I do as I preach (or at least I try…)

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The Clam – an easy exercise and one of my favorites
to get those glutes working again!

It has been 3 weeks since Timoté was born and my healing body is telling me: I am ready to move! But hold on here, because I am not going to give you some crazy story about a Pilates instructor wonder-women who going to jump into doing teasers and advanced mat work exercises a few weeks post-partum.

For the moment I see myself as my own client and, albeit experienced and eager, I tell myself to take it slow and listen to my body. There are so many factors in addition to wanting to get those abs back asap and to loose the postpartum belly flab. First and foremost there is Timo, who needs my time and attention and mostly… my milk. From my first son, Iluka, I know that I haven’t quite been blessed with an abundant milk supply (I had to start supplementing with formula when Iluka was 3 months old), so despite not feeling like it, I do make sure I take my naps and rest.

So for all of you who are reading this, whether you are an instructor with postnatal clients or just gave birth yourself, the following exercises are safe and excellent for anyone (with the consent from your doctor, especially if you’ve had a caesarean) from 1 – 6 weeks postpartum. And with those kegels you can gently start as soon as new, two days after giving birth…

Placing a soft squishy ball between your knees
keeps your inner thighs working while doing
pelvic tilts. If you don’t have a ball
a pillow will work just fine.
Kegels

Personally, I felt a need for my first ‘test-kegel’ while still in the hospital. It was like a way of communicating with my pelvic floor and saying “hello, are you still here?” As for Kegels, there are a million explanations and vivid descriptions out there on how to do them, ranging from ‘elevator rides’ to ‘picking up marbles’. I will refrain here from making this blog entry too long and let you do your own research. And in case you are not sure what I am talking about, I assume you are either a guy or haven’t been pregnant yet…

Breathing

Breathing played a huge role for me during delivery. I actually enrolled in a hypnobirthing course at 33 weeks pregnant (mostly out of curiosity) and the result – a 100% natural, vaginal delivery without any drugs whatsoever, was quite amazing. Much of this I attribute to the breathing techniques I learned during the class, and which were new and different for me. But now that I’ve ‘breathed my baby out’, I will focus on breath as it’s used in Pilates. For those first few weeks after birth I strongly encourage both belly and ribcage breathing; each technique for their own right and reason:

Belly Breathing

Lie on your back, knees bent and feet parallel. Place a ball or pillow between your knees and place your arms long by your side. Inhale through your nose and let your belly expand like a balloon. Gently let the belly sink down, drawing the abdominals in during the exhale. Do 10 reps with a lot of control while keeping your pelvis still. Use this breathing technique to relax and to create awareness of how you can direct the flow of breath within your body.

Ribcage Breathing
Lie down in the same position as above
. Remember how you were ‘drawing in’ your belly on the exhale before? This is the classic ‘core engagement’ we use in Pilates. You want to access your transversus abdominis, your innermost abdominal muscles, which wrap around your waste like a corset. So, this time, as you inhale through your nose, feel your ribcage expanding wide, keeping your stomach flat and your pelvis still. Exhale through your mouth, reconnect your ribs, pulling them together and down, while drawing your bellybutton towards your spine. The movement in your abs (TA) will be small at first, but with practice you will soon learn how to engage your core while breathing deeply with your ribcage. As you get better try to direct your breath into all areas of your chest – the side of the ribs, the back of the ribs, down the back and into the spine.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts are great to get back in touch with your pevic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Also your sacrum and lower back will thank you for them… This is an easy, very low impact exercise with high impact results, so try to fit them in every day. 10 reps are a good start and won’t take long. 

Use the same position than for the breathing exercises. In fact, you can practice both breathing methods described above with your pelvic tilt. Use the belly breath to relax and release and the ribcage breathing to strengthen and tone. Take a deep inhale to start. On the exhale, tuck your tailbone in, tilting the pelvis towards you without lifting your bottom off the floor. On the next inhale, tilt the pelvis the opposite direction, slightly arching your lower back (sticking out your bum). Return to a neutral starting position.

Exhale, round back, belly pulled in

Cats & Dogs

Another great one for the spine. I call this my ‘good-morning exercise’ as I often do this right after waking up while still in bed. If you haven’t quite mastered engaging your TA (transversus abdominis) while lying on your back, you will probably find it easier here. Pull your abs in towards your spine on the exhale, with a round back, then arch your back on the inhale, with the abdominals lightly engaged. When arching up, take care not to overextend your neck.

Cats & Dogs, also known as
the Cat/Cow Stretch helps to
mobilize my entire spine,
from neck to the sacrum.
Strolling

Whether you use a pram, a bjorn or a sling, taking a stroll with your baby is actually a great way to start to get back into shape. You will see it feels great to move your legs again, especially if you think back of those last weeks during pregnancy. Was is just me who felt like a waddling duck? I barely made it up the hill to my house anymore. Now, I love this hill as I push the stroller up, felling not only my legs, but my arms work as well. As always, listen to your body, starting off slowly and take rest when you feel tired. In due time I will post some exercises you can do with your baby in-tow. I am already looking forward to stroller-lunges and peek-a-boo push-ups…

Comments

  1. I haven’t had a baby but i could do with finding my transversus rather than wrapping my waste with a corset.

    Thanks Marelle great read

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