Class #1504

Postnatal Return to the Mat

30 min - Class


Leah Stewart brings us another Postnatal Mat workout, created to safely integrate your body's return to Matwork after pregnancy. She continues with her series theme of functional arm work, upper back work, squatting, bending, and lifting. Leah starts with standing Pilates that leads into creative seated Mat exercises. Enjoy!
What You'll Need: Mat, Hand Weights

About This Video

Mar 17, 2014
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Hello there, Leah Stewart here and I'm here for a wonderful beyond postnatal, that class and we're going to do a nice little about 30 minutes or so class here just to really kind of keep honing in on some of our wonderful postnatal pilates work, but also some of this great work to kind of really integrate us back into some mat work. I'm going to continue with theme I've been working on in some of my postnatal work, which is a lot of functional arm work, upper back work, a lot of functional squatting, bending and lifting. So we're going to keep carrying on with that theme. This mat class, we're going to start in a standing position and then we'll go into some of our seated position and work on some of our other mat work stuff. So I want you to stand with your feet parallel. Oh and I'm, excuse me, I forgot to tell you, you're going to need two pound weights for this class as well, so keep those handy. You can keep them down on the floor in front of you. So I want you to stand parallel and just kind of recognize where your body is here as we start this class. So just very simple.

You're going to take a nice little bend to the knees just to kind of stretch out the back of the hills. Those Achilles tendons will lengthen and you feel that little stretch, the little deep hinge at the ankle, and press that. We're just going to do this a few times. Inhale and exhale and inhale and exhale. So as you do this, you can just start to feel that center body just start to incorporate itself.

Now you're going to lift the right heel, inhale and exhale. So just keep yourself going straight up and down. Be Very mindful that you're not pitching your weight forward or back, but just keeping that beautiful vertical lift through the entire body and up. And let's go one more time with the left foot. Now you're going to stay up and you're going to go a little bit fast with your pants thing. So right heel up and left.

So keep that center body again. Try not to drop your weight down onto your heel as you lower down saying vertical, pulling the abdominal wall in, feeling that length through the spine. As you just keep switching your legs back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And now go ahead and bend both knees. Stay nice and low. I want you to bring your arms up. So really feeling that nice deep bend.

Now hinge forward at your hips, keeping the abdominal wall in. Place your hands on top of your knees so you're really finding that flat pack position. We're gonna work on some articulations through the spine, so rolling through the spine into a nice curved position here. And then inhale, articulate back out to the flat, back and XL roles in the spine. Now push energy down through the knees as you come into that little pike position. And inhale, two more empress energy down. Fill the shoulders opening, pulling away the spine and pull it out.

One more time. And exhale. Now come back to the flat pack position. Take your arms in front of you. Feel that deeper hinge. Get a little bit lower with your hips, lift your upper back a little bit more, lift your arms up, and then there's one fell swoop. Come all the way back up. They'll come back into your little play. Then hinge in forward. Find that position.

Take your arms out to the tee position and you're going to rotate over to the right. So let your left hand dip down. Rotate back to center, rotate to the left. No keeper. Send your body and feel that strong, powerful link through your spine and rotate your just an airplane's soaring. Finding that rotation of your spine, keeping that beautiful back extension, ah, left. Come back to center. Bring your arms forward, hinge, get a little bit deeper, and then in one fell swoop, come up. Ground Yourself. Hold it.

Come back into that dummy ple a Hanjin forward. Find that deep work. Lift those arms up a little bit higher. Now rotate over to the right so your body comes over the right side. Keep your left hip drawn back. Now take your hands both hands down to your right knee and roll into a pike with a little rotation here and come back out and exhale rolling through.

So this is kind of a reversed ish version of the pelvic curl. And come in to the extension. Hold it in the arms out, come back to the center, sweep your body over to the left, hands on the left knee and rule. Exhale and inhale. Reach it out. Exhale, roll. Wow.

And inhale, reach it out. One more time. Exhale. So filling that wonderful articulation, bring the arms out, come forward, deepen, deepen. Lift the arms up and press all the way up. Now here I want you to open your arms, lift your chest up toward the ceiling, and then bring it back. Inhale, open the arms, lift that chest up and bring it back to more and O. Open the arms.

Lift that chest up and bring it back. One more time, stretched his fingers out. Feel that upper body. Try to keep her lower body nice and neutral and bring it back. Now slowly bring your arms down and let's go ahead and paint those weights and put them right in front of us.

