It was only recently whilst rocking my second baby to sleep (4 month sleep 'regression', what a bummer) that I started to think about the ways our bodies change throughout the different stages of becoming a parent. It's obvious that pregnancy is the first huge way in which our body has to adapt, but it's also what happens afterwards that can leave both parents unbalanced physically and mentally!
Pilates is often associated with posture, how we align ourselves better and maintain that through everyday life, but it's not about simply standing up straight and assessing ourselves in a static position, it's about how we hold our skeleton as we move through life's everyday challenges. Mentally it's about being body aware - taking a moment to actually think about ourselves - is my shoulder feeling tense, is that old injury flaring up again, how does my back FEEL today...how does my mind feel today. But gone are the days we are our top priority. I'm fully in the 'what's next' stage of life with two little ones, and it's mostly eat, sleep, milk....repeat. So it's very hard to mentally & physically find the time for this self assessment when you are consumed with VILPs (very important little people). And if we can't pinpoint the issues, we can't address them.
There are 4 main posture types which are demonstrated by this badly dressed man I found on Google. If you look closely you might recognise elements of these in yourself.
Pregnancy gave us the gift of Lumbar Lordosis, through the pure weight of our gorgeous belly, then just as we lost strength in our mid back and hip flexors, we have our babies and Sway back makes an appearance in quite a big way. Ever thought about what your body looks like rocking your baby in your arms whilst he gently drifts off to sleep (NOT) or holding your ever growing toddler? Well its mostly likely this. Because our arms don't feel strong enough to support the child, we tend to lean back and rest them on our chests, meaning our hips sway forwards and we sit into our lower back. Not only that but there's always a favoured side to cradle a baby, and that tends to mean one shoulder tightens up and ends up being higher than the other. A bit like when you hold a handbag over your shoulder for years on one side...do you remember having an actual handbag? No me neither.
Throughout life with or without children there is a classic posture type which we see in most people, and that is Kyphosis. Shoulders hunched forward from sitting at desks and hovering over iPhones is always going to feature in the landscape of our society, but once you feed a baby or look down at a toddler all day it forces your body into this position quite often. There are so many odd positions we get into as parents, pushing a buggy and dragging a toddler down the road twisting our backs this way and that, trying to make a cuppa with a kid on our hip, being pinned down by a toddler....and we want to be able to continue doing all these things, which is why it is so important to try to make efforts to counteract these contortions we are subtly subjected to and gain some balance.
Now I could go into how we address each posture type, but we're all just a bit too knackered for that and there's probably a baby screaming somewhere. So instead, the simple answer is this - Just. Get. Moving.
In Pilates movement isn't about going faster, it's about reaching longer, strengthening deeper and breathing fuller. It's a chance to safely exercise your whole body during which your posture is realigned and muscles get longer, leaner and stronger. The cherry on top is that your mind has an opportunity to concentrate on the precision of each move, ensuring a delicious escapism from everyday life.
I'm super exited to be starting classes for parents at Punk Me Up Ceramics cafe in East Dulwich, where they'll work on finding their physical and mental strength through Pilates, and have a heap of fun whilst doing so. Details here
Ok, time for a nap. You're dismissed.