What postnatal pilates can do for you.

When you are pregnant there is a lot of focus on keeping your body healthy, looking after yourself and putting you first. There is a lot more time to focus on exercising well, cooking good meals and thinking in general. The midwife and friends/family are asking how your body feels, how is the bump, what aches and pains do you have and giving plenty of advice. Then the delicious baby arrives and is totally the centre of attention. Your life is suddenly a whirlwind of feeds, sleepless nights, surviving as best you can. There is little time and energy left for exercise. Cake and chocolate can be relied to get you through the day or are part of a treat at playgroups. No-one really asks how your body is feeling or what they can do to help YOU, it is more about the baby.

The problem is that when you are postnatal your body is pretty vulnerable. It has been stretched, carried a heavy weight around and then birthed a baby. Now if you had a major operation you would lie in bed, rest, recover, have meals brought to you and be looked after for a few weeks. This is really what you need after having given birth. Instead you have a little person dependant on you, you cannot rest as much as you need and you cannot listen to your body.

Postnatal Pilates: why all mums need it

As a pre/postnatal specialist Pilates teacher this is an area I focus on and love to teach.

Postnatal Issues Pilates can help with:

POSTURE:
It is hard to maintain good posture when you are sitting up feeding, especially at night. However without good posture, those aches and pains slip in. Muscles get tight in the wrong places which can cause restrictions in your movement and cause you to compensate.

Over time poor posture can cause long term pain throughout the body, so it’s not something you want to ignore. Postnatal pilates when run by a specialised teacher will put in exercises to strengthen your upper back, talk through shoulder placement with you and use functional exercises to help with those motherhood moves that you do daily.

Sitting more will also lead to tighter hamstrings, so these need to be stretched out regularly.

The key really is to find out which part of your posture you need to focus on and which muscles need releasing. A good class and teacher will highlight this to you.

FLEXIBILITY:
There can be a lot of hormones flying around. Relaxin is a hormone that can affect the laxity of your ligaments, so this can leave you vulnerable to overstretching and potentially pulling a ligament. Learning to work within the normal range of movement for your body is the key here and not pushing yourself too hard, too soon.

PELVIC FLOOR:
Having carried a baby around your pelvic floor has taken a lot of strain. If you have then pushed baby out then that is even more damage that will have occured to the pelvic floor. Pilates will help you strengthen the whole of your core, including your pelvic floor. If you need more help in this area then check out  “Pimp Your Pelvic Floor”

ABDOMINAL SEPARATION:
Many ladies suffer from Diastasis Recti, this is a condition that is common in pregnancy and nothing to be concerned about as long as it is fixed postnatally! For some, the abdominals will naturally heal up by themselves, for others it will take more work. Exercises such as curls ups, planks and sitting up from lying on your back are not suitable and can make matters worse. A specialist pilates teacher with postnatal training will be able to help you.

PELVIC GIRDLE PAIN:
If you suffered from this in pregnancy then the likelikood is that it will disappear once baby comes along. However it is always a good idea to do some strenghtening work postnatally. If your hips and pelvis were struggling in pregnancy then some TLC for them can make all the difference in the long term.

LOWER BACK PAIN:
One of the common complaints I see in mums. Those babies get heavy when you are carrying them around a lot. Having a strong core and good posture when you lift and carry is so important. Pilates will help train your body so you are stronger and more able to manage this. The release exercises will also help mobilise and decrease any pain.

If you aren’t local to me, then check out my Postnatal Pilates DVD.

Posture, Breathing and Pelvic Floor Problems

Your posture plays a huge role in helping your body work effectively and functionally. Many of those aches and pains can all be related to poor posture, which can seem obvious. What can seem less obvious is the relationship between your posture and a weak pelvic floor. Posture can affect your bladder control, prolapse issues and weak pelvic floor problems. So it’s vital to work on getting it right.

