Pilates for everyone

By CAROLYN EVAN-WATKINS [email protected]

Carolyn Evan-Watkins is a sports, fitness and Pilates instructor with more than 15 years experience. She is a lecturer, teaching and assessing instructors in health and fitness. Carolyn has also been a Government advisor, and still writes and presents her own courses within this field. She moved to the Algarve last year and teaches Pilates classes in Vale do Lobo and Boliqueime.

Pilates is a method of strengthening muscles and making the body more flexible. It conditions the body ‘from the inside out’, from head to toe, and is suitable for people of all ages and all fitness levels.  It does require patience and practise, but the results can be well worth it.

Pilates can improve posture, improve strength and flexibility, reduce stress and relieve tension, create a stronger and a more flexible spine and strengthen the ‘core’ muscles, to name but a few of its’ many advantages.  

This month I’m writing more about Pilates for pregnancy. The ‘movements’ are slow, controlled and fluid and can greatly help during this period in a woman’s life.

Throughout pregnancy the body goes through some incredible changes. Our posture and balance will change as the baby develops. It is important to try and maintain alignment, our natural balance throughout this stage.

Other changes that take place are that the abdominal muscles will stretch significantly, therefore strengthening them will help support the uterus and help to decrease pressure on the pelvis.

The pelvic floor is also under increased pressure, and it can become more difficult to contract or tighten these muscles, making them weaker and less effective.

To test whether the pelvic floor muscles are working well, breathe in, and as we breathe out we pull up on our pelvic floor  (if you are unsure how to do this, the next time you’re on the toilet passing water, stop yourself mid flow. This is how we pull up and contract our pelvic floor muscles). We should all be doing pelvic floor exercises every day.

Training the Transversus Abdominus (TA or TVA – the deep abdominal muscles), as we do in Pilates, will help support these changes within our bodies.

A cautionary word here: before taking part in any exercise programme, especially if we have not done it before, we MUST get the all clear from the doctor.  

It is important to be aware that as the pregnancy progresses it will become less comfortable or safe to lie on our backs. This usually happens during the middle to later stages, but it can happen sooner (if you do feel uncomfortable simply turn onto your side).

There are many Pilates movements that can easily be adapted or modified for pregnancy, and can be performed sitting or on all fours, which can be far more comfortable as it takes the strain away from the back and pelvis.  If attending sessions for the first time, please heed the advice I’ve given above, and make sure your instructor is fully qualified to teach Pilates for Pregnancy.

Carolyn Evan-Watkins can be contacted by emailing [email protected]algarveresident.com