great for keeping the spine strong and mobile whilst working the abdominal muscles.
Begin on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Next, bend one of your knees even further to lift your foot off the floor. Keeping your knee in the same position on the ground, move your foot to the side and away from the rest of your body as you also move your head the same way to look at it. You should feel a stretch down one side of your body as well as feeling the tension in the other side. After this, move the same foot from one side of your body to the other as you bring your head round to look at it the other way. You should feel the same sensation the opposite way around. Repeat using the other foot.
- Side Lunges
You will require a fitness ball in order to perform this exercise. Fitness balls are often used in pregnancy exercises to support some of your weight.
Start in a sitting position on your exercise ball, then turn your body ninety degrees so that your front leg is bent over the ball and your front foot is flat on the floor. Use your hands on the ball to steady yourself and place the toes of your rear foot on the floor behind you. Your rear leg should be bent. The ball should not be directly underneath you, but you should still be able to place some weight on it. Repeat on the other side.
- Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are something you’re always reading about if you’re expecting – and there’s a good reason for that, they’re important!
Having a strong pelvic floor will ensure that your uterus, bowel and bladder are well-supported, decreasing the likelihood of toilet troubles and ensuring that you are as comfortable as possible while your baby is still growing. You are likely to be taught how to exercise your pelvic floor in your antenatal or pregnancy Pilates classes.
You can do pelvic floor exercises while sitting, standing or laying down. Make sure that you are comfortable, then, contract your pelvic floor muscles. If you’re unsure of how to do this, try to lift upwards from the bottom of your pelvis to your belly button. It should feel like you’re trying to stop passing urine. Hold this for ten seconds before relaxing, and repeat ten times.
Advice on Post Natal Pilates
Getting back into fitness once you’ve had your baby might not be so easy, however, there are many resources and classes available for new mums who want to pick up where they left off before pregnancy.
When it comes to post-natal Pilates, the exercises and adaptations are largely similar to those used in Pilates classes for pregnant women.
In fact, many Pilates and yoga studios welcome mums to come along to pregnancy yoga and Pilates classes – in many cases, you can even bring baby with you!
All of the yoga classes near me do, anyway!