Try this out…Sit in a slumped position, with your shoulders rounded and your chest compressed. A fairly typical posture for those who sit alot, and often how we relax on the sofa! Now try to breathe deeply, you should find it is difficult to fill your lungs. In this slumped posture your abdominal contents become compressed and your diaphragm can’t move downwards, so instead of using your diaphragm effectively you use your upper chest muscles to help you breathe.

Slumped forward position and breathing with the upper chest muscles increase pressure on the pelvic floor. Not good.  In this position your core muscles (including deep abdominal and pelvic floor) can’t effectively counter the increased pressure.

Guess what, sort out your posture and breathing and suddenly the core muscles start to work in the right way. Our bodies are built in an amazing way.

So start focusing on your posture, with a tall spine, shoulders down in the back, ribcage soft and not pushed out, tall neck and allow there to be space for your abdominals to work.

the-core2

Next focus on the breath. You want to breath using the diaphragm. That may sound obvious as it is how our bodies are built to work, but so many of us do not breath correctly. It is called Diaphragmatic breathing or thoracic breathing.  Some people breath with just their tummies, some people breath with just their ribcage. You want to use BOTH.

breathe_titled

Try out this exercise:

Place 1 hand on the bottom of your ribcage and 1 hand on the side of your ribcage. Breathe in slowly and deeply so that you feel your tummy rise and your ribcage expand out to the side. You want to focus on breathing into the tummy and ribcage whilst keeping the upper chest muscles relaxed. Think of your lungs like balloons expanding out to the side of the body.

Breathe out by letting the rib cage fall back to resting and the tummy fall back down.

It takes practise and you may find it quite forced at first. Try practicing when you are relaxing or use it as a way to relax throughout the day and it will become habit.

Exercise 2: breath with a band:

Tie a band or a scarf round your body just below the ribcage. Sit with good posture, your ribcage over your pelvis. As you breath in feel your ribcage expanding into the band. As you breath out the ribcage decreases in size. The band can be a nice way to practice your breathing.

When should I return to high intensity exercise?

Exercise can be so so key when you are a mum and so many people I work with and talk to are desperate to get back to their former routine, jeans and get time for them. Having had 2 babies and about to have the 3rd I completely get it.

Why should I wait?

  • Your pelvic floor deserves a break. After 9 months of carrying a baby it’s had a lot of extra work to do, then there is the act of pushing out a baby. It’s understandable that it may need some R&R time. Jumping back into high impact workouts will put extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, preventing them from recovering properly and potentially damaging them further. A weak muscle is a muscle that is easier to damage. It is NOT right to need to wear protection in your pants when you exercise. Leaks should not be the norm.

tap drip

  • Your body has had 9 months of carrying a baby around. It takes 9 -12 months to recover nutritionally, so why would it take any less time to recover your physical body?

Pilates with Priya: Baby Bump

  • You need a good, strong, solid foundation before you build. Your core is your floor. So get that strong and the rest will follow. Your lower abdominals, pelvic floor, the postural back muscles and the obliques all functions together to provide your stable base. Don’t rush into running, lifting, jumping in order to have it crumble away under you.

How long to wait:

A lot of the time this is individual and depends on your previous fitness, how many babies you have had and how your pelvic floor function and core were before. But I recommend you wait a good 4-6 months and build up slowly. Listen to your body.

Things to watch out for:

If you feel a dragging or heaviness in your pelvic floor.

Have pain in your lower back, pelvis or abdominals.

Leaks when exercising.

It generally feels uncomfortable or wrong.

THEN STOP.

Go back to working on your core, get stronger and then try again in a couple of months.

Carpal Tunnel: how to help.

This is one of those conditions that you certainly know you have when you get it. I’ve had it twice now: the first time was 4 months after giving birth to my boy. I would wake up in the night to feed him, pick him up, get pins and needles in both hands and then they would go numb. The end result being by the time we finished a feed I had to use my arms to put him back into his cot. It led to me having mutliple massages, which helped a little, and doing lots of research. I learnt a lot about my posture and how breastfeeding plus general stress was a huge contributing factor. A few changes to my feeding posture, extra pillows and a magic stretch really sorted me out.

