Editor’s Note: Pilates (/pɪˈlɑːteɪz/; German: [piˈlaːtəs]) is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, and popular in many countries, including Germany,the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. Our guest blogger, Tania Son-Vaca, has been into this form of training since 2001 and shares here how it has helped her through a number of pregnancies. Read more about Pilates
It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m at the usual children’s party. I meet new moms and dads and while looking at the sea of tiny little heads running around, all with different lengths, textures, and color, the conversation always leads to, “So, which is yours?” In my case, the answer is always, “That one, that one…and that one.” Yup, I’ve got three beautiful munchkins and looking down memory lane I just don’t know how I physically got through my pregnancies back to back to back!
Let me walk you through my life as a mathematical equation. I’ve been married 8 years and started actively having children 2 years after marriage. I have a child roughly every 2 years and breastfeed them for at least a year so I’m on this crazy cycle of pregnant 9 months, breast feed 12 months, rest and try to regain semblance of old body for 2-3 months, get pregnant again — all by choice of course! This feat is not unheard of as other moms have had many more children and even some with closer age gaps but lets just say that when I stick to a plan, I really stick to it come hell or high water. Oh and did I mention, I’m no spring chicken. Running around Kindermusilk, The Little Gym or Gymboree, driving to and from school, groceries, and other errands, as I continue to be the hands-on-mom and full-time homemaker that I am definitely poses its own challenges.
I fell in love with Pilates in 2001 when it was still the “in thing” and in my almost 15 years practicing, I went on to become an avid practitioner, instructor, and to this day continue to be an advocate. By the time baby #1 came along, I had been practicing about 7 years and despite the enormous amount of weight I gained (a whopping 45 lbs on a 5 foot, 100 pound pre-pregnancy body), I managed quite well. I didn’t experience an ounce of morning sickness and my energy levels were great! I was mobile, agile and felt just like my old self, albeit bigger. The next two pregnancies were also pretty great, but more challenging because with a new bundle of joy, there were new things to focus on, think about and worry about; with what felt like almost no time to rest.
Through and through my pregnancies, my father-in-law’s famous words are, “I got the shock of my life when I saw Tania walking only a few hours after giving birth! I had to make sure and check that there was really a baby in the crib beside her!” Three babies and counting and I never fail to hear these words. Now that’s a testament to strength if I ever heard one.
So on this crazy rollercoaster ride of weight gain and loss, emotional ups and downs, and gearing up for what would be the most important role of my life, the thing I was built for — this thing called motherhood — I believe Pilates afforded me three really important things that got me through it all.
- Physical strength before, during and after pregnancy,
- Mental clarity, awareness and focus, and
- Look great, feel great confidence.
Physical Strength During and After Pregnancy
It goes without saying that pregnancy and childbirth is one of those miraculous events in life. The concept that life has been created inside the body and continues to grow and thrive into a human being still brings tears to my eyes. The physical transformation my body made during the first pregnancy, the journey from 100 lbs to 145 lbs also brought (real) tears to my eyes. I was huge; like a planet in orbit. But in hindsight it didn’t matter. I was as nimble and agile, felt like a million bucks and did all (if not more) of my daily activities, including driving. Without the toned abdominal and back muscles, I’m not sure I would have been able to carry around all that extra weight, let alone the weight alongside an active toddler or two.
Immediately after birth, the muscles that I had so faithfully worked prior to and during pregnancy also carried me through. After laboring a maximum of 12 hours on the first pregnancy (baby #2 and baby #3 were much faster) and giving birth normally to a 7.5, almost 7, and an 8.4 pound baby respectively, I was up and about only a few hours after delivery. Through and through my pregnancies, my father-in-law’s famous words are, “I got the shock of my life when I saw Tania walking only a few hours after giving birth! I had to make sure and check that there was really a baby in the crib beside her!” Three babies and counting and I never fail to hear these words. Now that’s a testament to strength if I ever heard one.
Awareness, Mental Clarity and Focus
Pilates is considered to be a discipline which strengthens the mind-body connection, and as such it allowed me to get to know and understand my body, the changes it was undergoing and allowed me to feel these specific changes within me. Small details like the shifting of my center of gravity as I grew bigger, the hunching shoulders as the weight of the breasts increased, the curving of the spine to accommodate the growing belly just to name a few. If something was painful or bothersome I could understand why and would consequently be intuitive enough to know how to counterbalance or remedy the discomfort. On a more positive note, I could visualize the transformation my body made through the trimesters as if I were on the outside looking in. By the 2nd and 3rd pregnancy I was really getting to know my body extremely well thereby allowing me to help my body be as comfortable as possible through all its changes.
Like most mind-body disciplines, breathing plays a huge role in regulating and centering oneself. Additionally, manipulating breath as a way to engage core muscles was (for me) key to having normal deliveries. The physical and intentional act of breathing helped me during times of distress or uncertainty to center myself, calm my nerves, and focus my energies on the task at hand –utilize the muscles that were needed to push the baby out!
Look Great, Feel Great Confidence
I may have been as big as a blimp and full-bodied, but Pilates definitely helped me to look and feel strong, capable, and most importantly happy. Anything negative that came my way was met with nothing less than utmost positivity, which not only contributed to well being a positive well mental state but helped me to exude beauty and confidence from within (or so that’s what I was told).
I’ll forever be an advocate for core strength training in all forms, whether it be Pilates, any form of yoga, Plana Forma or Barre. It’s important that you strengthen your body as it continues to change, support, and nourish the new life that’s growing inside you. So, thank you, Pilates, for keeping me sane, balanced (both mentally and physically), and strong. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.