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 againsta 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.
• Breathe properly Inhale through your nose until you feel your back and side ribs expand. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips as you draw your navel in toward your spine.
• Initiate all movement from your core (the center of your body) Draw your navel in toward your spine before beginning any movement.
• Focus on alignment Keep your eyes on the horizon, relax your shoulders and keep your head in line with your hips.