Pilates and Pregnancy: A Studio Diary
PFI is a specialist provider of pregnancy (and post-natal) Pilates: our Instructors are highly experienced in working with the female body during pregnancy and after birth (and many are Mums themselves!).
But we’re about so much more than simply providing a service; at PFI we are passionate about supporting women’s wellness during this important time of life.
(You can learn more here: Pregnancy Pilates and why you should be doing it!)
We talk a lot about the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy, but we don’t often look at pregnancy and Pilates in the Studio environment! Private, Studio Pilates sessions are a good option during pregnancy and can be applied in addition to or in place of group classes, depending on the demands of your pregnancy.
Sure, we can tell you all about the benefits of Studio Pilates, but it’s more powerful to show you!
So, we recruited PFI regular, Carly to document her experience with Studio Pilates during all three trimesters of her second pregnancy.
Instructor: Lora Rainey.
Frequency of sessions: Once a fortnight from 16 weeks to delivery.
My name is Carly and I am a Pilates Groupie (and proud)!
I credit Pilates with a lot of things (name something this discipline can’t fix!); no more so than during pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, PFI’s group classes kept me balanced, sane and comfortable throughout; it conditioned my body to muscle through a long labour; and put me in good stead to heal from birth.
Studio Pilates wasn’t something I considered back then so, second time around I was interested to see how adding a fortnightly session into the mix would affect and hopefully enhance my pregnancy and birth experiences.
Anyone who has been pregnant will testify that pregnancy is a crapshoot: some days you feel like Gaia, primal Mother Earth Goddess – fecund, powerful and dynamic; and then others are so low functioning all you can do is laugh (or cry, or laugh while crying!).
Fortunately, the Studio environment nicely accommodates this unpredictability.
I won’t lie, the first trimester was hard going: hello, rolling, all-day sickness; wrist tendonitis and two broken toes! But no matter how I felt on any given Studio day, there was always plenty we could do within these limitations to improve my pregnancy experience and train my body for birth.
Some days we had to scale things right back to basics (working more with the breath and thinking about from where I was initiating movement); and then others I was able to find real, substantial challenge (more load, resistance, speed; more play time on the apparatus! Hooray!).
At the time, I was frustrated by the total lack of consistency in my physical performance – everything was out of sync and my body just would not do what I wanted it to do! But now, looking back I see the value in movement. Just move: it’s all good!
What most people don’t realise is that Studio is all about working with the body you have, on the day: and Lora is highly skilled at this.
The first trimester was a lot of trial and error: identifying (ever-changing) “pain points” and responding with exercises, movements and cues that worked for my body on the day. That way we were always moving forward, even when it felt like we were careering backwards!
A couple of weeks into the second trimester it was like my system clicked back online again: I was “in” my body (I no longer felt like one of those wacky, waving inflatable arm flailing tube dudes with no control of my limbs). I felt connected for the first time in a long time!
With my injuries all but healed and nausea in check (for the most part), we had finally arrived at a place where we could have a proper go and really play in the Studio. I must admit that at first I was a little nervous about trying my hand at some of the more advanced looking apparatus: a pregnant lady on the Cadillac is perhaps not the most graceful sight to behold (plus a lot of exertion groaning).
But, the Pilates adage applies equally to the Studio as it does to group matwork: everything is scalable! Pilates is for every body! Where there is a will and a smart Instructor (check), there is a way to make the equipment work for and benefit the pregnant body.
The apparatus forces you to work smarter; it challenges you to improve the quality of your movement and ultimately, work harder in the places that matter for your body. This kind of strategic training is particularly important for preggos because, let’s face it, we are preparing for a very unique, physical task!
In the second trimester we really focused on using the apparatus to address my imbalances (glutes, inner thighs, pelvis, hips, feet etc!), general pregnancy “niggles” and strengthen my body. The high level of attention and continuity of training you get in a Studio session means the work is deliberate and quality, every time. (Also, Lora will not have it any other way!)
Not only was it a lot of fun, I was finally starting to feel and see the work in my body, and also found myself applying my new Studio-born knowledge in group classes. Group Instructors even commented on changes in my form!
Welcome to the home stretch! Again, Lora and I checked in to map out my goals and limitations:
- What did I want to achieve in my practice in the final trimester?
- What were my current pain points or physical concerns?
- What was the birth plan and latest feedback from my Obstetrician?
From here, she formulated a broad training strategy specific to my needs, which for this pregnancy prioritised optimal foetal positioning (OFP) work.
For the most part, the final trimester was similar to the second: we continued to find challenge using the apparatus and work closely on improving my muscle recruitment patterns (particularly in the shoulders and glutes) to keep me strong and mobile.
A testament to her skill, Lora was great at incorporating “birth prep” exercises (pelvic floor, opening the sit bones, breathing, squats, and plenty of work on hands and knees etc) into the repertoire – often without my even being aware!
Those last weeks are tough going: mobility is low, you’re tired and tight and full to the brim; but Pilates is that delicious salve that makes it all ok! I cannot overstate how important Studio has been for keeping me moving, and connected and focused for what is to come.
We train our bodies to look good, feel good, to perform crazy feats and everyday tasks alike; we should absolutely train our bodies for birth! It’s the ultimate endurance event, after all. I still firmly believe that Pilates is the greatest gift you can bestow upon your pregnant (and post-natal) self.
If you’re pregnant, I highly recommend adding a Studio session to your Pilates mix! You will not regret it.
Working one-on-one with Lora every fortnight afforded me so much extra insight into my changing body and equipped me with the right tools, awareness and alignment to tackle birth with confidence.
Pilates is smart training; with respect and kindness! Everything you deserve when you are creating life.
Learn more about private, Studio sessions online, or contact Jackie on (08) 9330 8900.