Once you have emerged from the vortex that is the first six weeks of your baby's life you might think about returning to exercise. Pilates is a great form of exercise to begin after pregnancy. First things first, please seek approval from your health care provider to ensure you are able to start moving again, especially if you've undergone a caesarean.
Here are some great postnatal exercises to get you started. Equipment needed: flex band and mat.
1. Stomach contractions:
The pelvic floor and abdominal muscles take a real beating during pregnancy. A growing bump and the birthing process can lead to weakness in these muscles, resulting in pelvic floor dysfunction, loss of urinary control and general pain. This exercise is a gentle way to restore these muscles and regain awareness and control to the area.
Find your four point kneeling position (on hands & knees) with a neutral spine. Make sure your hands are underneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips. Inhale to prepare, breathing in through the ribcage. Exhale and gently lift through pelvic floor and contract through tranversus abdominus (the corset muscle that wraps around your torso) to bring your belly button in towards your spine. Inhale to slowly release back to your starting position. You should be able to visibly see your stomach contract and lift upwards, and feel a wrapping sensation around your belly and waist, as well as the sensation of trying to hold in your pee.
2. Arm openers with a flex band:
Many new mothers find they become very tight across the chest (pec major and pec minor) as a result of feeding and end up with rounded shoulders. This exercise is great for opening the chest and helping to realign those shoulders.
Sit cross legged on the floor with a neutral spine. Wrap a flex band around your lower back with it crossing over at the front, and holding the ends of the band in each hand. Start with your elbows bent at a right angle (tucked in alongside your torso) with palms facing up. Inhale to prepare. Then exhale to open your forearms out to the sides keeping your elbow locked in place. Inhale to hold the position and exhale to return to the starting point. You should feel a sense of opening across the chest and a contraction across your mid back, approximately along the bra line.
3. Single leg stretch:
Lie flat on your back with your legs in table top (legs hovering in the air with knees directly over hips and ankles in line with your knees). Inhale to prepare, exhale extend one leg to a straight diagonal, inhale return to table top. Alternate between each leg. An option to make the exercise harder is to also tuck your chin and lift your head and shoulders just off the mat as you extend your leg. Lower your head and shoulders as you return to table top. This exercise should be performed with your pelvis and spine in neutral if you can hold it, or imprint for beginners.
Click here to learn the difference between neutral and imprint pelvic positions.
Natalie Pearson is a fully certified Stott Pilates instructor, mum of one very awesome little girl.