Moving on to pregnancy 3 and the delight of carpal tunnel popped up again in the last few weeks. Certainly not as badly, this time general weakness in my grip strength, pain when in a hands and knees position (not ideal when teaching pilates) and pins and needles when sleeping or holding items for too long a time.

So as someone who has suffered from carpal tunnel I thought I would share my top tips on how to deal with it and how to help it.

Symptoms:

Pin and needles in your hands/fingers

Grip weakness

Numbness in the thumb, first and middle finger, that may extend to the whole hand

A dull ache in the hand/arm

How does it occur?

The median nerve runs all the way down the inside of your arm. It originates from the brachial plexus which is just above the shoulder (think halfway between the bottom of your neck and your shoulder, that bit that is often tense and you want a massage in!).

When this nerve is blocked, inflamed or has pressure on it, you can get the the above symptoms.

The carpal tunnel is a tunnel in your wrist designed to protect the median nerve. Pressure on this puts pressure on the nerve and hey ho, carpel tunnel syndrome.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 19.37.36
Image from: http://www.thebodyworksclinic.com/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/

Stats:

About 50% of pregnant women develop carpal tunnel, it will normally disappear all by itself.

More common in women then men.

Common in people with wrist injuries or those who do repetitive actions with the wrist.

For some people such as myself the issue can be to do with the tension and pressure on the nerve at it’s origin. So I know I carry my stress around my shoulders. Hence when teaching people pilates I so often focus on their shoulders! I can pinpoint the areas that are especially painful at these times. Those points are where the median nerve originates. So  it explains the carpal tunnel issues.

For others it is due to pressure or problems in the wrist areas. Perhaps you hold your wrists at an awkward angle for work or when bottle feeding a baby? Repetitive wrist actions or strenuous wrist activity can also be a cause especially if you have a weak wrist from an injury.

How to help:

Firstly, see the GP.  It is always good to get thee things looked at. They may offer you splints and depending on how bad things are you can even be offered surgery if it doesn’t clear up. I would suggest you try out some stretches and think about why you have the problem in the first place before jumping to surgery.

Exercises:

  1. Stretch your arm out to the side of your body and point your fingers down to the floor. Now take your ear towards your opposite shoulder. Bring the head back up and repeat.
  2. Wrist circles and making your hands into a fist, then extending the fingers into a star (think twinkle, twinkle little star).
  3. Place your arm out to the side, with fingertips on the wall. Glide your palm down so the whole palm in in contact with the wall. Work from fingers to palm a few times.
  4. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder, drop the left arm and shoulder away from you, this should stretch and release in your left side.

Mummyhood, 8 ways to look after YOU.

Being a mum is amazing, it teaches you so much about yourself, it challenges you the furthest you have probably ever been challenged. There can be moments of joy, fear, hilarity, excitement, frustration and annoyance all in one hour. Your little ones are the most amazing gift and a true miracle to watch them grow.

Post natal

So it is not surprising that in the midst of all the hard work of mummy hood that YOU, the mummy, can be the one that gets forgotten. Perhaps you don’t have time to eat properly, you aren’t getting proper sleep, you don’t have the time to look after yourself and there is very little You time.

The problem is your body is in recovery. For 9 month it has carried and nurtured a growing baby. That’s a lot of work. Your body has provided nutrition, your muscles have been stretched and strained by carrying the extra weight, your breathing has even adapted and your blood flow. Your hormones have been altered. Then you have given birth. No small feat, in fact a massive achievement and a massive ordeal for the body to then recover from. Mums are expected to spring back to full form in a  matter of weeks – but it can take the body a good 9 months to a year to recover nutritionally, hormonally and in strength.

So how can you help yourself?

Nourish yourself with nutritious and delicious food. It can feel like the last thing you have time to do but the inside of your body is your powerhouse. If you are not sustaining yourself then you will not be able to look after anyone else well. 

