Strengthen your body to bear the weight of pregnancy and childbirth with gentle yet conditioning Pilates moves.

As you await your bundle of joy, a growing baby bump can literally be a balancing act. Some challenges that pregnant mothers face include heartburn, swollen feet, nausea, and back pain. The latter happens when the pregnant mother’s abdominal muscles are weak, and thus feel the burden of carrying the additional weight.

Pilates is a great practice to adopt during pregnancy. It helps you to work on specific muscle groups, strengthen your body’s core strength as the centre of gravity shifts, and helps maintain good posture while alleviating stress on the back. All without straining your joints. Pre-natal Pilates also helps prepare you mentally for the physical strain of labour.

The best time to practice pre-natal Pilates is from the second trimester onwards, especially if this is your first time, since you will feel most comfortable physically. However, you should refrain from putting pressure on your back as this could interfere in blood circulation from your lower body to your heart. If you have been practising Pilates before your pregnancy, it is possible to continue during your first trimester but proceed only with the advice of your doctor.

Here are some great strengthening moves for moms-to-be, suggested by Breathe Pilates instructor SK Chen.

Mermaid Stretch (mat work)

The Mermaid Stretch lengthens oblique muscles located at the sides of your waist. It also helps to improve posture.

  1. Sit on the mat with your knees bent, and your calves on the left side of your body.
  2. Hold your ankles with your left hand.
  3. Raise your right hand and inhale.
  4. Reach your hand over your head and exhale as you feel the stretch on the right side of your torso. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Do three repetitions for each side.

Spine Twist (mat work)

The Spine Twist increases range of motion in your upper body, which helps prevent injury. Keep your pelvis stable as you attempt it so that your spine is stretched and strengthened. This move helps with coordination and stability.

  1. Sit up as tall as possible on your mat with both legs extended in front of you. Distribute your weight evenly as you sit.
  2. Press your legs together and flex your feet.
  3. Lift your hands by your sides to shoulder height. Keep your palms facing downwards as you stretch outward through your fingertips.
  4. Tuck in your tummy as you inhale.
  5. Initiating movement from your torso, exhale as you twist to your right as far as possible.
  6. Keep your hips grounded on the mat. Engage your buttocks and keep your legs pressed firmly together.
  7. Inhale deeply while you twist your torso back to the centre with your arms still extended.
  8. Do three repetitions for each side.

Single Thigh Stretch (Reformer)

This stretch is done on the Reformer instead of the mat.

  1. Facing the footbar lunge, place your right knee on the Reformer’s carriage. Your right foot should be against the shoulder rest.
  2. Your left foot should be placed firmly on the ground, with your thigh almost parallel to the floor.
  3. Place both hands on the foot bar, and exhale while you press your right foot backwards, and extend your leg through your hip.
  4. Inhale as you bring your leg back to its original position.

Do five repetitions for each side.

Although these stretches are gentle, do be aware of your body’s limits. Pay careful attention not to over stretch, or push yourself too much. Begin gently with fewer repetitions, adding in more repetitions when your body has become used to the activity.