Why is Pilates so beneficial for new mums?

Pilates is still quite a new form of exercise in the UK.  Just to give you some background, Joseph Pilates, a German-born gymnast, circus-performer, boxer and anatomical-chart model, developed his training method during the 1920s, so it’s been around for quite a while.  He named his method “Contrology”, initially to rehabilitate soldiers during the war.  Later, it became popular in the ballet circuit, then went mainstream, where now it’s suitable for just about everyone.

You’ll hear Pilates Instructors mention your “core” muscles quite a lot during class.  The “core” is made up of several muscles which wrap around your spine – a bit like a cylinder.  There 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, drawing 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 simply move an arm or a leg, or the spine, to create an unstable environment and therefore provide a challenge for the muscles.  Pilates is quite simple in design.

Pilates is particularly beneficial for postnatal women, because, put simply, 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.


The History of Pilates

Pilates is an exercise method that was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920′s, he called it “Contrology”.  Joseph Pilates suffered from various serious illnesses during his childhood and doctors warned his parents that he would have a short life expectancy. He was determined from a young age not to succumb to the doctors prognosis and began to experiment with a wide range of health and fitness regimes in his attempt to rebuild his body strength. He studied yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, skiing, dance, weight training and even circus skills,

Then in the 1920’s he ended up in a German internment camp, it was here his Pilates techniques were birthed. He used easily available objects as athletic equipment to strengthen core muscles. He soon started training his fellow detainees with fitness exercises as a form of rehabilitation from injury and disease, using bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients.

In the mid 1920′s Joseph Pilates emigrated to America where he and his wife, Clara, set up a studio teaching Contrology to, among others, members of the New York City Ballet which was located nearby.

It was only after his death that Contrology came to be known as Pilates; and as his students spread across the world they took the method with them and developed it further.


Pilates that is now taught is a largely modified version of Contrology as modern day bodies are slightly different to Joseph’s. But the benefits and principles are the same. Pilates is based on anatomy and physiology, it looks at how the muscles work and has works with your body. By this I mean weak muscles will be strengthening and over tight muscles stretched out. Through doing the exercises you become more “body aware” which means you learn about your posture and your bodies imbalances, after a few classes you’ll find yourself standing taller, looking straighter and feeling calmer. Come and give it a go!