The why and why knot of slings.

We first discovered slings when Kezia was about 3 months old. I had one given to me whilst I was pregnant but it was a ring sling, which I just couldn’t work out. Then I ended up with a high maintenance baby who needed holding a lot, feeding a lot and needed to be upright. Suddenly slings became a necessity. Since then slings have become items that I love, they mean I can hold my baby close enough to kiss and yet have both of my arms free. I’ve always found that slings soothe my babies, they love being in the sling as they can see more, be held close and can poke me 😉 My personal favourite sling for front carries is a woven wrap as it is supportive and versatile.  I love the Mei Tai for back carries and for keeping tied on when out and about so I can slip the toddler in and out as needed.  I found out recently that baby wearing can burn an extra 16% of calories too, so an added bonus if you are looking at losing the post-baby weight.

Pilates with Priya: Baby in sling 1

Pilates with Priya: Baby in sling 1

Here are my top tips on slings:

Check to see if you have a sling library and advisor in your area. In Southampton we have a fabulous Sling Sling Meet. This meets twice a month, you can go along to get advice, try out a sling, make sure you are wearing it properly and borrow a sling for a month. A truly fabulous resource.

 

Newborn babies’ have a C-shaped spine, a good sling should allow them to remain in this rounded position and not slouch down when asleep. The fabric shold come up high enough to provide head support.

As with most things in life there are good and bad slings. Meaning there are slings that hold your baby in a good position and some that are not good for baby’s posture and specifically hip development. Forcing the hips into a stretched out position too early can lead to hip dysplasia. You want your baby to have their legs in a “froggy” position or M shape when in a sling, much like the fetal position. Their bottom should sit lower than their knees to allow for the balls o f the hips to sit in the sockets. This takes the pressure off the hip joint. Check that your sling allows this and doesn’t cause the baby’s legs to dangle down, unsupported.

Look out for second hand slings on preloved sites and ebay, you can save a fortune. Also check out you tube for great videos on how to wear your sling, I’ve learnt so many different carries this way.

Be very mindful of your posture when using your sling. It is very easy to let your shoulders round forward and and your neck jut down. This will lead to neck and shoulder ache and will not help with healing a diastasis. You need to focus on your core when using a sling, as when you think about it you are lifting something! So you need to think about  your posture and core. Focus on standing tall, lengthening through the crown of your head, bring your shoulder blades down in your back and lifting through your mid back without pushing your ribcage out. Draw in your lower abdominal and lift your pelvic floor, holding a medium contraction in these muscles. If you get tired then rest. I found a few positions where I could prop myself up on the sofa or bed and have a nap with baby sleeping in the sling!

 

Pelvic Floor: It’s not all about the lift.

I’m slowly turning into a pelvic floor geek. Someone save me! Seriously I have learnt so much more about the pelvic floor in the past year and know I have more to learn.  It’s pretty sad that so much of the information that is given out is so out of date.

Gone are the days when strengthening your pelvic floor was just about trying to mimic the actio of stopping the flow of urine. This is such a simplistic view on a working a complex muscle.

In this brief video below I talk about the pelvic floor being like a trampoline, how we need to strengthen it all the way round thinking about all the attachments and the danger of over tightening. No-one wants an over-tight muscle. Think about having a tight calf muscle. No fun. It can lead to that muscle actually being weak, which is the whole issue you were trying to avoid. Whoops. So focusing on all the muscle attachments and strengthening PLUS relaxing it is the way to go.

(This video was recorded live on Periscope some I respond to the live viewers in parts).

How to stay on top of cooking healthy meals

The craziness of 2 small children and teaching classes at times others would eat means I HAVE to be ultra-organised about our meals. It’s that or live off beans on toast, which wouldn’t be very considerate for my Pilates classes 😉

So if you also have a busy lifestyle, if you are cooking around young ones or if you are wanting to save a few pennies… read on for my top tips.

