By Sheetal J Shah
You’ve had your baby and life has changed in the blink of an eye? It is hard to prioritise your own needs in this phase, but doing postnatal Pilates little and often will truly make an impact. Pilates is a form of exercise designed to strengthen the core by using gentle and powerful movements concentrating on proper breathing and correct spinal and pelvic alignment.
When you are pregnant certain muscles such as pelvic floor and your abdominals are under pressure, especially when you reach full term and of course, also throughout the actual delivery. So, once the baby is safely in your arms, quite a few muscles now are extended and therefore weaker than before you were pregnant. This is where Pilates can help strengthen your core muscles, including your deep transverse abdominis and pelvic floor. Pilates can be done anywhere from daily to once weekly, which can help rebuild these muscles along with core-strengthening proper nutrition and cardio (only after doctors advise) that can help you can lose weight safely and in healthy manner.
Few things to remember before you begin any form of exercise regime
1) Consult your doctor: Ask your doctor if you’re ready for any activity as every pregnancy is different. Listen to your doctor and your body.
2) The breathing matters: Learn how to activate Pilates breathing before you start. You can do it in the car, in bed or while watching TV. Practise inhaling through your nose and expanding your diaphragm sideways and then exhaling by blowing through your pursed lips. Done properly you should be able to feel your transverse abdominal muscles activate just like when you cough.
3) Quality vs Quantity: Finally, keep in mind that how you perform these is more important than how many repetitions you do; keep it slow and steady.
The hundred is a classic Pilates mat exercise. You will be asked to perform it during the beginning of almost any Pilates class you take. The exercise is named after the 100 beats of your arms made while holding your legs extended and your head and shoulders off the mat.
Single leg stretch
Single leg stretch is all about learning to move from center. Many people find it especially helpful in targeting the lower abs. Note that this exercise is different from single straight leg stretch, which stretches the hamstring muscles of the back of the thighs.
Double leg stretch
Double leg stretch offers a direct route between two opposite positions, and much is revealed in moving between these two extremes. If your trunk is unstable, if your abs get weak, or your breath isn’t working for you, your form will show it.
Single Straight leg stretch
The single straight leg stretch is an intermediate Pilates mat exercise that challenges abdominal endurance and stretches the back of the legs. This is a different exercise than the Pilates single leg stretch, but both are part of the Pilates series of five sequence that can be added to any Pilates workout.
Double straight leg stretch
The double leg lift Pilates mat exercise is a very effective abdominal exercise, working on both the upper and lower abdominals. These leg lifts are an ideal core strength builder when performed correctly. They are challenging while still being excellent training for beginners. In the classical Pilates sequence, this exercise comes after the double leg stretch.
Criss cross is a Pilates mat exercise that focuses on the abdominals with a special emphasis on the obliques. The obliques aid in posture stabilisation to some degree, but they are more involved in flexion and rotation of the spine. One benefit of working the obliques is that they help define the waist. It is good to include exercises that target the obliques in any ab workout.
Spine stretch side
Pilates mat exercises move from exercises done on your back to moves done seated, kneeling, and eventually standing. The spine stretch forward takes a page from the seated moves and can be done anywhere you have room to sit with your legs extended.
Pilates swimming is a fun mat exercise, but it is also quite challenging as it brings every part of the body into play. Luckily, it is also easy to modify. Swimming is a back extension exercise that makes a great counter stretch for the many Pilates mat exercises that require forward flexion.
Side leg lifts abs side leg circles
Side leg lifts are a great beginner Pilates move, but even those at a more advanced fitness level can appreciate the simplicity and effectiveness of the move. You can do side leg lifts anywhere without any equipment, and they can also save you time by working on your core and legs all at once.
Side leg bananas
The primary intent of Side Leg Bananas is to strengthen the hip abductors, external rotators and adductors.
The Pilates push-up is a big challenge and a total body exercise. Practicing it strengthens your arms and shoulders, but you must also use your abs and core muscles to stabilise your torso.
(The author is founder, Core Pilates Studio)