The 3 top benefits of postnatal pilates.

It strengthens your core and fixes your body. This is HUGE NEWS. Mums are lifting, bending, rotating, reaching, rocking, pushing and feeding babies. A whole lot of work and strain on the body. The core is made up of the abdominal muscles, the back muscles and the pelvic floor. This cylinder provides the support for the rest of the body to move. After carrying a baby in your womb for 9 months there has been quite a strain on the core. Your abdominals have been stretched and may have stretched apart slightly (diastasis recti). Your pelvic floor muscles have been supporting a heavy load and then may have helped push a baby out. Your lower back muscles will need supporting and strengthening as your baby grows and gets heavier. This is where Pilates has been invaluable for me and it fixes me weekly. Yes there are plenty of other fitness classes you can do postnatally, but a specialised postnatal Pilates is the one you want to do FIRST. It provides you with the foundation that you need to rehabilitate your body after pregnancy and labour. If you do not strengthen your core and get your posture sorted then later along the line you could suffer set backs and problems such as leaking and abdominal separation that doesn’t heal up. If you have this issue come see me for a 1-2-1 session.

If you have pelvic floor issues then you need to be on my pelvic floor workshop.

There are a couple of ways we work on core strength in classes.

Firstly BREATHING. It is something we all do all of the time but breathing using the diaphragm will help the core work in synergy. The Diaphragm, abdominals, back muscles and pelvic floor are all involved in breathing. Try this out:

1. Place your hands around your ribcage. Inhale feeling the breath come into your ribcage. So your ribs move out to the side, your back expands, your chest expands.

2. As you exhale, breath out with pursed lips, feel the tummy come in, the lower back tense and try to get right to the end of your breath to feel an tension in your lower abdominals and a lift in your pelvic floor.

3. Practise this for 5-10 minutes and it really can help, plus it relaxes you 🙂

All the Pilates moves are layered on top of the breathing. It can take a while to get the breathing at the right time and in the right way but suddenly it will click.

It reconnects you with your body. As a mum your primary focus is on your gorgeous baby. There is less time for you to look after your own body and this can get pushed down the list of importance. However your postnatal period is an important time of recovery for you.

A postnatal class can teach you how your body feels when you do certain movements. I know I can be busy rushing around all day and then suddenly in a class I realise my shoulder is out of alignment or my hips ache. It makes you focus on your tummy and pelvic floor, an area many mums don’t want to connect with post-birth. Let’s  face it things are changed in or bodies but it is something to embrace and work to strengthen rather than to avoid. A class also means someone else also has a look at how your body is functioning, which can give you valuable insights and reassurance.

I myself go to classes so that someone who knows my body can give me feedback and push me further. We all need someone who knows us well to watch out for us.

It is you time. Our postnatal classes are run with a creche. I love babies, but having taught with one crawling around the studio, going under and over me… I know how distracting it is to doing the moves correctly. You tense up in order to ensure baby is safe which then means you do not get the full benefit from the class and exercises. You listen to their noises and not your body.

We’ve found over the years that having a creche away from the studio works best. Then the mums are not listening out to their babies, they aren’t all in the studio freezing each time a  baby makes a noise, working out if it is theirs, if so do they need to go to baby. It takes trust on the part of the mum, but James has been running our creche for 7 years now and has seen an awful lot of babies in that time. If he can’t cope and needs a mummy, he knows when to ask.

So if you are thinking about trying a postnatal class I would highly recommend you try Pilates. Yes I am completely biased, but I am also proof that it works. Having had 3 babies, I have rehabilitated each time with Pilates. It works.

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.

Why can’t I do a roll up? PART 1. Stiff backs and getting stuck.

Roll ups can be one of those nemesis exercises that people struggle with and they can cause so much frustration. I’ve got a number of people in various classes who struggle with these so it’s made me get my thinking cap on. Why are they such a struggle? How can you get better at them? How do people suddenly manage to be able to do them?

What is a roll up?

A roll up can start from seated or lying down. I’m going to start from the mat. So we start with a curl up, chin towards the chest, working through the upper spine.

To do this you use primarily the rectus abdominus muscles (six pack muscles) and also the obliques (waist muscles). So this part of the exercise means you need to first off work on those curl ups.

The next stage is the most challenging part and brings more muscles into play. Bringing the ribs and torso off the mat. The aim is to do this segmentally, working vertebrae by vertebrae through the spine, keeping the shoulders down and not using momentum. So not only do you have too deepen and increase your curl up but you need to bend at the hips as you come up towards seated. This uses the hip flexors to pull your body up off the ground. Many people get stuck at this stage.