Base your meals around: good lean protein sources, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables. Plan your meals out, there is nothing worse than being starving hungry, having little time to cook and now having a clue what you are going to make.

Beans:lentils

Meal plan like a goddess: I like to meal plan on a Sunday and then bulk cook – cooking 2-3 meals in one hit works for me as it means it can all be done in a hour or so, I do all the mess, chopping and clearing up at once and can stock up my freezer too. For example today I have made a large batch of minced beef : half for a lasagne, half for the freezer, then a chicken soup using the chicken carcass and some roasted vegetable pasta sauce. So I have meals for Mon, Tues and Wed then on Thurs we may eat a meal from the freezer and Friday is a relaxed affair in our house so may be baked sweet potatoes with tuna and salad. If you ned some help there are 2 meal planners you can download here.

Meal Plan 1.2.15

Step away from the chocolate cake: Snack instead on proteins (nuts, seeds, yoghurt, hummus, egg muffins) and fruit/veggies. It can be hard to break the habit but it will make you feel better. Find a system that works for you – make up snack boxes ahead of time, buy in ready made snack boxes, bulk bake healthy snacks such as healthy oaty bars or my banana muffins. For that sweet treat switch over to a little bit of dark chocolate, you won’t eat as much of it and it is packed with antioxidants.

almond heart

Say goodbye to the caffeine and sugar rush club. It can make you feel better initially but it really doesn’t give you long lasting energy or health. Eating protein and low glycaemic index foods such as oats will lead to you having more sustained energy levels, more stable mood and will help regulate your appetite.

Pilates with Priya: herbal tea

Sleep is queen bee. Having had 2 babies who did not sleep well I know what a nightmare sleep deprivation is. Literal torture, your brain doesn’t function properly, your appetite steps up a gear, you are cranky and still have a whole day to get through. Find a way to get some sleep in, see if you can take it in turns with your partner or have a family member help in the day so you can nap. That magical word, nap!

Wine o’clock. Maybe this should be whine o’clock?! You know that 5/6pm moment when it’s all just too much and you wish bedtime would hurry it’s ass up? That’s the point I want a glass of something. I don’t see anything wrong with a glass of wine now and again, but it’s remembering that it is also a toxin and when your body is trying to recover you don’t want to overload it with other work to do. So enjoy that glass of wine, but don’t go OTT.

Relaxation Time. Now this I struggle with. Somehow, building in regular time for you to unwind and relax is vital. When your stress levels are high you respond to things differently. Try using a meditation app such as Headspace, go swimming, get your nails done, read a new book, go for a walk – whatever you can manage. Just do something that calms, chills and centres you.

Pilates with Priya: Take time to look after you

Mummies, you are amazing. Your bodies are amazing. Go love them, nourish them and enjoy your babies.

Look out for my next post on postnatal nutrition – the micro’s and macro’s.

After Baby it is time to Nourish YOU.

Being a mum is amazing, it teaches you so much about yourself, it challenges you the furthest you have probably ever been challenged. There can be moments of joy, fear, hilarity, excitement, frustration and annoyance all in one hour. Your little ones are the most amazing gift and a true miracle to watch them grow.

Pilates with Priya: Newborn Baby in sling

So it is not surprising that in the midst of all the hard work of mummy hood that YOU, the mummy, can be the one that gets forgotten. Perhaps you don’t have time to eat properly, you aren’t getting proper sleep, you don’t have the time to look after yourself and there is very little You time.

The problem is your body is in recovery. For 9 months it has carried and nurtured a growing baby. That’s a lot of work. Your body has provided nutrition, your muscles have been stretched and strained by carrying the extra weight, your breathing has even adapted and your blood flow. Your hormones have been altered. Then you have given birth. No small feat, in fact a massive achievement and a massive ordeal for the body to then recover from. Mums are expected to spring back to full form in a  matter of weeks – but it can take the body a good 9 months to a year to recover nutritionally, hormonally and in strength.

