Postnatal A-Z: P for Pilates
My Postnatal A-Z continues today with P for Pilates. I write this from the point of view of a postnatal fitness specialist. What I really like about Pilates is the slow, mindful movements that teach you how and when to breathe and activate your core - this will do wonders for the pelvic floor, posture and lower back of a new mum. There are intermediate/advanced Pilates exercises that are not suitable for a newly postnatal mum such as double leg raises. Here is a brief summary of why Pilates is helpful (I expand on these points in previous posts, see the letters B, C and D):
❤️ Breathing: This should be the starting point - teaching the body to take slow, deep, mindful lateral breaths into the ribs and the back, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through pursed lips. ❤️ Core engagement: Once the breathing has been established, core muscles such as the pelvic floor and the TVA (the deepest abdominal muscle) should be incorporated into the above breathing technique - relaxing them on an inhale and engaging them on an exhale. ❤️ Correct alignment: This is really important as so many parts of a woman's body would have been out of alignment towards the end of pregnancy. Just consider the shift in gravity, the pull and weight on certain muscles and the effect of the hormone relaxin, and you start to get an idea of how vital it is to start any exercise programme from a point of view of good alignment and posture. The number of reps and any weights should come later.
In a Buggyfit class, we typically including the following exercises and any variation of them: 👉Bird/dog - these are great for engaging the core, glutes and back muscles, and for incorporating good breathing and pelvic floor activation 👉Clams - these are great as they work one of the smaller gluteal muscles - gluteus medius - which helps to stabilise the pelvis 👉Hip bridges - these are useful for engaging the glutes and working the core in a gentle way 👉Pelvic tilts - these are useful for re-establishing a neutral spine as well as working the lower abdominals during the posterior pelvic tilt (and closing any abdominal separation) 👉Thoracic spine opener - this is a great one for mobilising the often stiff thoracic spine 👉Toe taps and heel slides (and later on, dead bugs) - these are great, controlled core exercises that replace traditional crunches, sit-ups and planks which cause too much intra-abdominal pressure in a newly postnatal body 👉Swimmers - these are a great back exercise but care needs to be taken to engage the core and glutes to avoid hurting the lower back. And do them after a breastfeed!