- What is Pilates?
- Is it safe to do Pilates during pregnancy?
- What are the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy?
- Nine Pregnancy Pilates exercises (suitable for all trimesters)
- Pilates exercises to avoid during pregnancy
- Precautions for an effective Pilate workout
- Pilates vs. yoga for pregnancy
Pilates is a low-impact exercise. It combines flexibility and strength training with body and mind awareness, offering excellent benefits throughout pregnancy. However, not all Pilates exercises are ideal during this time. MomJunction tells you about pregnancy Pilate workout and precautions you should take for safe and effective exercising.
What Is Pilates?
Pilates is a versatile exercise developed by Joseph Pilates. It aims at improving your posture and movement. The movements focus on lower abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and back muscles, which are pivotal to your posture, strength, and balance. The exercises can be practiced either on a mat or by using equipment such as reformers, trapeze tables, exercise balls and resistance bands (1).
Is It Safe To Do Pilates During Pregnancy?
Yes, it is safe to do Pilates throughout the pregnancy, provided your doctor considers it safe for you. While Pilates is usually safe and gentle, you should not over-exert your body or stretch too much (2). The series of controlled movements in Pilates can be modified to suit your tolerance levels.
All forms of Pilate exercises are safe to do during the initial stages of pregnancy. But from the 16th week, you should avoid activities that involve lying on your back (3).
What Are The Benefits Of Pilates While Pregnant?
Pilates mainly targets the muscles and their functioning, which are usually prone to problems such as loss of muscle tone, endurance, edema, and poor balance and posture during pregnancy.
Practicing Pilates regularly results in the following benefits:
1. Strengthens stomach and gluteal muscles:
The relaxin hormone, released during pregnancy, makes the ligaments highly flexible. This flexibility can make hip, pelvic muscles and lower back vulnerable to injuries. Pilates can tackle this laxity in ligaments by focusing on the deep abdominal and glute muscles. It improves stability in the hip, pelvis and lower back regions, thus minimizing the pain and injuries (4).
2. Relieves back pain:
Exercising the core abdominal muscles stabilizes the back and pelvic regions. Pilates also strengthens the posture, and thus reduces back pain (5).
[ Read: Butterfly Exercise In Pregnancy ]
3. Builds up pelvic floor:
Pilates work on strengthening the hammock of the pelvic floor and supports the uterus, bladder, and bowel as your baby moves downwards with increasing weight. It will, therefore, prevent the risk of incontinence when you sneeze or cough (6).
4. Controls breathing:
Breathing is a key element of Pilates, and it is useful during pregnancy and labor. A stiffness develops in the upper back as the bump grows and that could hinder deep breathing. Pilates improves flexibility in this region and eases the breathing pattern (7).
5. Improves balance:
It is natural for you to feel more clumsy or imbalanced during pregnancy. Pilates strengthens the core and enhances stability and balance, thus keeping you safe when you walk (8).
6. Takes off strain:
Four-point kneeling positions (on your hands and knees) help reduce the excess load on your pelvis and lower back. They also help your baby get into the right birthing position (9).
7. Control weight gain:
Practicing gentle Pilates regularly will help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy (9).
8. Strengthens legs:
You are more likely to experience leg cramps, fluid retention, and varicose veins during pregnancy. Leg strengthening exercises can minimize such complications (9).
9. Offers relaxation:
It is essential to take some time out for yourself. Pilates gives you that opportunity to switch off from everyday stress and relax (10).
10. Reduces postpartum fatigue:
Pilates is a feasible workout to minimize postpartum fatigue. It can also lower the risk of depression and is useful in maintaining the health of the mother and the newborn (11).
Next, we talk about the different Pilates exercises for pregnant women.
[ Read: Exercises For Normal Delivery ]
9 Pregnancy Pilates Exercises (Suitable For All Trimesters):
Here are nine exercises that are safe and effective for you.
1. Pelvic floor muscle exercise:
Strengthens pelvic floor muscles and prevents complications during and after delivery.
- Sit on your knees with legs together and butt on the heels. You can also choose to lie down with your head elevated and knees bent.
- Imagine that you are trying to control the urge to urinate. You will feel the muscles squeeze.
- Hold this position for ten seconds, and then relax gradually.
- Repeat it ten times.
2. Deep tummy strengthening:
Increases back support.
- Lie on one side with the knees slightly bent. Breathe in and breathe out. And try to pull in the tummy towards the spine.
- You can also try squeezing the pelvic floor muscles at the same time.
- Stay in this position for about ten seconds.
- Relax your tummy muscles gently and repeat it ten times.
3. Pelvic tilts:
Strengthens your lower back and pelvis.
