There is a growing movement towards encouraging Mums to stay active throughout their pregnancy but it can sometimes be difficult for the expectant Mum to navigate their way through the different options available to them. Here is a little insight into what Pregnancy Pilates is and what it can offer the Mum to be.
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 Pregnancy Pilates differ from a regular Pilates class?
A pregnancy Pilates class is specially designed to cater for the pregnant body. This means certain positions and movements that you may be used to in a regular Pilates mat class are adapted in a Pregnancy class to keep the movements safe and effective for you.
One thing that I feel strongly about when offering a pregnancy Pilates class is that it is not about making a pregnant body fit into the regular Pilates repertoire, but rather it should about using Pilates based movement to best benefit the pregnant body. Our bodies undergo a lot of changes and new experiences during pregnancy. This can sometimes leave us feeling out of control and disconnected from our body. My goal is to help you stay connected with your body; supporting the changes that are occurring and helping you feel relaxed and in control. I also include techniques to help support you during childbirth and early motherhood; helping you achieve suppleness, strength, physical awareness and the ability to relax, breathe & release.
Do I need any Pilates experience to join a Pregnancy Pilates class?
Not at all. I have 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 during their own pregnancy. I focus on helping you tune into and work with your own body as it changes through pregnancy and prepares itself for childbirth - this is a great leveller regardless of any previous Pilates experience!
What sort of exercises can I expect to do in a Pregnancy Pilates Class?
Each Pilates teacher might structure their pregnancy classes in their own way. A standard Pregnancy Pilates class with me usually consists of a combination of standing work, exercises on a Swiss Ball / Birthing ball, exercises on the mat, and then a few minutes of relaxation at the end. I take a whole body approach, but there are 3 particular areas I like to focus on:
Pelvic floor - encouraging you to tune into how your pelvic floor responds to movement, and promoting a supple, functional pelvic floor throughout pregnancy and beyond. Establishing a good understanding of the pelvic floor during pregnancy will help you apply this in the postnatal period, where sleep derivation can make learning new techniques a little more tricky!
Control - working with your changing body shape and helping you feel in control of your body. We focus on supporting the changes in the body as it prepares for childbirth; finding support and control through the central column of the body, and working on total body integration. It is important to work on control and strength through movement, rather than in static positions, as we spend our every day lives moving.
Upper body strength - I feel this is a sometimes neglected area, but having strength in the upper body can be very important to help you in the early postnatal period; helping to take some of the strain away from the central column when lifting and carrying your little one, and helping to maintain good posture and support of the upper back & shoulders during feeding, comforting etc.
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 to meet the specific needs of the class on a given evening (e.g. if all attendees in a given class are late 3rd trimester we might focus particularly on childbirth preparation, or if everyone is feeling pregnancy fatigue that evening we might do a tension release focussed class). This keeps exercises fresh and means you are always learning.
Do I need any special equipment?
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.
A Swiss ball / birthing ball can be a great bit of equipment that can be used during pregnancy and during the early stages of labour. We use the ball during my pregnancy Pilates classes and I do recommend you bring your own ball with you if you can as it will be sized specifically for you and will help you to feel comfortable moving on the ball if you are planning to use it at home and/or in labour. However I do keep a number of spares at the studio for those who do not have their own ball they can bring. I am happy to advise on ball sizing and inflation levels, and do a visual check at the start of each class.
I am experiencing pregnancy related symptoms or conditions - can I still take part in a class?
The safety of you and your baby is always a priority. It is important to let your instructor know of any pregnancy related symptoms or conditions you have.
When people first book onto my pregnancy Pilates class I ask them to complete a detailed pregnancy health form before their first class. This provides me with an overview of symptoms or conditions I may need to be aware of when teaching you. I offer exercise adaptations for many common pregnancy symptoms, such as Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or carpal tunnel syndrome, so that you can still benefit from your Pilates practice. In some cases I might ask for more information or that you seek permission from your midwife or consultant before commencing. If I do this, it is always with your safety in mind.
It is equally important to keep your instructor informed of any new symptoms or newly diagnosed conditions during the course your pregnancy, so that adaptations can be made to exercises where necessary and we can ensure it remains safe for you to continue with classes.
If you are unsure of anything, you are always welcome to have a chat with me for advice on how to adapt your Pilates practice to accommodate common pregnancy symptoms.
Pregnancy Pilates is a great way to keep you feeling connected, in control and relaxed during your pregnancy. Find out more about the Pregnancy Pilates classes and private sessions I offer here