Why is Pilates so essential for new mums?

Pilates is still quite a new form of exercise in the UK.  It was developed by Joseph Pilates, a German-born gymnast, circus-performer and boxer  during the 1920’s.  He named his method “Contrology” and it was designed to rehabilitate soldiers during the war.  Later, it became popular amongst ballet dancers, then went mainstream, where now it’s suitable for just about everyone and is used by many atheletes as well as the general public.

Pilates is all about your “core” muscles, but what is that?  The “core” is made up of several muscles which wrap around your spine – a bit like a cylinder.  These are muscles at the front of your body (transverses abdominus/hip flexors), side (obliques), back (multifidis), top (diaphragm) and base (pelvic floor).

To find your core muscles, you just need to tighten/pull/draw your abdominal muscles in slightly.  Start by breathing into your belly first, then as you breath out, draw your tummy muscles in towards your spine and keeping that light tension switched on.  These muscles are slow to contract and slow to fatigue, so it means you should be able to hold your tummy muscles inwards with a low level of contraction, for a minute or two, then  move an arm or a leg, or the spine, to create an unstable environment and therefore provide a challenge for the muscles.

Postnatal Posture

Pilates helps correct postnatal postural issues and targets the correct muscles.

 

Pilates is particularly beneficial for postnatal women (trust me I have had 2 babies and used Pilates to help me), because it targets the very muscles which get weakened by pregnancy itself eg the pelvic floor and core.  It also helps you breathe better, puts your body in an optimal postural position and relieves tension in your neck, shoulders, hips and lower back from constant lifting, carrying, feeding and changing your baby. Without it you are likely to end up with all kind of aches and pains. Think about those lower back aches, those niggles in your hips, that shoulder and neck tension – Pilates can help with all of that and help relax you too. Win Win.

Postnatal Hair Loss, how to look after those locks.

One of the lovely side effects I had during pregnancy was to have thicker, faster growing hair. My hairdresser was always amazed when she saw me yet again for a trim.

This extra hair growth that some ladies see is due to the hormone levels, specifically the oestrogen. Hair has a cycle of growth and loss. Usually we lose about 100 hairs a day, however in pregnancy this hair loss can be reduced giving you those extra lush locks. All good things must come to an end however and as the oestrogen levels drop so must the extra hair. It is not uncommon for clumps or handfuls of hair to come out when you are brushing or washing it. So do not panic! Your hair will go back to how it was pre-pregnancy, you will not be bald (phew).

For some mums this will happen from birth and for others it will be when breastfeeding stops.

Pilates with Priya: postnatal hair loss

Top Tips:
1. Be kind to your hair, don’t was it excessively (as if you have time to with a baby!) and be gentle when styling it.
2. Try to stay away from hair dryers and straighteners, chemicals and treatments for a while.
3. Take a postnatal vitamins and eat a healthy balanced diet. Essential fatty acids are needed for hair to grow strong and healthy so no low fat diets.
4. Talk to your health visitor or GP is you feel the hair loss is excessive as it could be a sign something else is not quite right.

Losing the Baby Weight Week 6: my first training session.

So I’ve reached the 6 week post baby place. This is usually when you get an appointment with your GP and hopefully are given the green light to exercise. In my GP surgery the 6 week check is carried out at 8 weeks. Fortunately as a specialist in the antenatal and postnatal fitness arena I know what exercise is safe to do at this stage, so this weekend I made a start. I’d love to go for a run and do some high impact work, but I’m very aware that my core is not as strong as I’d like it to be yet and my pelvic floor is still regaining strength. Also Relaxin is still in my system making my joints prone to overstretching. So I’m being patient and holding back. Doing high impact activites such as running, jumping, aerobics can put extra strain on your pelvic floor and joints. So my thoughts and advice are to take it easy and go for low impact options after birth until you have regained some core strength first, this is like your foundation for all other exercise.  My Exercise this week: I’m doing some Pilates pretty much everyday. Just 15 minutes is really making a difference and I am now so much stronger than I was. I’m loving 1/2 roll ups, swimming in hands and knees and shoulder bridges with knee folds. I’ve even done a bit of Pilates with baby asleep in the sling 😉 Hard work indeed!

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

At the weekend I did my first weights session. I focused on squats, lunges, chest presses, shoulder rows and modified press ups. My toddler joined me with her imaginery weights and baby kicked along to the music on his playmat. Exercising with children can be done! It was nice to feel my muscles the next day! Walking is key for me too, I’m making sure I get a walk in 3 time a week, usually this is with baby in the sling or pushing the baby and toddler in the buggy – both make for a good workout 🙂

Trainers hung up at 37 weeks. Tips on exercising late in pregnancy.

As well as being a Pilates instructor I’m also trained to teach various other exercise classes. One of my favourites is Step Aerobics. I recently set up my own little community class and have adored teaching my group of amazing ladies. Go back a few months and many of them had never done a Step class before, this week I looked on with happiness seeing how them all getting the moves and putting the steps together like pros.

So at almost 37 weeks I’ve finally hung up my trainers, tonight was my last cardio class (I’m still teaching Pilates) and althought it feels sad my body is definitely telling me it’s time to stop. Having said that it also feels awesome to exercise and keeping active in pregnancy has kept me mobile, well, fit and able to do all I need to do. Here I am after class this evening.

Pilates with Priya: Almost 37 Weeks Pregnant.

Step Aerobics wouldn’t be the class I’d suggest to start up in pregnancy as it involves moves where you stand on one leg and other moves that may not be great if your body is not used to it. However if you have already been doing this type of class then you will be fine to continue as long as you LISTEN to you body and consult your instructor. I have had a pregnant lady in my class who is now 29 weeks and doing really well.

Here are my tips on exercising late in pregnancy:

1. Now is NOT the time to start an exercise regime or take up a new form of exercise but continuing with what your body is used to is fine.

2. Avoid moves that involve twisting, jumping, standing on one leg, lifting the leg out to the side and high kicks.

3. Dial down the impact level. It is perfectly fine to stay active but you will need to bring it down a notch 😉 Make moves smaller.

4. Take regular breaks, drink plenty of fluids and make sure you don’t overheat.

5. If you feel any pain or discomfort then STOP. It is really important to listen to your body.

6. Wear suitable clothing, a decent, supportive, sports bra, good trainers are essential.

7. Ask your instructor for modified moves that you can do in a class or find a pregnancy fitness class.

8. Keep going as long as you feel good and feel like it is doing you some good.

9. Rehydrate and refuel afterwards.

My Top 3 Pilates Exercises for Pregnancy.

I’m a huge fan of Pilates during pregnancy, it really kept me strong, active and held my pelvis together throughout 2 pregnancies. In fact in my second pregnancy when I was teaching 11 Pilates classes a week and doing Pilates daily I had no lower back pain or pelvic pain. It  really does work!

So here are my top 3 Pilates exercises to do in pregnancy. These were filmed when I was 34 weeks pregnancy myself and are safe to do throughout all 3 trimesters of pregnancy and after birth too.

 

 

You can buy my “Bump to Birth” Pilates in Pregnancy DVD here.