How many of us have mastered the art of setting a baby on one hip while we talk on the phone with the other hand, or cook, or do both? If you have or had little ones, you are likely an expert in the long-standing one-sided hip hike.
These learned postural habits stay with many women long after our kids outgrow the need to be held. Many mothers develop habits that promote a pelvic shift that, if not corrected, can cause overcompensation and misaligned posture, leading to joint and back pains long after our kids outgrow toddlerhood.
Practicing Pilates can help us become aware of these asymmetries and overcompensation that often lead to chronic pain. In theory, once the mind is aware the body will naturally correct itself over time with practice.
Your Pilates instructor should be able to determine your physical strengths and weaknesses and work to strengthen the weaknesses with a specific combination of work on the equipment and on the mat. Pilates instructor Jackie Au works with her students in a way that for each one there comes a day when it just clicks. It’s the moment when the mental and the physical begin working in tandem. The result is better posture, more core strength, leaner muscles and significantly better range of motion.
Pilates for Pregnant Women
Jackie believes that Pilates is ideal for pregnant women and mothers of young children on a number of levels. Pilates encourages pregnant women to maintain their posture even as their body grows. While doctors discourage starting a new exercise program during pregnancy, Pilates is wonderful for the already practicing pregnant student to continue until late in the last trimester. For the newly pregnant woman, Pilates can help prepare for the changes that occur during pregnancy both emotionally and physically.
Pilates for Postpartum Women
Postpartum women may notice that their body no longer responds to exercises that used to bring them results. This is often due to overstretched ligaments caused by Relaxin, the same chemical in the body that allows a woman to stretch and house a baby. These overstretched ligaments along with a shifting center of gravity with unstable joints post-pregnancy can add significant structural stress to the body. During a natural birth the force exerted to push a baby out may shift the pelvis from alignment so pelvic instability is commonly seen post-pregnancy. For mothers that go through c-sections, where the transverse abdominis (our girdle for the pelvis) is cut, it is particularly important to rebuild the abs after a period of rest and recovery.
Pilates for Everybody
Pilates reinforces the habits of centering, concentration and precision by focusing on the core muscles and the alignment of the body. Though Pilates is corrective by nature, Jackie stresses the importance of a mental focus on inner strength and a positive, can-do attitude. The body shaping that follows sometimes becomes a secondary reward. That’s the balance of the art and the science, of form and function. Restoration of balance and tone is first felt in the body, then reflected in poise and posture, and finally emanated in the form of a streamlined body.
Pilates and Sports
Pilates can help for sport specific issues too. Olympic ice skaters such as Sasha Cohen, Evan Lysacek and Michelle Kwan, all use the total core work out aspect of Pilates to strengthen their core, their posture and their overall presentation. Jackie has worked with golfers, dancers and basketball players on techniques that strengthen their bodies and increase their flexibility, gaining more success in their sport. Her students have increased stability, better posture and stronger muscles for increased flexibility. The golfer will have better range of motion; the dancer more power and the basketball player improved agility.
How to Get Started with Pilates
To start Pilates, look for a teacher who is certified by a group that has a rigorous training program with several hundred hours of training, such as Polestar Pilates, Balanced Body University, BASI Pilates, Peak Pilates, Core Pilates NYC or the Physical Mind Institute. Good luck!