Pregnancy and childbirth really changes our bodies. We literally move in different ways due to our center of gravity shifting, then it suddenly shifts again after the baby is out. For many of us, adjusting to these physical changes affects more than just our bodies.
Engaging your inner unit can help ground us physically and emotionally.
I interviewed Janna Young of Seek to Find Coaching and Training to learn more about how Pilates can help center our bodies after childbirth. She recommended four poses for postpartum women looking to ease back into some physical activity. [See instructional videos for them here.]
Janna is a life coach and a Pilates instructor whose work is grounded in helping clients reconnect their minds, bodies, and spirits back together. Just what every postpartum woman needs!
Here’s some of what Janna had to say about helping women feel mentally, physically, and spiritually grounded again after giving birth.
Y: Can you tell me about Pilates and how it can help postpartum women looking to ease their way back into an exercise routine?
J: It’s about mindful movement. Pilates really helps you to focus on your core and the strength that comes from there. It’s your powerhouse. The idea is to have a strong trunk to support your branches. Pilates also helps with whole-body integrated movement. It helps you be more aware of how you move, even for simple tasks like picking something up from the floor. Pilates teaches you how to keep your body in alignment and to prevent injury. Because Pilates is centered around strengthening your core, it helps engage your inner unit. When you’re pregnant you’ll notice that your center of balance is different. After you have your baby, Pilates is a great way to find and restore that center of balance again through engagement with your inner unit.
Y: It’s so true. I remember in the last trimester my shins hurt so much because all my weight was shifting forward, my feet were turned out and my joints hurt. I felt off balance. When Lucas came, I still had those aches and pains. I didn’t realize I was trying to recalibrate my body because I was in pain from other things (laugh).
Y: Can you tell me more about the inner unit?
J: Yes. It’s your pelvic floor (from the bottom), your transverse abdominis (from the front, it your deepest abdominal layer), your diaphragm (from the top) and your multifidus (from the back, supporting your spine). These muscles form a box and that’s your inner unit. Your abdominals get stretched out when you’re pregnant so it’s really important to find that inner strength from your core after you give birth. Pilates exercises focus on the inner unit in addition to the major muscle groups targeted in other common strength training exercises. A lot of people focus on training the superficial muscles, like their six-pack. The inner unit is what supports those larger superficial muscles. Pilates emphasizes this stability.
Y: What are some other reasons to focus on the core?
J: Your core is your powerhouse. All your movement should be supported by your core. The stronger your core, the better your movement. When you harness the potential energy that your core can give you through Pilates, you can be more efficient and more mechanically aligned, helping to prevent injury. When your center of balance is altered due to pregnancy, your body compensates which alters your posture. Developing a strong balanced core through Pilates ultimately improves your posture.
Y: Why do you suggest these four exercises first? [See the four exercises here.]
J: These exercises are very manageable for someone just getting back into movement and their bodies transitioning back into a new space. They’re safe. They particularly address postural and muscular imbalances that happen during pregnancy. They also help with those who sit for a long time, who’ve had their bellies outstretched, and who carry their babies all the time. They’re very restorative and counterbalance the postures that you’re likely to be in for a long time as a postpartum woman.
Y: In addition to the physical aspects of helping women transition to exercise, how can inner unit work help women who feel overwhelmed by being a mom?
J: I do holistic training involving the body, your emotions, your mind, everything. These poses help you connect to your inner unit. When you connect to your inner unit, you connect to your center. And when we talk about “center” we can talk about it in terms of being mentally, emotionally, and physically ground. Really owning your sense of being. When we’re centered and physically in touch with our inner unit, we become centered emotionally. When we transform our bodies we transform our minds and emotions. So yes, we’re connecting to our centers and centering our minds but we’re also strengthening our bodies. When we’re feeling overwhelmed with all the things thrown at us we’re able to reground ourselves and say, “Hey, I’ve got this. I’m a strong woman physically, mentally, and emotionally.” When we present ourselves in balanced posture to the world, we exude confidence and stability to the outside world. So our posture a reflection of our being and who we are.
Y: Right. We’re not just helping our physical well-being but it’s connected to our overall sense of self. I think that’s why some of us struggle with the blues. Because when we don’t feel physically strong or we don’t feel grounded and it’s hard on us emotionally too.
Y: What are some good times of the day to do these exercises?
J: Why not start your day with it? It can be a mindful way to start your day. Whenever you feel the need to have more physical or mental strength, it’s a good time to do it. You’ll feel a shift physically and emotionally.
Y: This is great information. Thanks so much Janna. Where can people learn more about you and your Pilates and coaching work?
J: My pleasure. They can find me at seektofind.co.