Pilates with Priya: Top Tips for Healthy Meals

My top tips:

  1. Meal Planning really does work. We have a whiteboard in our kitchen and I plan out our evening meals and some of our lunches too.
  2. Use your meal plan to shop and prepare in advance. When you have a quieter day chop up some veggies in advance for example, or boil a pile of eggs for lunches, make hummus or cook a meal to get ahead.
  3. Cook in bulk when you can. If you are doing a casserole, chilli, bolognaise, soup or freezable meal cook double and freeze it. This saves me on a regular basis on days things go wrong and I realise I’ve no time to cook!
  4. You don’t have to wait until dinner time to cook. I often end up cooking our evening meal in the morning, as that’s when I have a gap in my day. It can be quite satisfying knowing dinner is already cooked!
  5. Embrace the slow cooker love. The beauty of this is you can prep it the night before and keep it in the fridge, then switch it on in the morning and by evening you have a cooked meal, often with leftovers to freeze. See my slow cooker recipes here or my pinterest board with over 50 ideas.
  6. Have a day a week you use up the leftovers. Put them on a pizza, add to pasta, put veggies in a frittata or stir fry… it may not be a standard recipe but it can save you time, money and is inventive! See Love Food, Hate Waste for top tips and recipes.
  7. Have some emergency meals in your stores. Baked potatoes can be cooked in the microwave in 10 minutes, add tuna and sweetcorn with some chopped veggies and you have a meal. We always have a jar of pesto ready for that emergency pasta dish and frozen veggies.

What are your top tips or recipes?

For more recipes pop to Dietitian UK.

C sections, the how, what and why of exercise

C-sections can be planned or emergency. I knew very little about them when I gave birth the first time and actually avoided the antenatal class on the topic! However it is really best to have some knowledge in case you have one. Some women elect to have a section, and others go through the stages of labour and then deliver their baby via section.  Around 25% of all births in the UK were delivered by section (2008).

What is a c-section?

An incision made horizontally, just above your pubic hair line.  Contrary to belief, your abdominal muscles AREN’T actually cut with this incision, it’s the outer coating of the muscle, and the cling film type structure in between the 6-pack muscles that is.  The incision is made on the outside of your body horizontally, and then your surgeon gently peels your Linea Alba apart (vertically) to gain access.  The Linea Alba runs vertically down your stomach, and separates your six pack muscles in half, above and below your belly button.  The outside incision is then sutured back together, but the inside cling film/Linea Alba is not.

I know I’m having a c-section, so I don’t need to do pelvic floor exercises, right?

If you elect to have a section, there’s a misconception that your pelvic floor will be fine.  You might think that because your body won’t be going through the stages of labour, your pelvic floor won’t be affected.  However, pregnancy itself puts tremendous pressure on your pelvic floor, as the weight of your developing baby gets bigger and bigger, and therefore weakens these muscles.  So, it’s still very important that you strengthen your pelvic floor during and after pregnancy, even if you elected to have a section.

When can you return to exercise following a c-section?

You will need to have had your Doctor’s Check up before your return to exercise after a c-section, which, depending on your Doctor’s Practice/Surgery could be 8 weeks, 10 weeks or even 12 weeks, so give them a call to see what their guidelines are.  It’s major surgery and your body will need time to heal, so my top tip is to listen to your body and don’t rush back into exercise too early.

What is recovery like after a c-section?

After a c-section, your recover time is longer than a natural birth, you may have a loss of sensation, a numbness in your abdominals especially around the scar area, and the scar tissue itself may reduce your ability to do certain movements completely pain-free.  Your pelvic floor may take a little while to activate consciously too, but keep sending the signal from your brain to these muscles, and eventually, it will switch back on, I promise.

What exercise is safe after a c-section?

Postnatal-specific Pilates-based or core exercise is probably THE best form of exercise for any new mum to be doing, regardless of the type delivery.  Pelvic floor work and then TVA core work is essential to get everything firing again and to start toning that tummy too. It can take time for sensation and nerve impulses to start working again, but it will happen. Patience and perserverance are needed. Babies teach you a lot about both of those I find 😉

 

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.

 

 

 

 

How to Exercise with Your Baby!

