Pilates for Recovering After Childbirth

February 12, 2015
Pilates, Childbirth, Recovery

Some of us put too much effort in getting back that pre-pregnancy body and some of us don’t put enough effort into it… so how much is too much? I spoke to my guest Corrie van der Colff from Extreme Gymnasium, McGregor, South Africa to get the lowdown on what, where and how when it comes to tightening “that-what-once-was-tight” and was pleasantly surprised with my findings!


Corrie van der Coff, Xtreme Pilates


“Looking back in History, women spent quite a bit of time recovering in bed… not because they were tired, but to allow the pelvis to settle back into position and the ligaments to start shortening in by natural processes!”

Now thats something lost in modern society… we tend to jump right back in to lift off where we touched down before the birth of our babies and consequently carry the burden of complications due to an unstable pelvis (like back, knee, joint and foot problems etc) for years to come. Corrie says its even normal to mourn for what has been lost from carrying a baby for 9 months and therefore Post Natal Depression can even be a natural process of healing… The natural processes of life has become obliviously left behind and women end up with emotional consequences like Major Depressive Disorders, Stress, Fatigue and Auto-Immune diseases. Its just natural to rest and accept that your body will take time to heal. Imagine what primitive women would have done… I can imagine them lying down with baby most of the time, breastfeeding till baby dozes off, holding baby in their arms when they are awake to see their charming gaze and breastfeeding once again until they and baby are both once again in their happy place. I did this a few times in those first few weeks after the twins were born and I must say I did not do this enough… it was absolutely magical and I won’t trade those memories for all the millions in the world!

“Instead of trying to take the depression away, make sure that you have enough support around you to work through that proccess.”

I dream of the world there once was, where Grannies knitted in the sitting room while the Mothers baked in the kitchen and Children ran around the house, getting the same level of discipline from their Aunts and Grannies as they did from their Parents.  Support is a major lack in modern society. I’m not saying we did something wrong… life happens and we are not primitive human beings anymore we have obligations and sadly money (or rather the lack of) has taken us further away from each other but I strongly believe this is a cause of many emotional problems Mothers are faced with today. Many daughters don’t honor their parents anymore and their parents don’t honor them, causing more friction than comfort when opportunity for support comes along. Evidently many new mothers prefer to be alone those first days instead of allowing their mothers or mother-in-law’s to offer support. It really is sad… this problem’s fix is an article for another day, but the bottom line is you have to have some kind of support, even if it’s a friend or a family member you can really feel safe and comfortable with being yourself.

“You actually have to re-learn to move from scratch”

None the less there comes a time when we have rested and started moving around and are now ready to start exercising… what do we do now? When you are pregnant and just before childbirth your tummy muscles separates to make space for the bulge and your pelvis opens up to allow the baby to drop into the birth canal… this as a major stress on your body and Corrie says after childbirth we actually need to re-learn to move from scratch.  The Pilates way helps us to move in a way that integrates all the systems in the human body. Pilates is elegant and free-moving, giving muscles an opportunity to train against your own body-weight which allows the muscles to tighten in good time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good cardio or body building workout but first we need everything to get back into place. Your muscles have a stretch/tension capacity that decelerates when the body is not in optimal alignment so you need to stay away from jerky movements in the early days of recovery.

But wait theres more…

Ive heard many ladies complain of urinary incontinence and the best news is that Pilates naturally restores the firing pattern of your muscles to restore optimal function of the pelvic floor.  Now ain’t that a daisy! After a while, by exercising the rectus abdominis (the six pack… yes its there, its just in hiding), the transverse abdominis (belt around the waist) will be fired and that naturally fires the pelvic floor which means it will start working and no more leaks… no more tears!

Now Corrie is not your average Pilates instructor. He has had many people from all over the world come to him for rehab… I bet you didn’t know there’s a more ‘natural’ way of doing Pilates and also a commercialised way of doing it.  Some people believe old man Pilates himself did not know so much about the human body so they changed a bit of the original program to “correct” it. Corrie, however, and quite some of the original Pilates “elders” as they call them, has researched and studied Joseph Pilates’ available material for years and has very specific reasons for following and supporting his theories. For more info, contact Corrie through http://www.xtremepilates.co.za. The bottom line is that Pilates can not be done in group classes from the start so when looking out for a Pilates studio, make sure you are offered individual classes from the start as theres no way these classes can be done in a group if you are not already comfortable with the exercises and aware of what your muscles should be doing.

The great thing about Pilates is that it creates muscle memory so that you never have to think how to pick something up or how to climb down the stairs in order to prevent injury. This is key to staying young!

If you do Pilates, not only will you restore all the normal functions your body should be doing, you invest in your old age but more importantly, you work through your physical, emotional and spiritual journey. Body, Mind, Spirit. We are humans as a whole and the one can not function without the other… the body compensations we had even before pregnancy did not exist for no reason. You did not necessarily tear a ligament because you made a bad step… your ligaments are supposed to be strong enough to support that bad step. Now why was the ligaments not strong enough? The metaphysical is a field I just love to explore and I am always amazed to find direct connections between the metaphysical and the physical injury I sustained.

Thinking of life holistically is not necessarily strange or different. Medical research proves and psychology textbooks teaches that the spiritual, emotional and physical are connected so why do we tend to dismiss this theory? Recovering as a whole human being is key to getting fully healed and will save so much time.

Now thats a whole lot to process… Let me break it down for you:

  1. Rest
  2. Secure your support system
  3. Work through the emotional loss your body had to go through
  4. Re-learn to move by doing non-strenuous exercise like Pilates
  5. Have fun with your little bundle of joy!


Pilates cover pic
Intermediate mat work program and power sessions. Order from Xtreme Gymnasium.

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