Exercising for Two: Prenatal Pilates

A major theme that runs throughout our blog posts is: Pilates is good for everybody! You might think that’s just a matter of opinion until, like our instructors, you see firsthand the broad spectrum of bodies we get to work with on a daily basis. Pilates is built to accommodate, which makes Pilates an ideal workout for people with special needs. One of the “special-est” of these needs is the dramatically changing figure that comes with pregnancy.

The majority of Pilates exercises are low-impact, and pose no problems to an expecting mother during the first trimester of pregnancy. In fact, this is an excellent time to practice Pilates. So many women complain of lower back pain as the belly blossoms and the weight of the growing fetus puts stress on the natural curvature of the spine. Pilates is famous for its emphasis on a strong core, and a well-developed powerhouse (from the top of the abs to bottom of the pelvis) will work to counterbalance the baby weight, keeping the spine in alignment.

Once the first trimester has passed, however, it quickly becomes impossible for a woman to lie on her stomach — say “see ya later” to swan exercises on the barrel, or long box exercises on the reformer! Doctors also recommend that women not lie on their backs for extended periods during the second and third trimesters, as this position restricts blood flow from the heart to the lower body. This can result in lightheadedness and numbness in mom, and oxygen deprivation in baby.

Remember, Joseph Pilates designed a fitness system that brilliantly adapts to unique bodies. Pilates exercises later in pregnancy are geared toward keeping the spine in alignment and strengthening the pelvic floor — no reformer necessary. Many of the classic “moves” can be modified to safe positions, such as sitting upright, kneeling, or lying on one’s side.

Pilates effectively prepares the body to handle major physical changes, but the benefits carry through to the moment the baby is born. Practice in breath control, concentration, and active mind-body awareness will all prove enormously helpful during labor. And thanks to that enhanced mind-body connection, a new mom will find herself able to “bounce back” quickly after her baby is born — more on that in an article next month!

Pilates can be a gentle and still a serious fitness system. At Dynamic Fitness, we do not permit expecting mothers to begin a Pilates routine if they have never studied Pilates before. And as with any form of exercise, we always recommend our pregnant trainees to consult with their healthcare providers before they pursue a Pilates regimen during pregnancy. That said, expecting mothers who have a grasp of Pilates fundamentals are warmly invited to continue training at Dynamic Fitness, guided by the expertise of our certified instructors. Feel free to call us at the studio for a consultation on Pilates exercise during pregnancy.