- Lie on your back with the head and shoulders elevated on a pillow, and knees bent. Breathe in gently.
- While breathing out, press your lower back down using the abdominal muscles. Your pelvis tilts, and tailbone rises gently when you do this.
- Hold for about five to ten seconds.
- Repeat five to ten times.
4. Upper back stretch:
Improves your posture.
- Sit cross-legged with your back in an upright position and place your hands behind the head.
- Breathe in slowly.
- While breathing out, draw in your tummy and extend the back as you look up at the ceiling.
- Take another breath by squeezing your shoulders and resume to the starting position.
- Repeat it five to ten times.
[ Read: Kegel Exercises In Pregnancy ]
5. The cat stretch:
Strengthens back muscles.
- Begin by getting on all fours – keep your hands beneath the shoulders and knees beneath the hips.
- Breathe in as you relax your tummy.
- While breathing out, draw the tummy inwards, arch your back upwards and bend your head down and look at the tummy.
- Breathe in again by gently going back to the starting pose.
- Repeat the same for about five to ten times.
6. Thigh stretch:
Strengthens abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, and buttocks.
- Kneel down on a carpet or mat with your knees hip-width apart, and pull in the abs.
- Lean back while breathing in and squeeze your butt, raise your arms parallel to the floor and palms facing down.
- Breathe out as you lower the arms down.
- Resume to the starting position.
7. The sword:
Improves balance and strengthens abdominal muscles, back, and legs.
- Stand with your feet apart, wider than your hips.
- Bend your knees and move the right hand towards the left knee as shown in the picture.
- Now raise your right hand upwards to the right, as you would take a sword out from the hip belt. Keep looking at the hand while doing so.
- Repeat the same with your left side.
[ Read: Hip Exercises During Pregnancy ]
8. Sword arm:
Improves balance, strengthens abs, arms, back, and hips.
- Kneel with the right knee and both hands placed on the floor. Stretch the left leg with abs pulled in and hips facing upwards.
- Breathe in as you draw the left hand to the sky and look up towards your hand.
- Breathe out by lowering the hand to the starting position.
- Switch to the left side and repeat.
9. Wagging the tail:
Improves flexibility, stability and strengthens the lower back and abs.
- Start on all fours and keep your wrists aligned to the shoulders.
- Suck in your belly, lift one knee and make circular movements with the leg.
- Repeat the same with another leg.
- Repeat three to four times.
As we have mentioned above, you cannot do all the Pilate exercises during pregnancy. Some need to be avoided.
Pilates Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy:
Exercises that include back and stomach can cause discomfort or injuries to your body. Pilate exercises that are not appropriate to do during pregnancy include:
- Supine exercises that contract the rectus abdominis, such as lying on the back or double leg stretch (14).
- Exercises that involve lying on the tummy or any form of face-down plank positions.
- Deep stretches such as hamstring stretch, which is done by lying on the back and getting one leg perpendicular to the body, should be avoided.
You may do the other exercises but only with your doctor’s approval. Also, take every care not to hurt yourself while doing Pilates.
Precautions For An Effective Pilate Workout:
Pilates is considered to be safe during pregnancy, but a few precautions can help you avoid injuries and get maximum benefits from the workout:
- Choose an experienced instructor who can assist you with the exercise. Get your posture, abdominal and pelvic floor strength assessed to find the right Pilates workout for you.
- Monitor your energy levels and do not over-exercise.
- Avoid abdominal curls and crunches, and overstretching your joints.
- Wear comfortable and non-restrictive clothing.
- Mind your balance with a growing belly. Avoid getting off the floor quickly.
- Do not lie flat or with your feet over the head during the second half of pregnancy. This can pressurize your blood vessels leading to the reduced blood supply to the heart.
- Focus on posture, gentle contractions, and pelvic floor muscles in the later stages of pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated and avoid exercising in hot and humid conditions.
- If you feel any discomfort or fatigue, stop the exercise immediately.
- Do not exercise soon after eating or on an empty stomach. Exercise about one to two hours after a meal.
[ Read: Safe Exercises During First Trimester ]
Yoga Vs. Pilates For Pregnancy:
Pregnancy Pilates is all about working on the muscles used for childbirth (12) whereas Yoga focuses on a broad spectrum of the body system (13). Pregnancy Pilates assures balance, coordination, and strength of the muscles. Prenatal Yoga promises overall well-being by targeting issues such as aches, fatigue, cramps, emotional wellness, vitality, and more.
If you are planning to take up the Pilates regimen during pregnancy, find an experienced trainer who has worked with pregnant women before and follow the precautions to stay healthy and safe.
Have you tried pregnancy Pilates regimens yet? Share your experiences with us in the comments section.
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