By Helen Hirst
My years teaching Pilates have shown me that continuing to be mobile and maintain contact with her core is one of the best things that a woman can do for her body during pregnancy, both in preparation for the birth and for the weeks and months after, while the body recovers. But it wasn’t until I was pregnant myself for the first time that I experienced just how fundamental Pilates could be to a pregnant woman’s wellbeing!
I was fortunate to have an easy and enjoyable pregnancy, but it required me nonetheless to adapt how I used my body on a daily basis and find ways of dealing with the physical changes, not to mention the hormonal ones! Pregnancy works its magic in weird and wonderful ways and, while the changes are awesome to behold, I did feel exhausted at times and somewhat cumbersome as the weeks passed and the baby grew. The regular 20 or 30 minute workouts of even the most gentle of Pilates exercises left me feeling invigorated, free in my movement and strong through the ever-expanding core of my body.
During the first trimester I chose to continue my pre-pregnancy Pilates workouts, and I found the sessions helped to take my mind off the feelings of tiredness and nausea so frequent in those early weeks. But it was striking how exercises that I had been doing for years suddenly felt completely different and, often, a lot more challenging. Pilates tests (and builds) not only strength but also stamina and I quickly found I had much less in reserve!
As so often happens, I felt a lot more energetic during the second trimester. But this coincided with the baby and the bump growing and many of the exercises that I had been enjoying became less and less suitable. At the same time, my focus and purpose for exercising became very different. Pilates was no longer about pushing myself and building on my levels of strength and stamina but rather back to the basics of moving freely and comfortably, maintaining enough stability to keep me and the baby safe and comfortable as we both grew. It is such a wonderfully adaptable method and the principles can be applied to even the smallest of movements, so I continued to feel I was getting a full, challenging and varied workout even though the exercises probably seemed, for those not with child, quite simple!
By the third trimester, I was very focused on the birth! The workouts, by now very gentle but hugely challenging, helped enormously to give me confidence in my body and its ability to birth the baby. Working on keeping strength in, but also being able to release, my pelvic floor proved very useful! And the baby seemed to be enjoying itself too, kicking and spinning around as I focused on my breathing, my alignment, and on hugging my bump as best I could with those stretched abdominals! It was hard work but we both had fun.
And at the end of it all I was able to deliver a healthy baby boy! Amit helped make the experience of Pilates during pregnancy a thoroughly enjoyable one and I would urge anyone, whether a newcomer to the method or a long-term enthusiast to consider taking his pregnancy classes. The variety of exercises using different equipment and positions kept me constantly challenged and helped to keep me moving, comfortable and confident in my body right up to the birth, and beyond!