So your legs are going to be a little bit externally rotated. So you're then a little bit of a second position here. And I want you to go into a nice squats. We're gonna do a little series here. So you're going to come down into a small squat here on one on two. You're going to come all the way down, bring the Wayne's down to the floor, you're going to bring them up and all the way around so it goes reach out, one drop down on to bring it all the way up and around.

So reach dropped down to bring it all the way up and around. So pool the energy away from the center body. Reach and tap the floor and circle up and down. So really feel like you're being pulled in two directions there. Drop in, tap the floor, bring it up and down. One more time and reach. Tap the floor, bring it up. Schoolies and all the way down.

Now take the arms out to the side. Little bit faster. You're going to bring them down and you're going to place in there. So the secret is we're going to take the wave, put them on the floor, and we're going to leave them there. We're going to come up and reach should. We're going to alternate one series with a onetime the weights up, bring them down one time without up. So I'm crossing my arms in front of my body and bringing it out down one time with the wave one time without. So we're going a little bit faster.

Bring them out, down, reach down, out, down, reach three more sets out. Boom. So you can see I'm really keeping my body nice and strong as I'm really holding that stability as I work with grabbing something off the floor. Reach last one without the weights and up and holds. So hold this nice position I'm going to face you. Hold this nice position.

Now just to feel like we're in a jazz class here. We're going to stretch over. We're going to go around Seretse to the other side and up. Let's go the opposite way. Stretch over to the right circle around, stretch over to the left and up. And that's a really nice little standing water map.

So we're going to go into a seated position. Go ahead and grab your two pounds and I want you to find this wonderful vertical position you're resting on your pelvis and we're going to start with some seated rollbacks. This is one of my favorite exercises for postnatal or postpartum recovery. And in my other postnatal classes you can get some really great variations on this. So take your breath in. You're going to come into your pelvic curl, you're going to roll, just let those hips glide underneath you. Then in help reset that. So getting, just going to give you about two or three just to kind of get into the exercise here. Kind of enter the exercise with Nice Control, nice focus. And then we're going to grab our weights.

So reaching in front of us, we're going to come into the role and we're going to come back into a low row all the way back. Reach up, exhale and reach up. So again, at this point, if you're working postnatal, postpartum, you should be about four or five or even six months. At this point, there's no rush in doing some of these exercises. You want to make sure you feel nice and strong, so hold it here. Inhale, exhale, back. Inhale, XL backs. Every time I draw those arms back, I'm going to pull the center body and deeper. Inhale, exhale back. Inhale, Xcel back.

One more XL back and bring it up. Now I call this exercise, rock the baby. So you're going to bring the arms forward. You're going to rotate to the right. You're going to bend both elbows that I like this, like you're rocking your baby. So here you go. Just like that, and bring it up. Same side. Exhale, bring it up.

Exhale. Now it looks like my movement is all one button of the actually initiating here first. Then I'm bringing the rotation in, so I'm always initiating with that. Palliate curl is just a little bit faster and a little bit more connected rather than really segmented, but that is my initiation. Hold it here. Rock up, back, inhale back. In. Exhale in XL.

So you're really holding the ice and metric with that rotation. Bring the elbow back in back one more and hold it. Bring it up. Other side, XL and up, XL and up. So again, beautiful functional core work, functional arm work, getting that Nice movement through your body and hold it, bring it up. And that because being able to have that ability to rotate your spine protects your while you're lifting while you're holding is so important. So these types of exercises are really gonna.

Prepare us for that XL two more XL last one, and burying it back. Now hold it here. Bring the arms down. Just give your shoulders a little bit of a break. We're going to come back into the role [inaudible]. Now this is really challenging on the whole stability factor. Bring the arms up, extend the spine, bring it back into the curb, bring the arms forward and up as the arms go down. Exhale, [inaudible]. Inhale, reach XL role and [inaudible].

So really beautiful deep abdominal work, saith abdominal work. Just go for as far back as you can feel that control, feel pelvis, lower spine, GRI. Intune, beautiful CIF, rectus work, Oblique work, transverse abdominis. Work all the way and roll up into the extension. Fill those shoulders, praying it back, and all the way up. One more time. Exhale and reach into the extension. Bring it back and up. Now hold this here. Feel nice and lifted.

Nice and lifted. I want you to keep that position of your body and just take your weights. Move them just to the side for me. We'll, we'll bring them back in in just a minute. Now with your feet here, a little bit of a silly move, but I love what it does for your pelvic floor work. So this is not a mood that you want to do early postpartum because you're putting a little bit tender on your pelvis. So this is reserved for later. So holding the back of your legs, you want to firmly plant your legs.

You're literally, you're going to walk your booty forward. On one day she'll talk to Ross city. The other one are you going to walk forward? So you're gonna go one, two, three, four, five, six, trying to get eight, seven, and eight. Hold yourself up as high as you can. Push your arms down and you're going to slide back into a curve and then roll yourself back up. So your legs are really extended here. So one, two, three, get taller. Four, five, six, seven, 8:00 AM push. Pull it in. Find that nice curve and come up. Now start with your left side. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, 8:00 AM push.

Point your feet and find that curve and roll up again. One left, right, three, four, five, pulling with your arms. Six, seven, eight, hold it and push and up. Hold it. Here was it to come and to the curve. I want you to sweep it up into rolling like a ball position. Hold it there, hold it there.

You're going to sweep it back out and up. So just kind of little variations here. Come into the curve, find that position, find your balance and sweep. Hold the balance. Holden, take the legs down, pushing arms into the mat. As you find the extension, thread the belly button through the spine. Come into that beautiful curve. Hold it there and feel everything.

Come in like a vacuum. Shoot up, hold it. You feel the hip flexors, you feel the abdominals, you fill the pelvic floor. Hold it there and roll yourself up. One more time and curve. Hold it there. Nice and deep. And sweep, sweep, and hold.

Hold the position. Now you're going to stay holding onto your right leg. You're gonna come into the seated position and extend your left leg out. Hold it there. So I want you to bring the right leg up and once you hold the back of the leg, I want you to roll back into the curve. And as you roll up, I want you to extend that leg XO roll into the single leg stretch position and then extend that like XO roll.

Bend the elbows out to the side and extend. Let's add onto it. Now as you bend that knee, you're going to lift that bottom leg up so you're balancing right there on the back of your pelvis. And then lift and hold. Exhale, sweep it in deep abdominal work. Good balance. Where come into that single leg stretch position and reach. One more time and curve. Find it. Hold it. Feel powerful. Release the arms for just a moment and roll up. Find it, sweep it back into the rolling like a bowl. Fill the connection.

Fill the balance. This time you're going to take your right leg out. Bring the left leg up, roll into that beautiful single leg stretch and find the extension. Fill the lift, fill the reach, reach energy out. Think of making a v with your body and curl and deepen and lift it. Feel that lift, feel that lift, fill that reach and curl and lift. We're going to add the bottom leg lifting here and XL curl.

Find it balance and let's make sure your toes are nice and long as your feet are pointing and curl. Find it. Find the balance, find that connection. And I left. I initially pell the curl lumbar flection. Hold it, hold it and come up. Wonderful. Hold that position. That's great. So from here, I want you to cross your legs in the seated position. Now I'm going to start here and then I'm going to move into the legs extended in front of you. So your arms in me, out in front of you, and you're going to, I feel like a sprinkler when I do this.

So you're going to bring your arms up and down like this and you're going to rotate your body kind of a little bit. It's a little silly, I know it, but what I want is that beautiful, nice steady movement of rotation while you move your arm simultaneously and you're not going to let that quick swift movement alternating the arms, alter the stability of the pelvis or altered the fluidity of your torso movement. So keep going back and forth, breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, kind of like swimming, breathing, five in, five out. Yeah, or the a hundred you can think of. Yeah, hold it. Take thing. I'm south to the side laterally. Flex over to the left and rotate around as if you're doing butterfly.

Come back to the lateral flection and up laterally. Flex over to the right. Butterfly your arms around. Keep that nice deep curve. Come back to the lateral flection and Deb over butterfly around. Come back to the lateral flection and up.

So you're again incorporating that beautiful rotation of the torso. You're getting some great and challenging isometric work of the shoulders and rotate. Okay, back to the lateral flection Ana. One more time and rotate back and up. So now here, relax your arms. Let's take your legs out in front of you. Flexing your feet wants you to bring your arms out to the front.

Rotate. Open that right arm. So you're here. Come back to center, rotate, open the left arm, come back to center, XL and center and centered two more. So again, sing nice and lifted, filling that postural control. Now you're gonna thread the arm. Boom. So you thread the on through. As you reach out doom, you're going to come forward. Reach over the lake, come back and center. So thread the arm through, thread it forward. As you hint over the left leg, thread the arm back through. As you come back to the vertical rotation, excuse me, and then bring the arms together. So thread through, reach, hinge forward. Keep that back connected, reach it back out and center, thread and hinge and reach. So kind of a version of the song and thread and reach.

