Many stars have adopted certain exercises to help keep their bodies trim during and after pregnancy. After giving birth, TV presenter, Julia Carling, took up Gyrotonic exercise, a technique which benefits pregnant woman before and after labour because it encourages flexibility, abdominal strength and deep breathing to aid relaxation during labour.
The GYROTONIC® Method lengthens and strengthens the abdominal muscles which are used to support the uterus through breathing and simple exercises. It also supports the pelvis which stops the spine from becoming curved due to the load of the baby - and encourages flexibility for childbirth. The GYROTONIC® Method exists to help handle the physical changes of pregnancy, strengthen the body more quickly afterwards, and provide much needed, gentle movement throughout.
Below are some suggestions from GYROTONIC® & GYROKINESIS® Instructor, Nina Didner, for maximising Gyrotonic exercises and principles during your pregnancy. Always consult with your physician for specific exercises guidelines for your pregnancy.
1. Keep Moving, Gently!
Among the many benefits to moving during pregnancy include decreased back pain and constipation and possibly a lower risk of gestational diabetes. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists suggests 150 minutes weekly of moderate aerobic activity, which could include Gyrotonic sessions.
It’s important to avoid a sudden increase in intensity during pregnancy. This relates to the number of times per week you exercise, as well as level of the exercise, speed, number of repetitions, and weight provided either for support or resistance.
A former client of Nina's who described herself as a life-long athlete and avid exerciser said that:
“Gyro is the one method that enabled me to stay active because it gently and safely opened up my body and connective tissue while making me feel lighter, even during those last few weeks. Don’t be fooled: It’s definitely a lot of work!!! Even post-natal, it’s a perfect balance to my normal high intensity workouts like running and barre.”
2. Plan your trimesters wisely
Core: Until a client starts to show, there are no specific contraindications to movement, so this is a great time to focus on comfortable abdominal and spine strengthening exercises. It will be more challenging to strengthen these muscles later on. It’s also optimal to stretch the abs as well to help ready the area for the upcoming expansion.
Breathing: This is also a good opportunity to start working on diaphragmatic breathing, specifically by expanding the rib cage posteriorly and laterally during inhalation and feeling the transverse abs connect on exhalation.
Pelvic Floor: The concept of “narrowing” and training the pelvic floor to be elastic are also key and easier to feel during this time.
Flexibility: Relaxin secretion peaks for the first time during the 1st trimester, so it is particularly important to watch out for overstretching. New clients may want to work in a comfortable range, while existing clients may want to be mindful of their pre-pregnancy ranges. Continue being mindful of ranges throughout the trimesters.
Modifying Movements: You may want to start modifying ranges of motions and movements. Avoid prone and supine positions. Use yoga mats, pillows, cushions, and the green wedge to help adjust the supine incline. Try to limit supine hamstrings to 15 minutes or less or before you feel discomfort.
Special Points: When doing the supine hamstring series, allow the legs to turn out as needed and try to keep the legs from going too low or too high as these may strain the back. Also, remember to avoid overstretching through all three semesters of pregnancy.
Coming Off the Bench: To help roll off the bench gently, stools can be placed on the side of the bench to offer more support for coming upright via the side.
Adjust Exercises and Length: The goal is to keep moving as much as comfortably possible and continue to work on breathing, which will help with labor. It may be helpful to do shorter, more frequent sessions, i.e. thirty minutes four times per week instead of two hour-long sessions.
3. Listen to Your Body
Every women experiences pregnancy and the post-partum period differently. It’s important to respect your unique challenges and enjoy the times when you do feel well. If an exercise doesn’t feel comfortable, you probably shouldn’t do it.
Personally, I felt dizzy and nauseous when lying down during my first trimester, but I also was able to resume moderate activity quicker after giving birth.
4. Work Back Slowly
It takes about 40 weeks to grow and deliver a human being, so expect the road back to pre-pregnancy strength to take at least equally long.
While it might be tempting to jump right into intense activity to lose “baby weight,” it is also important to regain core and pelvic floor strength. Heavily modified Gyrokinesis exercises can be a quick home routine to start from as soon as one is cleared for movement, and Gyrotonic concepts can effectively rebuild the neuromuscular connections that might have been lost. For example, the idea of “pulling up the vagina” rather than “trying to not to pee” can be a more effective cue to engage the pelvic floor.
Hayley Oxley specialises in treating women during and after pregnancy and helping those with pelvic floor problems using the GYROTONIC® Expansion method. Hayley is also pre and postnatal Pilates certified.