Postnatal Pilates - What can it offer?
Postnatal Pilates can be a great way to help you reconnect with your body, aid its restoration, and help you feel confident in your body’s abilities as you return to physical activity after childbirth.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a body conditioning method that strengthens, tones, mobilises and balances the body. It is great for helping to improve posture, increase strength & flexibility and provide a strong, well balanced foundation for the functions of daily life. The mind and body work together to create a sense of true physical control. The focus isn’t on the number of repetitions of a movement, but rather about ensuring every movement is executed with correct technique and control for maximum benefit.
How does Postnatal Pilates differ from a regular Pilates class?
A Postnatal Pilates class is specially designed to cater for the postnatal body. Each class is designed to help look after your body and aid its restoration. The exercises performed are chosen to be appropriate for the postnatal woman, paying care to the pelvic floor, abdomen, and potential tender areas such as C section scars and breast tenderness.
Do I need any Pilates experience to join a Postnatal Pilates class?
Not at all. I have had a range of experiences in my classes, from complete beginners with very little exercise history right the way through to other experienced Pilates teachers having attended my classes postnatally. Some Mums come to classes in order to prepare their bodies for a return to high impact exercise in the future, whereas others are not regular exercisers and simply want to reconnect with their body so they can cope with the demands of motherhood.
Some instructors may require you to attend or offer you a 1:1 session before you join a group class. This can be hugely beneficial in helping you grasp some of the underlying techniques and to ensure you work in a way that is most appropriate for your own body.
All mums joining my postnatal class are required to have an introductory 1:1 session with me before they can attend my group classes. There is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to postnatal recovery, so it is important for me to understand each person’s individual needs and goals. You will be learning some new techniques and approaches to working with your body in class, so the introductory 1:1 session gives you the opportunity to properly understand these techniques before applying them in the group setting. The 1:1 also enables me to provide tailored advice regarding exercise adaptations that may be appropriate for you in class, particularly if you have symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti or have had a C section.
What sort of exercises can I expect to do in a Postnatal Pilates Class?
Each Pilates teacher might structure their postnatal classes in their own way. I have described here the approach I take in postnatal classes.
My classes are mat-based, aiming to aid physical restoration and prepare you for the demands of motherhood. They are also a space in which to meet and share with other new mums, providing emotional support as well as physical. Particular focus areas in my class include exercises to promote:
Breathwork - including rehabilitative breath work for the pelvic floor and abdominals.
Pelvic alignment - exercises to aid realignment of the pelvis and promote a good standing posture
Rehabilitation and restoration of the abdominals - using breath work and restorative exercises to first restore and then strengthen the abdominal muscles
Rehabilitation and restoration of the pelvic floor - using breath work and importantly movement based exercise to restore the pelvic floor. Movement based work is important because in real life the pelvic floor does not work in static isolation, but rather with the body as it moves
Release of tension - a new mum can carry a lot of tension in her body, leading to discomfort and imbalances. We focus on releasing typical problem areas for Mums.
Sometimes I will mix up the standard flow to show you different ways of working with your body, such as using the Pilates Magic Circle to deepen connections, or focusing in deeply on a specific need of the Mums in a given class. This keeps exercises fresh and means you are always learning.
Do I need any special equipment?
If you are practicing at home or attending a class where mats are not supplied you will need a decent thickness Pilates mat to ensure adequate cushioning of the joints. If you are taking group classes in a studio or gym, your instructor might supply mats and equipment for you. In my classes I provide 15 mm thick Pilates mats that are sprayed and wiped down with a natural cleaning solution after every use so that they are fresh for the next user. I also have plenty of blocks and wedges that can be used to help you feel comfortable and aid body alignment, as well as resistance bands and soft balls.
Can I take my baby with me to a postnatal Pilates class?
That depends on the class and instructor. In my Postnatal Pilates classes I do allow Mums to bring babies with them (pre-crawling) and to tend to them as needed during class, because I understand how difficult it can be otherwise to find time and opportunity to get out to a class. However it is important to point out that a baby is not exercise equipment, and therefore I do not include exercises where you use your baby as a weight. Not only is this a safety issue for your baby and for you, but your baby is a moving load so using your baby as a weight can lead to compromised form and poor balance of movement.
What should I look for in any postnatal exercise class?
Ensure that your instructor is qualified and well trained in postnatal exercise. Class sizes should be small enough that your instructor is able to give you individual support and guidance where needed. You instructor should take time to get to know you by name, understand your baby’s delivery and its impact on your recovery, and know where you may need particular support according to your own recovery and needs. You should feel supported, informed and empowered in your return to physical activity and you should never feel pushed to do something that does not feel right for your body.
My postnatal classes have an absolute maximum size of 6 Mums per class, so that I can give each person the attention and support they need. Every Mum is required to have an introductory 1:1 with me before joining the group class. In addition to the nationally recognised Level 3 qualification in pre and postnatal exercise, I have undertaken additional training and certifications with The Center for Women’s FitnessTM, and with Burrell Education - both are experts at delivering in depth, specialist training in working with pregnant and postnatal women. I’m a member of The Guild of Pre and Postnatal Exercise Instructors and I am committed to ongoing training to ensure I can offer the highest quality information and support to my Mums.
Postnatal Pilates is a great way to reconnect you with your body after childbirth, and help you restore strength, function and confidence in your body. If you would like to know more about my postnatal classes and private sessions, please take a look at the Postnatal Pilates page of my website.