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Pilates for Busy People (All of Us?) It's a given in our world: We are busy people. With 40-hour-a-week jobs, presentations to give, children's carpool lines and after-school activities, meals to prepare, bills to pay, cars to get fixed, houses to clean, laundry to fold -- you get the picture -- there's little time left to think about ourselves, our bodies, the way we move through the world. What if there were an activity you could fit into your busy schedule that would not only help you to stay in shape, but carry its benefits into your daily life, boosting your energy, confidence, and stamina so that you don't collapse in a heap on the bed after a full day?Well, there is! Even one Pilates studio session per week will leave you feeling invigorated, stronger, and more sane so that you can be your best self all week long.  Because the Pilates method requires focused attention, deep breathing, and whole-body engagement, busy people (let's face it, we're all busy) will reap its benefits. The mind-body connectionWhen Joseph Pilates said, "A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living," he was explaining how the Pilates method affects daily life. With regular Pilates practice, students become more aware of posture, breath, and core strength. Whether you're writing a memo at a desk or cooking dinner, you will begin to feel the proper way for your body to move throughout the day, a knowledge that retrains the mind to expect alignment and health. Frequency of workoutsExperts say that no matter what exercise you try, it's optimal to engage in it two to three times a week. The same is true for Pilates. Joseph Pilates said, "In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference and in 30 you will have a whole new body." Consistency of practice is important: Once a month at the Pilates studio will not only be less beneficial, but you'll get frustrated that you can't remember what you learned in your previous sessions. Workouts are designed as building blocks from beginner to advanced fitness levels. As they engage different levels of concentration -- from proper breathing, to specific muscle groups, to the flow from one exercise to another -- it's important to find a regular routine. Once a week will give you a boost. Two or three times a week will garner greater, and faster, change. What else can I do?When you can't get to the studio, what else might you do? Many Pilates instructors actually give their clients homework, often consisting simply of conscious practice in proper posture and breathing. Ask your instructor what you can do throughout the day to maintain your workout's benefits. You'll be surprised: You may not even have to leave your desk!Adding aerobic exercise is also beneficial -- even taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner can get your blood pumping, as will a jog. Adding stretches to your morning or before-bed routine can keep you aware and limber. Remember, physical exercise isn't just for people who don't have kids, careers, or lives outside the gym or studio. It's important for all of us to stay in physical, mental, and emotional shape so that our busy lives can feel enriching versus constantly exhausting. Pilates is an excellent way to bring your workout home with you, and to train your body to expect its benefits throughout the day.Love Is All Around: Kathy Remembers Romana Kryzanowska It's been almost eight months since the Pilates world, and the world at large, saw a brilliant light fade out in the passage of Romana Kryzanowska. She's admired by Pilates instructors across the globe for her unwavering devotion to the Pilates method, which she studied under Joseph Pilates himself, becoming a champion of the fitness system after his death.Over the course of decades, Romana taught countless clients; at the same time, she mentored and passed the classical Pilates legacy to hundreds of apprentices, many of whom have gone on to become the top Pilates instructors in the world. As the owner of Dynamic Fitness, Sarasota's original Pilates studio, I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of a generation of Pilates instructors who trained and obtained our certification under Romana.I clearly remember that day in 1996 when I first walked into Drago's Gym, the studio where Romana worked tirelessly to preserve the authentic, classical Pilates method. One end of the studio was full of aspiring gymnasts and circus artists who shared the studio, flying around in the air on trapeze swings and parallel bars. The reformers and other equipment originally designed by Joe Pilates stood in the middle of the studio. Where I'd expected a solemn temple to the revered fitness method, I entered an atmosphere of controlled chaos and vibrant energy.Romana was definitely the wellspring of that energy. An abundantly giving instructor, she was like a mother to the apprentices, pushing us hard to become the most competent, knowledgeable, and safety-minded teachers of the system she loved like life itself. Romana's true love of the work and her connection to Joe Pilates was apparent in everything she did.Romana was the embodiment of pure joie de vivre, and she taught us to play hard as well as work hard. When one of us made a big breakthrough, like performing our first teaser on the reformer, Romana would cry, "Caramba! Champagne!" And then the whole studio would toast a glass of sparkling wine.Indeed, there was nothing clinical about the way Romana taught Pilates. Her imagery had nothing to do with anatomy, but more with movement. Romana was a ballerina by training, and it was like she danced with the people she taught. With her intuitive way about teaching and about people, Romana could look at a body in front of her and know the right thing to do with that person. She painted pictures with her cues and helped each student find his or her own way through an exercise. Romana didn't just teach the Pilates method, but she taught her great love for it as well. I believe that's the reason why Pilates is so alive and strong today: Nobody else had the charisma to pass it to the next generation with so much passion. Nobody else could fuel it the way she did. At her memorial service in New York, hundreds of Romana's former students (now instructors) packed inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, some traveling from as far away as Australia to celebrate Romana's life and her memory. The last eulogist ended his commemoration with a question: "What did Romana always say?" Every single person in the church responded instantly: "Love is all around!" we shouted. That was Romana's mantra. You felt it when you were with her, and we certainly felt it at that moment. We are lucky -- the ones who worked with her, she left a little bit of her spirit with us. I feel she speaks through me sometimes in certain teaching moments in the studio. It gives me great joy every day to pass on her powerful insight, her compassion for students, and her zeal for classical Pilates.