So how can you help yourself?

Nourish yourself with nutritious and delicious food. It can feel like the last thing you have time to do but the inside of your body is your powerhouse. If you are not sustaining yourself then you will not be able to look after anyone else well.

almond heart

Base your meals around: good lean protein sources, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables. Plan your meals out, there is nothing worse than being starving hungry, having little time to cook and now having a clue what you are going to make.

Meal plan like a goddess: I like to meal plan on a Sunday and then bulk cook – cooking 2-3 meals in one hit works for me as it means it can all be done in a hour or so, I do all the mess, chopping and clearing up at once and can stock up my freezer too. For example today I have made a large batch of minced beef : half for a lasagne, half for the freezer, then a chicken soup using the chicken carcass and some roasted vegetable pasta sauce. So I have meals for Mon, Tues and Wed then on Thurs we may eat a meal from the freezer and Friday is a relaxed affair in our house so may be baked sweet potatoes with tuna and salad.

Stop the chocolate cake: Snack instead on proteins (nuts, seeds, yoghurt, hummus, egg muffins) and fruit/veggies. It can be hard to break the habit but it will make you feel better. Find a system that works for you – make up snack boxes ahead of time, buy in ready made snack boxes, bulk bake healthy snacks such as healthy oaty bars or my Cocao Power Balls. For that sweet treat switch over to a little bit of dark chocolate, you won’t eat as much of it and it is packed with antioxidants.

Cocao Power balls text

Move away from the caffeine and sugar rush club. It can make you feel better initially but it really doesn’t give you long lasting energy or health. Eating protein and low glycaemic index foods such as oats will lead to you having more sustained energy levels, more stable mood and will help regulate your appetite.

Sleep is the queen. Having had 2 babies who did not sleep well I know what a nightmare sleep deprivation is. Literal torture, your brain doesn’t function properly, your appetite steps up a gear, you are cranky and still have a whole day to get through. Find a way to get a decent nights sleep in, see if you can take it in turns with your partner or have a family member help in the day so you can nap. That magical work, nap!

Wine o’clock. Maybe this should be whine o’clock?! You know that 5/6pm moment when it’s all just too much and you wish bedtime would hurry it’s ass up? That’s the point I want a glass of something. I don’t see anything wrong with a glass of wine now and again, but it’s remembering that it is also a toxin and when your body is trying to recover you don’t want to overload it with other work to do. So enjoy that glass of wine, but don’t go OTT.

Relaxation Hour. Well you may not have an hour, but building in regular time for you to unwind and relax is vital. When your stress levels are high you respond to things differently. Try using a meditation app such as Headspace, go swimming, get your nails done, read a new book, go for a walk – whatever you can manage. Just do something that calms, chills and centres you.

Pilates with Priya: Take time to look after you

Mummies, you are amazing. Your bodies are amazing. Go love them, nourish them and enjoy your babies.

Look out for my next post on postnatal nutrition – the micro’s and macro’s.

Third Time Lucky? How do you need to look after you?

Oh my days.

I can’t quite believe we are doing this again, but we are. Pregnant for the THIRD time.

It’s all feeling quite real now as there is a definite bump and lots of baby movements.

Pilates wirh Priya: Bump 3  at 20 weeks

I’m filled with a lot of excitement as I LOVE being a mummy, having the chance to nurture, feed and look after a baby again is totally amazing. With my boy I kept having sad moments of “What if this is the last time I get to do this”. Well it wasn’t  😉

However also the apprehension of how will it be having 3 small people to chase? I know I won’t have enough hands to hold theirs all at once. How long will it take to get out of the house? How many bags of snacks, clothes, nappies, toys and random items will I have to carry with me? How on earth will my poor body fare?

After baby 1 I definitely bounced back pretty quickly.

Baby 2 I had diastasis Recti, just a small one but it took 6 months to heal. I went back to normal life too quickly and didn’t spend long enough thinking about myself, my posture and fixing me.

