Years ago, when Pilates became mainstream, the consensus was that no instructor should take on a pregnant client who had never done Pilates before.
This was also during the time when there were few women exercising and even fewer who were doing Pilates. There was little information regarding exercising during pregnancy and certainly nothing about pilates during pregnancy.
But things evolve. As they should do.
Teaching pregnant women is no different than teaching someone with breast cancer or scoliosis or osteoporosis. These are some pretty common conditions and most pilates instructors will take some extra training in order to accomodate their clients needs. As with any “special” population, there has to be modifications, contraindications and a whole load of common sense when training your pregnant client. Let’s look at some of the issues that always arise in my teacher trainings.
• Pilates is contraindicated during pregnancy.
I have yet to find anyone who can give me a good enough reason to stop. When I ask why, there is dead silence. Eyes get wide and heads turn this way and that hoping someone will come up with the answer. Mostly it is because “they” said so. It is also mostly from teachers who have little to no understanding of this population and have never taught pregnant woman themselves. There is always fear in the unknown.
• Women shouldn’t start something new during their pregnancy that they haven’t done before.
Why not? As long as it’s not parachuting or deep sea diving, most women are ok with starting an exercise program and are encouraged by their physicians to do so. With special training, instructors can learn how to teach them. So, it’s ok for a marathon runner to keep running if this is what she’s done before? Or a horseback rider to keep riding, or a ballerina to keep dancing if that’s whats she’s done before, even though these are extremes when it comes to exercise. So how hard can breathing and pelvic tilting be on the pregnant body?
• Women should not rotate their torso during pregnancy.
So let’s take rotation out of the program you have designed for your pregnant client who isn’t allowed to do Pilates but can do Yoga or go to the gym and spin and do step aerobics and lift weights. Lets just keep her moving in one plane and keep that linear. Then let’s send her home to pick her child up off the floor and put him in the high chair. Or reach behind her in the car to check on her sleeping child,or better yet, be holding one child on her hip as she reaches up to get something out of the closet behind her.
Let’s face it. Women have been having babies for years. And they have never stopped moving while doing it. If you look at our lives today, we have problems during labor BECAUSE we don’t know how to move our bodies properly. What Pilates teaches us all regardless of whether we are pregnant or not is good body mechanics, proper posture and strength and flexibility. Sounds like a great formula for pregnancy.
What you DO need to do as an instructor is get some good training (I can recommend an excellent pre/postnatal Pilates Teacher Training Program). Look at the Pilates principles of breathing, strength, flexibility and endurance and apply the principles to the appropriate exercises and you have a match made in heaven for your pregnant client.These principles can also be applied to labor and delivery.
Here’s a sample of some exercises from a third trimester mat class
• Pelvic tilts
• Shoulder protraction/retraction
• Hamstring stretches
• Lateral flexion
• Forward kneeling stretch
These are some movements that the pregnant woman will instinctively do during her day to ease her aches and release her tension. Call it Pilates if you want. I do.