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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

Pimp Your Pelvic Floor Was a Success!

This week we ran our first Pimp Your Pelvic Floor workshop. In fact it was our first every Pilates workshop!

We had 5 ladies, 4 of whom were already mums and 1 of who was 36 weeks pregnant with twins! Plus we had the company of a beautiful 11 week old baby 🙂

I so so so enjoyed this workshop. It was amazing to share knowledge, pass on tips, get feedback from the ladies and then run a practical side to the session.

We spent time on the anatomy of the pelvic floor and then looking how it functions as a part of the whole body. This part especially I find important. The pelvic floor doesn’t work in isolation does it, it works under loads and under pressure as we walk, lift, cough, jump and move everyday. Looking at the models of the pelvis showed us all how the pelvic floor really is affected by movements we do and is connected to the body.

The feedback has been really good with participants ranking the workshops as excellent. We hope to run these regularly – so don’t worry if you haven’t been able to book on yet.

Pilates with Priya: Keep Calm and Do Kegels

Looking forward to running the next one in October 🙂

How to help stop those leaks.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve bounced too much on the trampoline, coughed and sneezed too much or just bent down and leaked a little? Horrible to talk about but it happens.

One way to help with this is to practise and use core bracing. Any movement that increases the pressure inside your tummy can push pressure down on your pelvic floor. To help counter this you can brace the core. It’s like adjusting the tension on a trampoline so that when you jump you don’t touch the floor.

Use Your Core

Ready, Steady, BRACE:
As you breath out draw in the lower tummy muscles (tranversus abdominus) and the pelvic floor muscles too. Your transversus abdominus muscle is below your belly button, to find it you can slide your fingers just inside your hip bones and cough. That muscle that you feel move is the one to engage. To engage your pelvic floor think about lifting the muscles around your vagina and anus. It can take a bit of practice to engage your core and pelvic floor at the same time, but persevere it will come.

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Practise this when doing everyday movements and it should become a habit. So whenever you cough, sneeze, lift something, bend, bounce, push something, extend away, reach or twist you can brace the core.