You know Pilates has reached mass popularity now that most people actually know how to pronounce it (puh-la-tees). Part of its popularity comes from its principles that focus on posture and strength in a gentle workout format. What you might not know is that Pilates is a GREAT workout during pregnancy and after.
What Is Pilates?
Joseph Pilates created this workout in 1920. Essentially, it combines t’ai Chi and Yoga with a huge focus on the body’s core (center). Originally, it consisted of 34 movements. Now, there is much variation and additional exercises.
The best way to do Pilates is with a Personal Trainer because good form is so important. But if that’s not possible, there are exercises you can do in classes or even at home. Here are some things to think about when practicing the art of Pilates…
Believe it or not, this can be the hardest part of Pilates. Most people don’t know how to breathe. Do your best to breathe naturally throughout the exercise. Most importantly, do not hold your breath as it can raise blood pressure in many of the movements.
This focuses on the rib cage, the spine and the pelvis. Most movements in Pilates involve centering. Addressing these muscles can be difficult as they are very deep, unlike your superficial muscles such as a bicep or tricep. Try to think of these muscles as a corset that surrounds your spine. As you draw it in, you support your spine and your posture. Be sure not to hold your breath while doing so.
Pilates is a slow and controlled workout. If you jerk or bounce, you’re not doing it right. Slower movements are much harder to control but are also more effective. When you move quickly through a workout, you greatly increase your risk of injury. Because it is a slow and controlled workout, it is a great workout during pregnancy.
This is a yoga inspired exercise with a Pilates focus. Start in an all fours position. Make sure that hands are directly under shoulders and knees are under hips. Knees and hips should be about hip-width in distance. Keep spine and neck long and press shoulders down your spine. Slowly lower your elbows down to the floor and gently roll your weight forward, as you slide the knees back. Pull abdominal wall firmly in towards your spine as you breathe throughout the motion. Think of hugging or lifting the baby in towards you. Be careful not to let lower back dip. Modify position if you feel discomfort.
Leg Lifts: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on a folded towel. Knees and feet are hips width apart. Make sure that your spine is long and your shoulders are lowered down your back. Brace (contract) abdominal wall without holding your breath. Breathe out and gently lift one leg to a right angle. Breathe in and release foot back to towel. The key to the exercise is not to increase the curve of your back or to shift your hips. Your abdominal wall is keeping the area secure. Imagine that the towel is like a bed of soft sand. Keep weight out of your feet so you don’t leave a depression in the sand. This shift in weight will accentuate the abdominal contraction.
* This position is recommended in the first trimester only because of the supine position.
Roll Down / Roll Up: Start by sitting on your sit bones. Have a long and strong spine. Stretch out arms in front of you. Keep chest lifted and eyes facing forward. Slide your shoulders down your back. Breathe in and lean back. Engage abdominal muscles and bring that baby in towards your spine. Your hands can hold on your thighs if the intensity is to strong with arms ahead. Breathe out and slowly return to the upright position. Focus on keeping abs and back strong throughout both movements.
Why Try Pilates?
- It increases abdominal strength
- It improves posture
- It creates long and balanced muscle tone
- It aids in relaxation, sleep and increases energy
- Reduces aches and pains that most people have from poor posture
Why It’s GREAT for Pregnancy
- The increased abdominal strength supports the uterus and baby
- Aids in childbirth by making pelvic floor muscles stronger
- Less likely to get diastesis recti (separation of abdominal wall) from pregnancy
- Aids breathing in labor and reduces shortness of breath during pregnancy
- Quickens postnatal recovery
**PAM requests that you ALWAYS check in with your medical provider BEFORE starting any exercise program, whether you are pregnant or not.