We recently caught up with Sophie Gowen who has just launched a Mum & Baby Pilates class at Project Me in Crouch End. Courses started today on Monday 18 April – book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Q: How did you get in to teaching postnatal Pilates?
A: I started practicing Pilates in my early twenties due to a back problem and fell in love with it! I had no idea how amazing it would be for my whole body, not only helping my back, but rather vainly, I finally achieved a stomach I was proud of. I knew I had to teach it at some point to share the benefits. After having my babies, I wanted to create a space for new mums to get their bodies back alongside their babies. I was keen to start a small class that would offer an alternative to baby focused music classes and that would still enable new mums to socialise with each other. Finding activities to do with a young baby can be very important for many and to provide one where the mum directly benefits made perfect sense to me.
Q: Why is Pilates beneficial for new mums?
A: It is extremely hard to look after yourself, let alone find the time to do so with a new born, so carving out time every week to attend a class like this is extremely valuable in more ways than just the physical improvements. Pilates works to flatten the stomach, improves posture and flexibility to reduce aches associated with feeding and carrying, as well as stiffness following pregnancy, it tones and strengthens the whole body and strengthens the weakened pelvic floor to name a few benefits. It also helps to relax as well as energise us. Pilates focuses on the core which takes a huge hit during pregnancy so it is the ideal exercise to start with. The transverse abdominis muscle needs to be retrained or indeed engaged properly to help flatten the stomach and re build abdominal strength. It is also perfectly safe post Caesarean section when done with a professional.
Q: Are there any simple exercises you’d recommend mums to do at home once they’ve had a baby?
A: Absolutely. Pelvic floor exercises can be done literally anywhere. They are safe to do at any point after having your baby, although you may need a few days break! Start by squeezing your pelvic floor, it might feel like a tiny movement at first but as your strength grows it will become more pronounced. Breathe in and when you breathe out, draw in and upwards. Practice fast twitches counting to 10, as well as slow ones where you hold the squeeze and count to 5 and slowly release. Do these ideally 3 times a day or as many as you remember. They can be done standing up or whilst feeding! Pelvic tilts will start to engage the TA (transverse abdominis). Lie on the floor with a pillow under your head. Bend your knees with feet flat on the floor. Tighten your pelvic floor and pull in your lower tummy muscles, before flattening the small of your back down into the floor and tilting your pelvis up.
Hold for a count of three and then gently bring your lower back into a neutral position (you should only just be able to put your finger tips under your lower back not slide your whole hand underneath). Walking can be done anywhere so make the most of your time pushing the pram and think about your posture by not slouching. Draw in your belly button and your lower tummy muscles towards your spine – this can be done whilst feeding too or walking. This is all firing up the right muscles to get you back on track.
Q: How does it work having both mums and babies in your classes?
A: It’s a more relaxed dynamic rather than a rigid class, because the mums know this is a space for them to take whatever they want and can. Everyone is in the same position with a baby who will need feeding or might become unsettled at some point and no one minds. I’ll always lend a hand and hold a grizzly baby too, some even fall asleep on me! I just want my mums to get the most out of the class and feel real progression and bodily awareness. I also teach private classes in the comfort of my clients’ own homes either on a one to one basis or in small groups.
Please visit my website for more information on all of my classes. www.pilateswithsophie.co.uk