Life changes dramatically after your have a baby. Everyone told me this before I had baby 1 but I didn’t really believe it until it happened. Suddenly I went from someone who could spend long periods of time in the gym and go for a run whenever I wanted… to someone who had a baby who fed for 14 hours a day, someone who was living off a few hours sleep, someone who had a small person dependant on them.

Yet I can tell you I still managed to fit in exercise. Even after baby 2 when I had even less sleep and even less time. I wouldn’t say I’m a fitness addict or a superstar mum. I’m just someone who knows that exercise: 1) Boosts my endorphin levels so makes me feel good, 2) Gives me more energy, 3) Helps me tone up and get back in shape.

This is how I fit exercise in…

  • Walks with the pram. With my first baby I regularly went out for an afternoon walk to help her sleep and to get myself some exercise and fresh air. With my second baby I combine with with a trip to the park to wear out the toddler!
  • Running with the pram. I did this alot with my first baby, she loved it and still does at 3 1/2 years “Mummy go faster”.

Week 9 Post-baby: Picking up my trainers

  • I went back to teaching my Step Aerobics and Pilates classes as soon as I could. Personally I needed this baby free time. If you can find a postnatal exercise class then go and do it.
  • Put the baby in a door bouncer or a bouncy chair, put on a postnatal fitness DVD and let them watch. I now do this with the baby watching and the toddler copying me.
  • Wear the baby in a sling and go walking, up hill or up and down the stairs is especially good.
  • Once the small ones are asleep have a set night you go out to exercise or do some exercise at home.
  • Exercise with other mummies – either in a class or go walking together.

I’ve even been know  to teach and do Pilates classes with baby asleep in the sling…. but I wouldn’t recommend you try this out.

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

Try it out, I promise it will make you feel good 🙂

Top Tips on doing Pilates at Home.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of Pilates, because of my job I end up doing Pilates 5 days a week and I have to say if I don’t do enough Pilates I soon notice the difference. Similarly if I do too much I also notice it! The trick is to find the right balance.

One of the questions we get asked is if 1 Pilates class a week is enough. In all honesty I would have to say probably not. However that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quickly try and find a second class to attend. Once you know the basics of Pilates I would recommend you find the exercises that help your body and practise these at home. For example if you have sciatica a few shoulder bridges, CAT’s and a glut massage may help release and relieve pain. If you have recently had a baby then practising some pelvic tilts, hamstring stretches and chest openers will strengthen your pelvic floor, help with abdominal muscle strengthening and release those tight muscles.

CAT

Top Tips on doing Pilates at Home:

1. Choose exercises that you are confident at doing and you know you can do correctly. Good technique is important in Pilates, so ask your instructor to check the exercises you plan to try.

2. Aim to do a couple of short sessions a week at home. Try not to fall into the trap of overdoing it or you could end up with tight muscles in places you don’t want them tight.

3. Try not to just choose the exercises that you like, these will probably be the ones you are good at and don’t really need to practise! For example I’m not a fan of the Saw, but I need to do it!

4. Look into buying a good DVD that will talk you through the exercises and give you a range of moves you can pick and choose from or an all over body workout. Try my DVD for example.

 

Beyond Your Bump: Postnatal Pilates DVD

Having a new born baby is hard work. Amongst the nappy changes, feeds, lack of sleep and recovering from the birth itself, there can be little time to think about exercise! The demands of pregnancy and then the energies of labour put  a great stress on your body and it needs time to recover and heal. So you may not feel like rushing straight back into exercise and that is understandable. However your body also needs the strength to carry, feed and lift without causing aches, pains and issues later down the line.

Pilates is the perfect compromise with this. It is exercise that can be started soon after birth but won’t feel too strenuous. Being able to do just 10 minutes a day will make such a difference to your body. Getting to a class can be stressful with a baby. Help is at hand. We run postnatal classes with a creche provided. Or our “Beyond Your Bump” DVD means you get the experience and benefit of a postnatal class devised by a Pilates specialist, ready to do in your home around your baby.

