Pilates: Great Exercise for New Mothers

The postpartum period is an emotional time in a woman’s life. Between the joy of a new baby with 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. Pilates offers a safe, effective and progressive means of reforming your body’s strength in just a matter of minutes, especially for new mothers.

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. During the course of a forty week gestation, weight gain can create postural malalignment that affects flexibility and mobility. Muscle groups that often benefit from stretching because of 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:

  1. Proper 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 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.
  2. Proper breathing pattern. 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.
  3. 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 the baby was delivered by Cesarean.

Parenthood starts before pregnancy, so it is important to ensure your health for your little one.

It is recommended that pregnant 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.

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