Pilates for Pregnancy: Insight from Sabrina
By Cathleen Rodgers
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sabrina McGrath, one of our wonderful Pilates Instructors here at Studio BE. We discussed her practice of the Pilates Method throughout her pregnancy, from the very beginning to the very final weeks. Read on below to see how Pilates helped keep Sabrina in her best physical and emotional state during pregnancy!
1. How long have you been practicing Pilates?
“Almost 10 years of DOING Pilates…..teaching, probably 7 years,” she answered. “I’ve had children in between so it was a little on-and-off.” Sabrina went on the explain that her friend first introduced her to Pilates when she was experiencing back pain years ago. She started on the Mat, then later Equipment, and she fell in love with the practice. Sabrina later trained at Studio BE, took the Instructor Training course, and ultimately decided to become one of our beloved Instructors.
2. How often did you do Pilates during your pregnancy?
“I would say my first pregnancy, a lot. I did every day. This pregnancy, I would say because of having another child…probably three days a week. I did Yoga too this pregnancy, one or two days a week,” she answered.
3. And until what point in your pregnancy did you practice?
“Far!” she laughed. The last weekend of Advanced Level teacher training, Sabrina already knew of her next baby. She was able to finish out the training and continue to do some of the Advanced work, but then had to cut down to more Intermediate and even Beginner work as the belly grew. “It just gets to the point you can’t BREATHE anymore….there’s just no more SPACE, so you have to really start modifying a lot.” The main goal by the end of pregnancy was to keep the body moving in a healthy way, and BREATHING.
4. What differences did you feel between the two pregnancies, since you did Pilates during both?
“Both pregnancies were very different…” she said. “In my second pregnancy, I had way more confidence, I’d been doing Pilates a lot longer, and knew I could push myself a little further.” With Sabrina’s first pregnancy, not only was Pilates relatively new to her, but so was being pregnant. Lots of practice, teacher trainings, a child, and a few years later, Sabrina’s outlook was a little different than the first time around: “Growing in Pilates made me more confident to be able to do MORE in my second pregnancy.”
5. In what ways was Pilates most helpful for you throughout your pregnancy?
“It was something just to feel good in my own body, just to do for myself…it’s that saying that ‘a moving body keeps moving,’ because it’s true,” she said. “You just have to keep moving, you can’t just sit down.” She loved that Pilates brought focus into her own body. Modifications were made depending on what issues she was having day to day, especially since the body changes so much in those nine months. “ I didn’t have back pain AT ALL, either pregnancy!” she exclaimed, which is one of the largest sources of discomfort for many women during pregnancy. Sabrina believes that the focus on critical connections and fundamentals, especially in the abdominals, is what saved her back by helping her carry the baby so well.
Sabrina also added that her doctor swears that Pilates helped keep her active labor shorter—down to half an hour with her second child! Her post-labor symptoms improved much faster, and she was cleared to get back into exercise at her six week appointment, noting that “this time, coming back, I’m bouncing back a little faster, versus the first time…I think my abdominals have gotten a lot stronger.” Sounds like there a lot of perks to keeping up Pilates throughout pregnancy!
6. What key things did your work on for your prenatal Pilates? What areas of the body were important to focus on?
“The core engagement,” she answered without hesitation, “pulling in and up, and moving to protect the back…how to connect with the extra weight is the key movement…I worked way more extensions, and way more rotation,” she explained, since she knew it was safe to do with the proper form and engagement in the Powerhouse. Sabina loved the variety of extension movement she practiced throughout pregnancy—“you have to modify in your extensions of HOW you’ll do it, because you can’t lie on your stomach, but you have to get them in.”
7. What was your favorite Pilates exercise(s) during your prenatal practice?
“Being a Pilates Instructor, I was pretty proud of myself how long I could do the planks,” she laughed. It was a challenge, so she found them fun to do. In terms of what felt “good” for much of her pregnancy, she loved extensions and opening the hip and front of the body. By the end of the pregnancy, “putting focus on moving with the breath,” was most helpful.
Sabrina also enjoyed that by working with a lot of modifications, she learned the critical connections in different positions, which gave her a lot of insight when it came to working with her various clients. “It made me think what they’re actually feeling and doing…it’s interesting to feel what they’re going through with that movement. That, I thought was cool.”
8. Advice to other soon-to-be Moms out there?
“Do Pilates and Yoga during your pregnancy. A moving body stays moving! Honestly, it’s important that you do that.” Women also gain a lot of flexibility while pregnant, and Sabrina found that Pilates is perfect for keeping it in control and staying engaged. The lack of back pain and the help with breathing were two other major feats that Pilates helped her conquer. Variability of movement is also important in pregnancy. “Mat is really too hard to do when you’re pregnant,” she explained, “so the Equipment helps you…you’re using a little more assistance, but that’s okay because you’re still DOING it, and it’s keeping you happy.” With the body constantly changing for nine months, it was nice for her to have Pilates and Yoga to keep her moving and reconnect with her body every chance she could get.
Thank you, Sabrina, for all these insightful and interesting thoughts. It is fun to hear everything you’ve learned over the years with Pilates in relation to your pregnancies. We are lucky to have Pilates in our life, and this is a huge testament to the many powers of Pilates!