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Pilates Packs a Big Punch for New Mothers

Women practicing pilates

The postpartum period is an emotional time in a woman's life. Between the joy of a new baby and the personal physical and hormonal changes, it can be challenging for mothers to have enough time in the day to take care of themselves while caring for their little one. However, it is vital for new moms to devote some precious moments to their health and well-being and reconnect with their own mind and body.

Postnatal pilates offers a safe, effective and progressive means of reforming the body in just a matter of minutes.

The Pilates Method is a popular way to gain stability and flexibility. Core stabilization
involves training the deepest muscles of the abdomen, spine and pelvis to support the
trunk during movement and make the body more resilient to injury. Pregnancy and
delivery weakens each of these muscles and makes mothers especially vulnerable to
low back and pelvic pain and pathology. Thus, reactivating these muscles and
reconnecting the abdominal walls with the pelvic floor should be a priority in the early
stages of motherhood.

Pilates promotes flexibility by encouraging the spine to move in
all planes of motion and the all muscles to lengthen and stretch with proper biomechanics within safe and appropriate range of motion. Over the course of a forty week gestation, a healthy weight gain can create postural misalignment that impacts flexibility and mobility. Muscle groups that often benefit from stretching due to childbearing include the iliopsoas, paraspinals, piriformis, gastrocsoleus complex, pectorals, and upper trapezius.

Despite its popularity for stretching and stabilization, Pilates follows several principles
that are often overlooked and offer significant benefits for postpartum women:

Alignment: postural deviations occur in the upper and lower body as a result of the natural changes in the body during pregnancy and positions related to childcare. While expecting, elevated relaxin hormone levels increase laxity in the musculoskeletal system and causes changes such as increased lumbar lordosis and sacroiliac joint hypermobility. While caring for baby, mothers often tend to round their shoulders and place the head and neck in compromising positions while nursing, picking up the baby and pushing strollers. The forward posture becomes such a comfortable and routine position that moms don’t realize they have developed an abnormal change in musculoskeletal alignment! Pilates is a wonderful place to start addressing improper movement patterns and improving posture.

Breath: Breathing promotes relaxation, reduction of muscle tension, and proper neuromuscular activation of the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Most importantly, it is amazingly easy to add into one’s daily routine because it should be employed with all movement!

Whole Body Conditioning: With proper instruction, each Pilates exercise should require full attention from the brain and control of all body parts, while each session should train the mind, body and spirit as an integrated whole in order to be evenly conditioned. Postnatal Pilates workouts will train the upper and lower body to coordinate with the trunk in a functional manner to enable moms to love, nurture and play with their growing baby without muscle strain and joint pain.

Overall, Pilates is an incredible practice for the postnatal population by providing cleansing breath, promoting circulation, stimulating the neuromuscular system and rejuvenating the body with endorphins. Postnatal women will gain confidence, energy and stamina that they need to embrace modern day motherhood. Mothers typically return to exercise after a six week postnatal checkup, or later if baby was delivered via Cesarean. It is recommended that women receive a doctor's prescription and work with a physical therapist specializing in Pilates. Specialized therapists are highly skilled in observing movement, offering tactile feedback, teaching modifications and progressing programs for safety and effectiveness.