Pilates, what is it really all about?
No one can dispute that Pilates has seen tremendous growth in the last decade and a half or so. The interest started to pick up amongst mainstream fitness enthusiasts from late 1990s and since then has increased more than ten fold and there are now over 10 million people practicing Pilates just in Unites States alone. People turn to Pilates for a host of different reasons - injury rehabilitation, to balance the energy of their cardiovascular workout, in the quest to build that dancer / gymnast body, grow “taller” (or rather, stop shrinking!), or like me, hoping to rid of the abdominal distension I had post baby. All of these reasons are valid. For me, the focus is on ‘sewing’ the principles of Pilates into every day situations and activities, exercising the body for the specific physical demands of motherhood (lifting and carrying baby or toddler, picking up groceries, car seat battles, using the stroller, and even sneezing and coughing).
So what are the principles of Pilates?
Contrology is the original term Joseph Pilates used to describe his fitness program - the conscious control of all muscular movements of the body and in a nut shell, these 6 principles form the foundation of Pilates:
- Center: Initiating all bodily movements from the core, termed as the “Powerhouse” (area between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the hip joints or the bottom of your buttocks at the back
- Concentration: fully committing self to the exercise, how it is performed
- Control: executing each movement with a high level of control
- Precision: No movement is done haphazardly, each has a purpose and a goal
- Flow: Every exercise is to be done with fluidity, ease and gracefulness
- Breath: Taking it beyond the role of respiration, using it as the foundation to the well-being of the body, mind and spirit
All of these principles are exceptionally helpful and applicable to every exercise regime, not just pilates alone. The principle I had to grasp first and foremost was that of breath, of making it a a very deliberate exercise; beyond using it as energy source for my movements, deep breathing to clear the mind and create more focus and clarity and of course to stretch those intercostal muscles that tighten up, especially during pregnancy.
How do you safely and effectively practice pilates during pregnancy?
To begin with, ensure ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommendations for exercise during pregnancy are adhered to. Additionally, specific attention needs to be given to considerations often overlooked in traditional prenatal exercise programs (as I came to discover as I was deepening my perinatal education and undergoing Momilates® certification!) - examples include excessive stretching, being mindful of shift in center of gravity, pelvic alignment and (in)stability, pelvic floor muscle strengthening (yes, this is part of your core and crucial for allowing all of your core muscles to work synergistically) and of course stretching and separation of abdominal muscles. There are also certain exercises that should become part of your daily routine whilst pregnant (aside from those kegels). You can still work out and feel challenged in doing so during pregnancy no matter what stage of pregnancy you are at. And Pilates, a system designed to be incorporated into every aspect of life and with its focus on enhancing body awareness, is the perfect exercise medium for many. However, the physiological changes and considerations commonly experienced in pregnancy must be directly applied to exercises prescribed to make sure it is safe and effective.
And after baby and further into motherhood?
Be inquisitive and don’t be afraid to question everything - after all, if it were for our child(ren), we would research deeply to ensure their health and well being. Give your own body and wellness the same level of care and attention - and if any of the above rings any bells inside you, or if you are just looking for a community where like minded moms-to-be and moms can just connect and move, join me at the upcoming Momilates classes!