Want to get your body in the best shape for labour? The experts from Focus Pilates explain why prenatal Pilates is fabulous for pregnant mamas!
Miraculous changes happen to a woman’s body when she becomes pregnant. Over the nine-month gestational period, the body begins the process of creating and sustaining life, and women begin to feel drastic changes happening both physically and emotionally. During this time, it is important for women to look after themselves and their growing bellies – eating well, getting sufficient rest and maintaining an active routine. In particular, exercising during pregnancy is important, not only for maintaining muscle and postural strength and helping women feel better overall, but also in preparing women for labour and post-delivery recovery.
It is well known that pregnancy places great demand on the body. The growing fetus puts extra pressure on the joints, particularly around the ankles, hips and lower back, and the rise in hormones such as relaxin will see ligaments begin to ‘soften’, resulting in loss of stability around these joints. Furthermore the increased size and weight of the breasts adds further strain to the spine, neck and shoulders creating an environment for bad posture.
Women can effectively care for their bodies before and after pregnancy through Pilates. Pilates is a form of low-to-no impact exercise that is effective in maintaining and increasing muscle strength and tone, increasing overall stability, encouraging breath control and reducing stress.
At Focus Pilates our prenatal classes are designed to assist pregnant women in feeling their best, preparing them for their pregnancy journey, and allowing them to walk away feeling strong and energised. The gliding carriage of the reformer allows movement through a full but controlled range of motion whilst keeping the body properly aligned, and arms and/or legs grounded for a safe and effective workout.
The key benefits of Pilates for pregnant women include:
- Relaxed and controlled breathing: Breathing is a basic principle in Pilates and the emphasis on diaphragmatic controlled breathing (lateral breath) can assist women in relaxing and opening the chest, allowing more space for the growing fetus. This deep controlled breath is also a key skill to draw upon during labour.
- Core strength and stability: Pilates provides exercises that recruit and strengthens the core, providing greater balance and stability through the changing phases of pregnancy. A stronger pelvic floor aids in supporting the bowel, bladder and uterus and the strengthened core provides pregnant women greater awareness and control of their pelvis and spine, minimising lower back tension.
- Stronger legs: Pregnancy can affect the blood flow and circulation to the lower extremities, while the fetus places additional weight and strain on the legs, calves and ankles. Focussed resistance work strengthens the legs, particularly the gluteal muscles, and helps to mobilise the ankles and feet, therefore increasing circulation to the calves and legs.
- Stronger upper body: An overlooked benefit of Pilates for pregnancy is the development of strong arms and shoulders. Not only is Pilates a good way to maintain good posture through pregnancy, it provides a good foundation for post-delivery — particularly in carrying the newborn and breast-feeding. Pilates work in the upper body allows pregnant women to gain an understanding of how to move dynamically through the shoulders and upper back, allowing for a smooth transition from prenatal to postnatal.
- Movement! Moving the body during pregnancy has proven to be beneficial for both mother and baby, and in pregnancy women lose the ability to maintain neutral posture and may feel more stiffness in the spine. Pilates places an emphasis on the movement of the spine – extension, lateral flexion and rotation – thereby releasing tension and giving mobility back to the spine.
Whilst there is not much that can be done to alter the inevitable physiological and hormonal changes, by encouraging movement, promoting deep breathing patterns, fostering a strong core and improving strength in the upper and lower body, pregnant women can be confident their Pilates sessions will pave a strong path for them to optimise their bodies and prepare them for the challenges they may face on their journey to motherhood.
Keen to find out more, mama? Focus Pilates has especially designed a Prenatal Pilates Package for just $485 that includes a combination of Private Pilates sessions as well as Group Prenatal classes, so that prenatal women are ensured a safe and effective workout tailored to suit their specific requirements. Sign up for the package now and you’ll even receive an additional group Prenatal Class for FREE!The Prenatal package is valid for four months from date of first class. Click here for more info!
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Brought to you in partnership with Focus Pilates