I recently took Deb Goodman’s Advanced PreNatal Workshop at Kinected in NYC. I will always jump to take any workshops that Deb teaches ever since I took her Prenatal Pilates Workshop many years ago, as I consider her THE pre/postnatal Pilates GURU!! Deb’s no-nonsense straightforward attitude is very much appreciated. No bells and whistles needed here, just smart, informed instruction. I took away so much from the workshop, especially exciting were the Chair exercises!! But I’ll get to that later….

We started the day with reviewing the protocol for teaching the pregnant population (and who doesn’t need a good review?).  It never ceases to amaze me the amount of drastic changes that a pregnant woman’s body goes through in the nine months prior to birth, not to mention the recovery that, unsurprisingly, can take up to twelve months postnatal. I always want to call my mom and thank her for all she went through and the comfort and normality she sacrificed.

Focusing in on the Transversus

The main focus in Pilates for pre and postnatal is the tranversus abdominis (TVA) connection. This is the key to safe and effective exercises during pregnancy, so as to counteract the rectus abdominal’s tendency to separate. Deb reinforces this before every exercise and ever since my first workshop with her, I begin every class by strengthening this connection for use throughout the movements. It is important to teach that each exercise should be initiated from the TVA.

We went through how to modify and supplement simple mat work with props such as the foam roller, physioball, gertie ball, theraband, and theraloop. A physioball favorite was a supine bridge variation. Lying on the mat on one’s back with straight legs on top of the ball, legs together and feet flexed, pull in the TVA, tilt the pubic bone up to the ceiling and articulate up through the spine, off the mat. Then articulate back down. It is an excellent decompression of the lower spine, while strengthening the inner thighs, hamstrings, and glutes. A super juicy foam roller exercise was lying the back ribs over the roller while cradling the head in the hands, feet flat on the mat, lift the hips up off the floor, roll the upper spine back over the roller keeping the chin toward the chest, and with the tail tucked, lower the hips to the mat. A BIG thoracic spine opener!! My clients will love the “good kind of pain” this one produces.

Reformer for Pregnant Women

Moving onto the Reformer, which is built for support….something these women need in abundance! We were able to continue reaping the benefits of so many classical exercises, and still keep the pregnant client safe with both little and big modifications.  My biggest take away here was being able to do side-lying leg work in a closed-chain saggital plane (which is supported and safe) as opposed to side-lying mat work, which is in the frontal plane and a long lever. (contraindicated for pregnant clients, due to S. I. Joint instability). With medium weight springs and the client side-lying with the bottom foot resting in tabletop and the top foot on the foot bar, press the carriage in and out using parallel, and even internal and external rotation of the top leg. It is important to work in a closed chain with Pregnant women, especially with leg work, and the the Reformer allows for this in multiple ways.

Cadillac for Pregnant Women

The Cadillac also seems built for pregnant women (or for anyone else benefitting from not having to get down low or onto the floor). I’m also thankful for multiple spring heights for individual needs! There were several ways here to incorporate thoracic extension, which one should always include in a pre and postnatal session. “Oooohs and aaahs” escape from pre and postnatal alike when they have spring tension to aid them into this opening shape. Can you imagine the shape of a woman breast feeding? Now imagine doing it for hours a day. Thoracic extension is the antithesis, the antidote, the cure to this overly kyphotic posture!

The Chair for Pregnant Women

Last, but not least, the Chair! Most clients and instructors alike consider the Chair to be the most challenging and intimidating apparatus you’ll find in a Pilates studio, making it seem contraindicated for use with the pregnant population. Deb proved that myth wrong by introducing quite a few appropriate and stabilizing exercises. My favorite was the standing Leg Crossover. Standing sideways to the pedal side of the Chair. Keep the inside foot standing and take the outside leg across the body onto the pedal to press the pedal down and back up with resistance. This exercise works with balance, (especially if you try it without holding on to the handles.. whoa!) and with pelvic stabilization, which helps strengthen pregnant women during their temporary, but rapid shift in center of gravity.

So instructors, if you want to feel solid in your understanding and teaching of the pregnant body, and to build confidence by being well-informed and be able to have a well-rounded session…. I highly recommend taking any and all pre/postnatal workshops with Deb Goodman!!

Stay tuned for my second blog on how I implemented some of the new exercises into my group classes!

Stay strong,

Jo D’Agostino