Baby 3 I know my former abdominal separation has softened up already and I am now teaching more classes than I was before but will also have to be extra careful with myself.

Good Nutrition, hydration, sensible exercise and some rest are my plans for the next few months.

So here is my thought for you….

Pilates with Priya: Take time to look after you

What do you need to do to look after you this week, this month, this year? If you don’t look after you then no-one else will.

Exercises for combatting rounded shoulders.

Shoulders are one of my picky points. Why? Well firstly because I have had to really work on mine. They have always been a sticking point for me, I remember a Pilates teacher walking down the road with me once saying “Shoulders down” every 2 steps! Carrying, feeding and rocking babies always affects my shoulders and upper back. So I guess you could say I’m a bit picky about shoulders as I know how much it poor posture in this area can affect you.

I would encourage you to look in the mirror at your posture, side on and front on.

1. Are your shoulders level?

2. Are your shoulders rounded?

3. Can you slide your shoulders further down in your spine, so are they too far up towards your ears?

4. Do you stick your ribcage forward? (Ladies, no boob thrusting is needed!)

Here are some exercises to help you strengthen your upper back and focus on your shoulders.

Really good if you sit at a desk for some time and know your shoulderes are suffering. Also brilliant for mums who are feeding, carrying, rocking babies and babywearing.

3 Moves to think about with Diastasis

 If you have abdominal separation, or are pregnant, here are 3 moves to stay clear of…
1. Sitting up from Lying
It’s such a simple everyday move but sitting up in bed is something to modify. Why? It puts pressure on your rectus abdominus or “six-pack” muscles. These muscles you want to look after. They have to stretch and make room for your growing bump and can separate. This can be a normal part of pregnancy but also something you can help lessen the risk of. Avoid any exercises like sit ups or curl ups or sitting up from lying on your back will help with this.
2. Lifting heavy weights which puts strain on your back, core and can affect your posture.
This can be hard to avoid if you have another young child. Try training them to walk or use a scooter more. Bring in the idea of sitting down for a cuddle rather than walking around holding them. I still have to carry my toddler but he now goes in a sling on my back which helps my posture and distributes the weight more evenly.
Lifting also puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor which is already working harder than normal.
3. Sitting in a bucket seat in the later stages of pregnancy.
Sitting on a sofa or almost any comfy chair can lead to your pelvis being tilted so you are not seated in the best position for either your lower back or to allow your baby to descend into your pelvis. Sitting on an exercise ball or a high backed chair will help you sit up tall so that baby can get into position easier.
Diastasis Recti

What your shoulders are telling you

Shoulders. Officially one of my picky points. Why? Well firstly because I know what it is like to feel you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and secondly because it such an easy thing to spot.

Sitting in a meeting today I could see that 90% of the people in the room were sat with rounded shoulders and their necks jutting forward. Over time that becomes a habit and that habit leads to a muscular imbalance.

This week I have taught a few classes that are not my usual ones. It’s given me a fresh insight into how many people struggle with their shoulders and upper back posture. If you are in a class with me “Shoulders” is one of my common cues!

I used to have awful upper body posture. I can remember back to being 18 and having a massage. Even then the masseuse told me how tight my upper traps were. Sitting at a desk, working long hours at a computer and not exercising enough really did not help. Fast forward 10 years and Pilates found me. Walking down the road next to a Pilates teacher I remember being told “Shoulders” every 2 steps. Finally I got it 😉

I now spend time focusing on my shoulder function, strengthening my lats and traps in my back. It really works wonders. I also know my triggers – stress, feeding babies and carrying children. In any of these situations I really need to overfocus on my posture.

So how are your shoulders and what are they telling you?

Take a look in the mirror at a few points in the day and check out those shoulders. Are they level or do you have 1 higher than the other? Do you have any pain or tension in them? How do you sit, stand and move your arms?

Some great shoulder function exercises include: Chicken wings, Diamond Press, Sphinx and using weights for a chest fly and ribcage closure.

Here is one of my fav’s at present: