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What comes to mind when you think of “Happy Hour?” Cheap beers, mixed cocktails and bar food after work with friends or co-workers? Being 6 months pregnant, that isn't exactly what I was referring to. My happy hour is my 60 minutes of guided Pilates Reformer.
The practice of Pilates teaches awareness of breathing, alignment and core strength. Many of the moves are subtle but take mind body awareness to control your muscles. Every move feels like it comes directly from your core strength.
Sometimes connecting with my self awareness isn't easy. I think I am doing a move so perfectly and imitating just what my instructor showed me 30 seconds before, only to look up from the move and see her laughing from the way I was contorting my body so incorrectly. I laugh with her and try again. I don't get discouraged in Pilates like I do other activities. I have a tendency to want to perfect the move just once before I can move on to the next. It’s more a mind challenge than anything because the moves can be so slight and look easy but they aren’t—that’s why I find myself more determined to master each movement.
I am fortunate enough to have an amazing private instructor just down the street at Graceful Pilates. I love going to her peaceful home studio for extra one-on-one training. Some days I have to drag myself there, wishing I could have stayed in bed just a little bit longer. However, I always leave with a feeling of strength, power and self-love.
We laugh, cry and grunt together during those 60 minutes. We share our life dreams and fears all while working up a sweat. I can't imagine a better way to pass an hour of exercise. Having a partner or instructor to praise and push me really helps with my motivation and accountability, something I tend to have trouble with when it comes to exercise.
Pilates has also helped with my own personal expectations and body image. Before Pilates, I was always worried about how I looked on the machines at the gym or compared myself to the person next to me in spin class. I have always struggled with my weight and the way I feel inside my body. Being on the reformer, I only set my expectations against myself. I build on each movement and know I am getting stronger each time I am there. I focus on connecting my core and getting deeper into a movement. I have realized it’s not the numbers on the scale but the way I feel inside that matter most.
Pilates gives me strength I never knew I had. It tones and stretches my body at the same time. While finding my core strength has been a bit more challenging during pregnancy, I’ve learned to focus on connecting with my breathing, something so important during pregnancy. I feel like this is preparing me for my child’s birth.
I also know that Pilates will be so beneficial postpartum. It will allow me to find my core muscle strength again and hopefully shed my baby weight in the healthiest way possible.
This article was written by Heidi Lovens, Certified Happiest Baby on the Block Educator (CHBE), Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist and Certified Placenta Specialist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She specializes in educating sleepless parents on the fundamentals and importance of sleep, supporting new parents with infant care, emotional and physical recovery, bonding and soothing techniques.