strong & serene
Relax and get into shape for labor with these safe prenatal Pilates moves.
Prenatal Pilates is an ideal workout for moms-to-be. For one thing, the moves strengthen the entire body, especially the muscles used during labor: the abdominals, lower back and pelvic floor. Practicing Pilates regularly also can relieve lower-back discomfort and other pregnancy-induced aches and pains, as well as help you feel supple and relaxed.
“As pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity is pulled forward,” explains Pilates instructor Jennifer Gianni, owner of Embodyment Studio in Venice, Calif., and star of the Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy video (Tapeworm, 2004). “Prenatal Pilates focuses on working the core muscles in the center of your body, bringing it back into proper alignment. Doing these moves regularly also will help you bounce back into shape quickly after you give birth.”
The following Pilates program, designed by Gianni, can be done every other day; do cardiovascular exercise such as walking or swimming on the “off” days. To begin, do a traditional Pilates warm-up: Stand in place and do 16–20 alternate knee lifts and arm reaches, exhaling through your mouth when your knee is lifted. After your workout, create a 45-degree incline by propping blankets and pillows against a sturdy chair or couch. Sit down and lean your back against the incline. If you feel dizzy, lie on your side. Close your eyes and breathe gently for 5 minutes. As with any prenatal exercises, check with your doctor before you begin this program.
1. thoracic breathing Sit straight in a sturdy chair, feet flat, forming a straight line from head to hips. Place your hands at your upper ribs and inhale through your nose, expanding front and back ribs. Exhale through your mouth, drawing ribs in. Repeat for 1 minute.
2. seated 100s In the same position, straighten arms at your sides, palms facing back. Inhale through your nose for 5 counts as you move your arms rhythmically from front to back in a small, quick pumping motion. As you exhale through your mouth for 5 counts, continue to pump your arms while drawing your navel toward your spine. Repeat for 1 minute. Strengthens abdominals, shoulders and upper back.
3. Wall roll-down Stand with your back and head against a wall, feet placed wider than hips, heels about a foot away from the wall and knees slightly bent. Draw your navel in toward your spine, inhale, then exhale as you peel away from the wall. Start by lowering your chin to your chest, then round your shoulders and spine. Do not lower your head below hip level. Hold for 1 full breath, keeping abs drawn in. Inhale, then exhale and slowly roll up to standing. Repeat for 1 minute. Strengthens abs and back and improves posture.