Postnatal Pilates DVD "Beyond your bump"

This is an hour long DVD in several sections that will:

  • Strengthen your abdominals.
  • Targets your bum, legs and tum.
  • Help with any pelvis pain.
  • Work your pelvic floor in a functional manner.
  • Correct upper body posture.

ESSENTIAL FOR ALL NEW MUMS.

My little ones have always loved sitting in a bouncy chair watching me do exercise – why not see if yours does too!

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.

Top Tips for C section Recovery.

  Around 25% of all births in the UK were delivered by section (2008). Some women have no choice and have to have a section, for others it’s an emergency procedure and for some it’s a choice. However it happens, recovery is different to a natural birth.

What is a c-section?

It’s an incision made horizontally, just above your pubic line.  Most people think the abdominal muscles are cut (I did until I researched it!) however they aren’t. It’s the outer coating of the muscle, and the connective tissue in between the 6-pack (rectua abdominis) muscles that is cut.  The incision is made on the outside of your body horizontally, and then your Linea Alba is puled apart (vertically) to gain access.  The Linea Alba runs vertically down your stomach, and separates your six pack muscles in half, above and below your belly button.  The outside incision is then sutured back together, but the inside tissue is not.

 What about my core and pelvic floor?

If you elect to have a section, there’s a misconception that your pelvic floor will be fine.  You might think that because your body won’t be going through the stages of labour and pushing out a baby, your pelvic floor won’t be affected.  This is where you’re WRONG!  Pregnancy itself puts tremendous pressure on your pelvic floor, as the weight of your developing baby gets bigger and bigger, and therefore weakens these muscles.  So, it’s still very important that you strengthen your core, pelvic floor and legs/bum muscles during and after pregnancy, even if you elected to have a section. You also want to protect and help your pelvis remain strong so Pilates style exercises are essential to help with this

 When can I return to exercise after a c-section?

A c-section is major surgery, so think about how muhc recover time you would need after abdominal surgery for example, you wouldnt’ go rushing back too soon would you. Make sure you have had your postnatal check up before your return to exercise, which, depending on your Doctor’s Practice/Surgery could be 6 weeks -10 weeks. Your midwife will also keep checking you and any questions should be directed to them.   I believe postnatal women should return to exercise following a c-section, after medical clearance and when they feel ready.  It’s major surgery after all, and your body will need time to heal. Whenever you return to exercise you will need to build it up, don’t go straight back to the levle of exercise you used to do 😉

 What is recovery like after a c-section?

After a c-section, your recover time is longer than a natural birth, you may have a loss of sensation, a numbness in your abdominals especially around the scar area, and the scar tissue itself may reduce your ability to do certain movements completely pain-free.  Your pelvic floor may take a little while to activate consciously too, but keep sending the signal from your brain to these muscles, and eventually, it will switch back on, I promise.

 

What exercise is safe after a c-section?

Postnatal-specific Pilates-based or core exercise is probably THE best form of exercise for any new mum to be doing, regardless of the type delivery.  Pelvic floor and core activation work makes up the main focus of any postnatal recovery program if you’ve had your baby via section.  I always perform a “Rec Check” to see if a separation is still existent in my clients abdominals, and  our classes and DVD then use re-activation and re-education exercises to the pelvic floor and abdominals to help the muscles return to their original strength and fire properly. We also work on strengthening the thighs and bum as the pelvis is often still fragile and needs supporting. Correcting your posture is also key, you wouldn’t thik it but bad posture such as hunched shoulders can affect your “mummy tummy” area from becoming strong, toned and functioning properly.

Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix cure for strengthening the abdominals following a section.  It can take months of training, careful instruction and lots of homework.  If your abdominals aren’t assessed and addressed early following the correct procedures and using the correct techniques, then they may stay in a weakened state for the rest of your life, which can lead to poor posture, pelvic discomfort and lower back pain.  The good news though, with the right assessment, instruction and homework, it is fixable.

Our “Beyond Your Bump” DVD will give you exercises and advice to help with your recovery postnatally.