Why Post-natal Pilates is the Ideal Exercise for New Mums
How incredible is the female body?
The ability to grow a new human, adapting and changing completely to allow baby to develop. Organs are squashed, ligaments are altered, muscles are stretched, bones are softened over months, and then we have to deliver this new person! What a feat of endurance!
Yet once we have had the baby, there is often that expectation to instantly return to ‘normal’.
That the pre pregnancy jeans are just slipped back on. That the tummy just flattens. That we can just resume our previous social life, feeling the same about the world around us as we did before baby arrived.
I found this perfectly illustrated as I watched the series, “Yummy Mummies” on Netflix this week.
I was shocked by the portrayal of these wealthy new mums who spoke constantly of ‘popping back’ into shape one baby arrives. Of getting back to their glamorous, Champagne lifestyle.
And in the show it appeared they did. This is not our reality. It is an unhealthy belief which I find sickening and saddening.
Having a baby not only changes our internal structure, our body, but our mind as well. Time and patience is key. Not rushing to meet those impossible expectations, including heading back to your favourite pre-pregnancy HIIT class before your body (and mind) has had a chance to heal.
As a post-natal exercise, Pilates is incredible: gentle but effective. Pilates is a method perfect for getting you fitter from the inside out.
Once you have been cleared to exercise by your GP, a well trained Pilates teacher will ask you for information on your pregnancy and birth.
Do check that your teacher is fully qualified to teach post-natal clients. Ask about his or her experience with post-natal women.
He or she will also check your abdominals for diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and ensure that the class is suitable for you. You don’t want to end up pushing your body too far, too quickly.
A well designed class will help you to tone up and strengthen with exercises designed around what the body needs after pregnancy as well as for the functional movements that a new mum has to endure repeatedly!
Bending over the moses basket, leaning down to get the car seat out, rotating the back as you reach for your drink as you feed baby!
I recall RSI type pain in my wrists due to that constant need to be holding baby’s head! Neck, shoulders, upper arms, the spine and wrists are all areas of focus.
Pilates will also help to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles which have been lengthened through pregnancy, as well as your hips to help strengthen the pelvis which has had a lot of strain placed upon it. A perfect combination!
Being body aware right NOW is a revelation. Pregnancy changes our posture as it accommodates baby. Our lower back can suffer, our pelvis can become unstable, our shoulders can round.
Mix this with the day to day activities of a new mum: so much time is spent sitting as we feed baby, flexed over baby as nappies are changed.
Giving yourself the time in class to think about your alignment will help you when you go out into the world again - pushing the pram, or feeding your baby. Ensuring that you have the awareness of a neutral posture means that you are looking after you right now, as well as future you.
One of the fundamentals of Pilates is the breath. Yes, we all breathe!
But were you aware of the relationship between our breath and our pelvic floor and core muscles?
Pilates will help you to use your breath to effectively restore and strengthen these muscles, assisting in your recovery from the stresses and strains of pregnancy and birth.
But our breath will also give you the opportunity to get some headspace!
Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth (Mind.org).
Self care advice from the charity includes doing gentle activity as it can boost your mood and helps you feel like you are doing something good for yourself, and relaxation.
Both things which can be provided in a Pilates class. Personally, I found attending a regular class and meeting other new mums experiencing a similar life changing event was an important part of managing my mental health.
That hour in class was a chance to clear my head of negative thoughts as I navigated my way through the haze of a new baby. To focus on movement and what my body is capable of in that moment. Week on week, you feel notice the improvements which only adds to your confidence and sense of wellbeing.
So, if you have just had a baby, be kind to yourself.
Don’t feel pressured to do what you think is expected of you.
Listen to what your body is telling you.
Look after your mental health.
And when you feel ready, consider Pilates as you prepare to live your new life as a healthy, contented mum.