STUCK ON THE MAT: work on your breathing. If you get stuck at the ribcage, exhaling properly and using the diaphragm as you breath can help. It will open the ribs and help lengthen the spine. Also use spine stretches and the shoulder bridge to help mobilise your spine. Go back to the 1/2 roll back and focus on really deepening your C curve, this will stretch the tightness in your lower back and strengthen your abdominals. Think of scooping and bring your belly button towards your spine to really get the curve. When you try the full roll up, keep your ribcage heavy and down into the mat as you roll up, then once your ribs are up keep the lower back heavy on the mat and keep peeling the spine up.

For the roll up to work well you need your back to be flexible. It doesn’t matter how strong your abdominals are, if your back is stiff you won’t roll up segmentally. If you struggle with the rollover and rolling like a ball then this is likely you.

STIFF BACK: work on shoulder bridges. Get that spine moving piece by piece letting gravity help you. Focus on your breath as you do it. Breath out as you come down to the mat.

Use the spine stretch to stretch the upper-mid part of your back. Also work your C-curve. Focus on the half roll up and also rolling like a ball without rolling! So getting into that position really rounding the lower back and sinking into the tilted pelvis.

To learn more look out for part 2 of this post focusing on hip flexors.

Say NO to Sit Ups

 Sit-ups are one of those exercises that I’m really not keen on. Many people perform them incorrectly, they are not safe in pregnancy or post-birth… and yet they are often one of the main exercises people will be doing.

A sit up or any variation of this movement where you go into forward flexion , bringing your upper body towards your knees, is not a good thing for postnatal women.  In fact it can cause more harm than good as it works the tummy muscles in the wrong way.  So, if you’ve recently had a baby and you’re doing sit ups, STOP them immediately.

Pilates with Priya: Why not to Curl up after having baby

Sit ups work the tummy muscles that run vetically down the tummy, called the Rectus Abdominis but commonly known as the six-pack muscle. These lengthen in pregnancy and as your baby grows and your bump gets bigger, this muscle my start to separate around your belly button.  The abdominals can take time to come back to normal after your baby has been born, so for several weeks and indeed months after birth, these muscle remains in a lengthened, separated state.

The danger of doing sit ups in this state is that you can widen any separation you may have of the abdominals and you can actually strengthen the muscles to stay in this separated state. The long term problems with separation include the risk of a hernia (the intestines poke out as there are no tummy muscles covering them), pelvic floor weakness and it also means you won’t get a flat tummy back again.

Instead of doing sit ups, you need to focus on strengthening the pelvic floor and the Transversus Abdominis, which runs like a corset around your lower tummy. By strenghtening these muscle that are deep inside you will strengthen the body from the outside in. These muscles are your foundation, once they are working then they will help realign any abdominal separation you may have and will knit you together again.

Our specialist Postnatal Pilates class and our DVD focuses on strengthening these muscles in the correct order. So we find the lower tummy (transversus abdominus) muscle first, along with the pelvic floor. We then shorten the rectus abdominus  muscles running down the tummy. When this is strong enough and any abdominal separation has been realigned, then the other tummy muscles can be worked.

 

 

 

 

Stretch, Release and Strengthen.

Often when people come to Pilates they just want to work their core, which I completely get. Coming to Pilates from a fitness instructor background I also had that mentality of wanting to work hard, wanting to feel it working and wanting to feel the aches afterwards. I’ve had to relearn things and now Pilates has changed the way I do other forms of exercise too. I hear some of our clients saying the same thing. It ruins you, this Pilates thing 😉

You definitely should feel your abdominals working in Pilates and you may well feel the aftereffects the next day. But just focusing on working the core isn’t enough. You need a whole body approach and body awareness. Knowing which parts of your body need strengthening, which parts are tights and need stretching and which parts are overworking and need releasing is so key. For example having weak gluteals can affect your posture and your back. Being tight in one hip can lead to your compensating and working harder on one side than the other. Tight hamstrings are something I often see and this can cause back issues and restrict movement as well as affect posture.

So make sure you are not just working your core. Also think about finding exercises that strengthen other areas such as your gluteals, shoulders and upper back. Take time to think about where in the body your are tight, where your movement feels restricted and then work on releasing. A foam roller or a spiky ball is your friend here. Always take time to stretch and try not to rush this, using a band can help you increase stretches and develop them further.  Ask your instructor for some good exercises to help you, or book a one to one session for a posture assessment and individual advice. It will really make a difference.

Pilates with Priya: Release, Stretch and Strengthen

We can order you rollers, balls and bands for collection from the studio.

To book a one to one session with Priya please get in touch,