Post Natal Toning with Yogalates
Becoming a mother is a milestone in any women’s life. The joy of a new child can be both euphoric and overwhelming at the same time. There are many changes that a new mother experiences both physically and emotionally. Yogalates encompasses the best of Yoga and Pilates which can facilitate these changes. Specifically for postnatal women we draw upon Yoga’s relaxation techniques for their calming effects that soothe the mind leaving one feeling centred, balanced and energised. Utilising these aspects of Yoga with the strengthening, toning and weight loss benefits of Pilates, will leave the new mum feeling refreshed and revitalised.
Yogalates™ is an internationally recognised and an award winning exercise system which I have been developing for over 18 years. I have had a lot of success over the years with new mothers. Many have come to my studio in Australia to specifically tone their pelvic floor; abdominal muscles strengthen their spine and generally get back into shape. I have received numerous emails from new mums who say they have regained tone and sculpted their bodies back into condition using my acclaimed Yogalates health and fitness DVDs.
For a long time I have explored the area of core stability (abdominal strengthening) and spinal stabilisation, which I find exceptionally interesting. The literature available and the scientific evidence of core stability very much supports the benefits of toning the deep abdominal muscles.
The lower back and abdominal muscles are often weakened during pregnancy and the birthing process. Core stability exercises focus on strengthening the spine, lower back muscles through to the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. A balanced Yogalates programme may help the new mother return to her original level of fitness and tone through the physical benefits gained by Yogalates. Motherhood is an exhausting experience, both physically and emotionally. It’s therefore important to ensure an appropriate balance is met between strengthening and toning those parts of the body that have been stretched and weakened.
My award wining Yogalates DVD series is excellent for general toning and weight loss. Many women carry weight in particular areas during there pregnancy for example: arms, stomach, thighs or buttocks. The DVDS are all designed to target specific body parts, made 3-4 workouts which focus on areas that are renowned for carrying extra weight. All workouts cater for the individual to exercise at there own fitness level with room to progressively build strength in a safe and effective manner. Breast feeding and carrying the baby can contribute to bad posture, causing the mid back area to weaken. The Yogalates DVDS may help this by strengthening the spinal muscles, relieving any discomfort. Having the DVDS at home gives the new mum flexibility so she can fit her workout in around the baby’s schedule. It is important to check in with your doctor to see when you are ready to start to exercise again the general time is 6 weeks after the birth but every one is individual.
When working with new mothers I always include the pelvic floor muscles, as they are affected by the hormone “relaxin” during pregnancy. Relaxin is instrumental in preparing the body for the baby to pass through the birth canal. As a result the pelvic floor muscles are stretched and weakened. Strengthening this area should take precedence during any new mothers post- natal fitness programme. However it’s very important to build strength gradually in this fragile area and work at an individual level.
The pelvic floor muscles have been referred to as the ‘pelvic hammock’ or ‘sling’. This is because the muscles attach around the front of the pelvis and insert onto the tail bone at the base of the spine. The pelvic floor muscles are made up of Type 1 muscle tissue (slow twitch) which supports the endurance of the pelvic floor and Type 2 muscle tissue (fast twitch) which aid in strong and forceful muscle contractions that support the strength of the pelvic floor. Both are important to prevent incontinence and the prolapse of the uterus, which are common when the area is weak. The Pelvic Floor muscles connect from the pubic bone in between the legs to the tail bone and from side to side for your sit bones so these four points support the sling of the PF; one can imagine this as a hammock.
Two great techniques I suggest you try are:
- As you exhale you want to get a sense of drawing these four points together, an inner lift and squeeze is felt as if you were stopping yourself from going to the toilet. Inhale slowing release then exhale gently lift again, a slow long contraction is held repeat x 10.
- This time we work with short fast contractions, breath as you need to and switch the pelvic floor on off, on off, on off x 10.
The relaxation component of the new Yogalates DVD “Essential Yogalates” is also extremely beneficial to the new mum. Having experienced post natal changes myself, I found my stress levels had increased and my sleep patterns were in disarray. I feel it is imperative that any new mum be equipped with some specific relaxation tools. The DVD has a relaxation segment specifically designed to relax the entire mind and body. Learning to actively relax through guided body relaxation enhances sensory perceptions through releasing ‘feel good’ endorphins. Allowing the mother to rejuvenate both mind and body, aiding and supporting her to care for herself and the new born.
When the mind and body are equally in a calm and relaxed state they are perceived as balanced both hormonally and physically. Obtaining this balance helps the mother tone and loose weight more effectively. One technique which is easy and can be performed virtually anywhere at anytime is ‘belly breathing’ or abdominal breathing. By aiming the breath into the belly area the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This part of the nervous system is often termed ‘rest and digest’ and is closely linked to relaxation.
Belly breathing technique:
~ Whilst the chest stays relatively still the breath is brought down into the abdomen.
~ By placing one hand onto the belly and the other on to the side of the lower ribs. As you inhale you can feel the breath deep in wide into the sides of the lower ribs and sides of the waist you want to sense the breath in the lower back side and at the same time the hands are gently pushed away.
~ The breath is a deep slow controlled inhale followed by a deep slow controlled exhale. Allowing the belly to completely relax and soften as you expel the air.
Once you feel relaxed through belly breathing you can, if you like, introduce an internal mantra. An example of this would be on the inhale repeating to your self ‘mo’ and on the exhale repeating to your self ‘ment’. This brings complete focus to the ‘moment’ and away from the perceived stress of everyday life. These simple techniques performed for as little as 5mins a day will support the body immensely in rejuvenating, refreshing and renewing ones self. See her web site for the many testimonials of the many benefits that Yogalates has bought to many individuals. Enjoy !
See www.yogalates.com.au for more information on our world wide studios and a class near you
See our award winning DVDS to create a home practise
Wishing you all health and happiness through the precious journey of motherhood:
Co authored by Louise Solomon and daughter Crystal Solomon