I have practiced Pilates for many years and I have to admit that I am pretty terrible at it, so much so that I have barely graduated beyond the beginners class. However, I know that practicing Pilates is excellent for my body and it helps to significantly reduce the amount of everyday pain I suffer from my scoliosis. So naturally when I found out I was expecting, I wanted to continue Pilates during pregnancy.
I was very conscious that I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy and attending pregnancy Pilates classes was a key aspect for me. I took these classes until I left Australia at 20 weeks pregnant but unfortunately was unable to find a York Pilates class which was tailored for pregnancy.
Now, thanks to the lovely Louise at York Pilates People, this has all changed. Louise has opened a wonderful Pilates studio in York which caters for pregnancy Pilates and post natal Pilates (plus classes for everything in between). This week I spent 5 minutes with Louise to discuss the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy for expectant Mums.
Why do you recommend Pilates during pregnancy and what are the benefits?
Well, it goes without saying that the body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy – it’s like a 9 month training programme in itself! You’re carrying extra weight, not just because of your growing baby but also because of the increased size of your breasts and uterus. Your heart has to work harder, and it literally gets bigger when you’re carrying your baby (isn’t that kind of sweet?!).
All this means that maintaining your strength and fitness is important – it helps your body to cope with these changes. More specifically, Pilates during pregnancy addresses the postural changes that occur – strengthening your abdominal muscles and improving your posture can reduce back pain and even influence the position of your baby when they are born. Last but not least, Pilates can help you to maintain a strong and supple pelvic floor, reducing sneeze-pees after childbirth!
Is it safe to practice Pilates whilst I’m pregnant?
Yes, but I would recommend seeking out a Pilates class which is specifically designed for pregnancy. The main reason for this is a hormone called relaxin, which surges during pregnancy, and makes your ligaments a lot more – well, relaxed. This means that care has to be taken during stretches, as over-stretching can cause instability in your joints.
There are also other practical considerations, such as the fact that you may feel more breathless during pregnancy (due to your uterus pushing your diaphragm up). You might find that you get tired more quickly, and as your pregnancy progresses, you might not want to lie on your front. As a precaution, it’s also best to avoid exercises in which you’re lying flat on your back, as there is a small risk of supine hypotensive syndrome. In a good pregnancy Pilates class, you will always be propped up and supported. Of course, if you have any concerns, speak to a health professional before joining an exercise class.
What type of exercises would you typically do during a pregnancy class?
I like to keep my classes really varied, so no two will be exactly the same. I also like to emphasise that pregnancy Pilates classes are not necessarily designed to be “easy”. Sure, it’s nice to have some relaxation – but mums-to-be have a lot of work to prepare for! Here are a few examples:
- A “mermaid stretch” or side bend, to help ease tension around your rib cage
- Calf stretches, to help increase circulation and reduce cramping
- Pelvic tilts, to help you to control the position of your pelvis and increase awareness of your posture
- Squats, to get your butt muscles working for a stable pelvis
Is there anything you recommend I can do at home to stay fit during my pregnancy?
Walk! Ok, so it’s not a Pilates exercise, but honestly, walking in flat shoes is one of the best things you can do for your body. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s also a great way to get a better night’s sleep and generally feel more positive day-to-day.
Some other, simple exercises you can try are:
- “Caterpillar feet” – standing up, or sitting with your knees bent in front of you, ‘creep’ your feet along the ground by scrunching your toes under your feet. It might not seem like much, but keeping your feet active and healthy can help to improve your balance and lower-leg circulation.
- “Rise and shine” – interlace your fingers and push your palms away from your chest. Lift your hands up to ceiling, keeping your shoulders away from your ears. Lean once to the right, hold for a big breath in, then exhale to change sides and repeat. This should help to relieve any upper-body tension.
- “Super-woman” – all-fours positions are great during pregnancy, and this one challenges your stability too. Make sure that you start with your knees below your hips and your wrists below your shoulders. Straighten one leg behind you, then squeeze your bum to lift your heel. If you can, reach the other arm away. Hold for 3 seconds, then swap to the other side. Repeat 3 times.
When would you recommend restarting Pilates after child birth?
Usually, you’ll be given the “all clear” to return to exercise after a 6 week check from your doctor. This is when your uterus is likely to have returned to it’s normal size and your body is beginning to recover. However, the effects of relaxin can last up to 5 months – longer if you’re breast-feeding – and of course it’s important to take care of your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor which have undergone a lot of stress. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise, but do look for gentle post-natal class and a teacher who can advise you.
When can I expect to be back to normal post pregnancy?
This depends heavily upon your fitness before pregnancy, and your levels of activity during your pregnancy. The good news is that if you’ve been doing Pilates throughout your pregnancy, your body will be well prepared for a quick recovery! Most women are ready to return to a ‘mainstream’ Pilates class within 12 months.
Louise trained as a Pilates teacher in Edinburgh, and spent two years working with and learning from her mentor there. Upon moving to York in April 2018, she decided it was time to start looking for her own Pilates studio; by November, York Pilates People was born. The studio is a bright, spacious, city center venue, with everything you need to stretch, strengthen and align your body. Its also conveniently situated above an excellent family friendly coffee shop.
Louise offers a full timetable of classes, from 7:30am to 8pm, with flexible membership so that you can fit Pilates into your life. All bodies are welcome to become York Pilates People! https://yorkpilatespeople.com
If you are pregnant or a new Mum in York then I can highly recommend that you try a pregnancy Pilates class with York Pilates People! Not only will you gain the physical benefits, but they are also a great way to help you build your Mum Tribe.