Pre- and Post- Natal

Staying active and healthy during and after pregnancy is most women’s aim, however the reality of the lifestyle change a first baby brings, or the juggling of needs for older children with the arrival of a new sibling can make finding time (and energy) for self-care difficult.  

Back pain, pelvic floor issues and on-going diastasis
are the most common problems which can outlast a pregnancy, but most can be prevented or reduced by remaining appropriately active and ensuring pelvic floor work is maintained during pregnancy and afterwards.

Often a woman who exercised pre-pregnancy simply needs to share her post-natal circumstances with a professional who can advise on ways to adjust to post-pregnancy life.  Loose joints and muscle imbalance from pregnancy, combined with sometimes awkward feeding positions, can frequently leave a new mum feeling the “bloom” of new motherhood is something she can only read about.  Trying to reclaim control of your body, set a routine, manage sleep and feeding patterns, keep house and keep your brain functioning in anticipation of returning to work can test any woman.  

Sometimes the time away from home and childcare is just as important as the activity undertaken!

Relevant Qualifications:  
Modern Pilates Certificate in Ante and Post-Natal  Pilates 2004


Tai Chi During Pregnancy
A Safe Mind-Body Workout -- By Leanne Beattie, Health Writer

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to deal with stress, especially during pregnancy. But finding a safe type of exercise that you enjoy can be a problem. Walking and swimming are always popular, but if you’d like to try something different, a gentle form of martial arts called Tai Chi might just be what you’re looking for. With its combination of fluid movements and deep breathing techniques, Tai Chi offers a complete mind/body workout that builds strength, improves balance and increases flexibility without strain. Tai Chi is very gentle—there are no harsh, strenuous or jerking motions involved, making it the perfect exercise during pregnancy, even if you’ve never exercised before. The concept of "chi" (a vital life energy that runs through the body) is a very strong belief in Chinese medicine and philosophy. The primary aim of Tai Chi is to improve the circulation of this "chi" throughout the body and by doing so, improve your health and vitality. Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can best be described as a combination of yoga in motion and meditation. Tai Chi consists of several so-called forms or sets, which are made up of a sequence of continual movements. Many of these movements originated from the natural movements of animals and birds, which are performed in a slow, graceful manner with one movement flowing gently into the next. One well-known part of Tai Chi is the two-person “push-hands” exercise, which helps develop sensitivity to another person’s “chi” or vital energy. This exercise allows each participant to channel potentially destructive or unhealthy energy away from themselves (by means of a punch or a kick) and dissipating the negative energy so it is no longer a danger. In Tai Chi, you’re always moving, but always under complete control. The whole body moves as one, with each part of the body balanced in circular movement—the weight of the body shifts continuously throughout the form as the next movement begins in one fluid motion. Often referred to as “moving meditation”, this ancient form of martial arts has been practiced in China for centuries. Tai Chi is an ideal pregnancy workout because it:

• Uses gentle, circular motions which tone muscles without straining
• Promotes correct body posture
• Improves balance
• Increases chi, or life energy
• Is easy to learn
• Doesn’t require any special equipment
• Is suitable for almost anyone
• Improves blood pressure
• Assists mental well-being through meditative forms
• Improves coordination
• Assists with labour thanks to deep breathing techniques
• Builds arm and leg strength, which will assist in carrying the baby

Studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi improves memory, concentration and digestion; it also increases circulation, reduces anxiety, eases depression, decreases blood pressure, eases hypertension and improves cardiac health. Studies done at the University of Southern California reveal that Tai Chi classes reduce lower back pain, which is very appealing to those with back pain during pregnancy. If you’re interested in learning Tai Chi, it’s important to find an instructor who understands the special needs of pregnant women. As always, check with your physician before beginning any fitness routine. "During my second pregnancy, I couldn’t handle all the pounding of aerobics but I was still looking for a workout to improve my general well-being and physical fitness," says Stephanie Woodhouse of Tallahassee, Florida. "After my first Tai Chi class, I knew I’d found the answer. Its low-impact movements were easy to do but still gave me a very thorough workout. And learning how to focus my mind and my breathing came in handy when it was time to give birth."

Physically ...
Tai Chi exercise will correct many of the physical side effects of pregnancy. It helps prevent back pain, swelling in the hands & feet, and prevents excessive weight gain.
Tai Chi helps strengthen the body and prepare it for labour and delivery.

Emotionally ...
Tai Chi can help calm your mind and alleviate the feelings of stress and worry associated with the changes in life brought about by pregnancy.
Because it teaches you deep breathing & meditation techniques, Tai Chi helps you relax and feel more balanced and centred.
People who practice Tai Chi experience feeling peaceful inside themselves. Over time, they respond to stressful situations differently and feel more in control of their thoughts and reactions.

Research ...
• Lessen the incidence of falling, a common concern in pregnancy
• Improve muscle tone and flexibility, which supports the changes in your body due to pregnancy
• Calm anxiety, feelings of stress and create mental clarity, easing the emotional side effects of pregnancy
• Lower high blood pressure
• Assist in labour by strengthening the pelvic muscles
• Increase your immune system, keeping you well during your pregnancy
• Improve your daily energy levels, fighting against fatigue, a common complaint in pregnancy
• Reduce pain levels in the body, which sometimes occurs in the last trimesters.

Preparing for Childbirth
T'ai Chi has much to offer a pregnant woman, if practiced very gently and with care. Most pregnant women can practice its slow and gentle movements. Its gentleness and relaxed motion promote the circulation of energy and blood throughout the body, while its smooth abdominal breathing fully oxygenates the bodies of both mother and child. However, only practice when it feels good, and never strain yourself. Rest whenever you need to, and modify or forgo any movement or exercise that doesn't feel right.
Tai Chi breathing is a wonderful way to prepare for delivery. The famous Lamaze breathing technique is based on Qigong breathing techniques and pain-management tools. This aspect of Tai Chi makes it perhaps the most effective exercise to prepare you for a safe, natural childbirth. Remember to breathe.

Exercises for pregnancy
Pregnancy is not a debilitating condition, but it does place unique stresses and strains on the mother-to-be. Apart from the miraculous growth of the baby, some extremely acute changes take place within the mother's own body. In general it's fine to practice the gentle movements of the soft martial arts, but great care should be taken not to strain the joints and muscles. Chi Kung may be practiced throughout a normal pregnancy - though you may prefer to try them as sitting Chi Kung exercises as you get heavier. Tai Chi Chuan is fine for at least the first six months (after that some of the kicks and low sweeping movements should be omitted, until you are fully recovered from the birth).
One of the more extraordinary effects of pregnancy is the release of a hormone that allows every joint in the body to open up and become loose. As the baby grows, this stimulates the chest cavity to expand by up to 3 inches (5 cm), so that some of the internal organs can move up above the expanding womb. However, the same hormone also allows the spinal joints to expand, and this is a common cause of lower back pain and aches in other areas, especially as the baby gets heavier to carry. It is especially important not to try to relieve backache by practicing any exercise that requires you to lie down on your back and then lift your hips off the ground. These movements only place added strain on your joints. Instead, you should try lower back massage, and the toning movements shown below. It is also essential that you take due care of your back after the birth, since your body will still be vulnerable to strain. This is a time when it pays to take regular gentle exercise if you can, maintain good posture and to avoid unnecessary strain such as the damage caused by bending over and lifting movements. You should bend at the knees and take the weight on your arms if you are lifting anything from below waist height.
Some exercises for pregnant women aim to promote general fitness, some to prepare the woman for the birth itself, but all gentle exercise is of great benefit.

Tai Chi is thought to help stiff joints, back problems, mental and emotional stress, and digestive problems and raise concentration levels. Regular sessions improve balance, flexibility and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Tai Chi is believed to replenish the “essence”. This is the body’s store of “chi” or energy including the reproductive prowess. Building essence is believed to boost fertility.

Tai Chi is a safe form of meditative exercise throughout pregnancy. It is thought to help reduce blood pressure and assist labour by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. It is noted for lowering stress levels and building inner strength. The improved oxygenation of the mothers blood, due to tai chi exercise, crosses the placenta barrier and is believed to aids foetal development.

Post natal
A Tai Chi class once a week would be ideal for a frenzied, fatigued mother. It is believed to have a positive effect on emotions and clear mental fatigue. Practitioners say Tai Chi leads to greater inner knowledge and power.