Bring it through and center one more and thread and reach. Bring it through and center. Hold it and relax. So go ahead and take those weights to the side. We're gonna do a little bit of a bridging series. We're going to go ahead and lie supine and then we'll go into some back extension. So in this bridging series, we're going to do a simple, simple pelvic curl up to the top. So taking the breath in, you're going to roll through. Use Mine all the way up, all the way up, pushing those arms down. Feel the feet connecting.

I want you to walk your right foot in towards your bottom. Walk your left foot in towards your bottom. Walk your right foot out, walk your left foot out, take your breath in and rolled down. So by moving those legs again, we're challenging the stability for also getting a little bit more access into the hip extension, the hip flex, excuse me, the hip extensors, the glutes. And the hamstrings. So in, in greater stretch, on the quads and out, out and roll yourself down. Nice and slow, nice and controlled all the way. Take your breath in. Now we're going to start with the left foot coming in first.

Press those out into those arms. Bring the left foot in, right foot in, left foot out, right foot out and roll down the size in the spine. As you roll down, take the breath in. Come back up all the way. Feel the hips extending and left and right and left and right. Holding and roll down. Roll down, relaxed the toes.

Lengthen and lengthen and lengthen. Feel that Nice, wonderful stretch. Now bring your legs together and I want you to slide your left foot out and bring your right arm overhead. So inhale, reach and bring it back. Do that two more times for me and reach. Feel that oppositional pool and bring it back one more time. Reach and bring it back.

Now do the other side and reach to fill that nice long length through the body and bring it back. Keeping the torso nice and steady reach and bring it back one more reach and bring it back. Now I want you to extend both the right arm and the right leg. I want you to reach the right arm out and open the left leg. So your left knee and your right arm are reaching out away from each other in a diagonalize or feel that reach then and wants you to pull them together and across the midline here. So my heel is up on my left foot, so I'm reaching away, filling myself open like an x nice and long, and then pull them back.

Fill that nice diagonal contraction as you pull it back and across. One more time. Reach, inhale, and exhale adding onto this reach. Then exhale, lift that leg as you come even further across in how reach just three of these XL. Lift that leg. As you come further across, getting into those obliques though, see pit flexors. You'll feel a little bit of the lateral flexors as well. Lift up. This is the last one, and hold this time switch.

Extend your left leg and your left arm. So you're going to reach the right leg out. Inhale and exhale. Bring them over across the midline of the body. You can lift that right heel up. Inhale, reach. Feel that opposition. Feel that stretch through the inner thighs that stretch to those, a deep low abdominals there. Fill that opening and then bring it across.

And again, reaching out and across. We're going to lift this time in hell, reach and XL. Lift that leg up and crossover over. Fill that pool in hell, reach and XL. Lift that leg up. Just let it float off the bat. And inhale, reach last one and exhale. Hold it, hold it. Reach both arms and legs.

Circle the arms around. We're going to finish with a little back extension. Once you to come onto the prone position here, I want you to take the one arm in front of you, the left arm, excuse me, right arm in front of you, and I went to the hole. Your left foot in your left hand. So we're gonna do a little bit of a variation of rocking here. Take your breath in with your, I want you to push the foot into the hand.

Push the right arm down and they want you to lift. Yep. Lift up, lift up slowly. Lower down and XL. Press lift, Lyft, Lyft, and slowly down. You're going to continue here. You're going to exhale, lift up. Inhale. You're going to extend the leg away from you. Reach, reach. Bring it back and down.

Just one more time like that. Exa Lift. Feel that strength of your shoulder. Push energy down to that right arm. Extend the left leg. Reach left arm behind you. Feel that reach equal weight on those hips. Find it and lower. Let's go ahead and switch.

Left arm comes down, right foot in the right hand. Take your breath in XL, press, press. I'm getting a lot of hip extensors. I'm getting a beautiful stretch through my quadricep and my hip flexor on my right leg and come down and Xcel energy out through the crown of the head, lifting up, finding it, finding it, enjoying that stretch to the right shoulder, the right side of the chest and down. This time we go into the release and take it up.

We lease it. Keep the hip extension high. Feel how that work comes across as the left side of the back. Bring it in, grab the foot and down. Last one up, reach, grab it and down. Bring both arms in front of you. Both legs extended. Come up one last time. Pull those arms in, lifting up, pushing down and reach. Finding the length.

Circle those arms around. Push up and come into your nice rest position. Filling that stretch, letting the hips lay heavy over the heels and the forehead. Rest heavy onto the mat and just fill that back. Open that nice strong back working. And now it's relaxing. After it did all of its work, the pelvis is heavy. Rolling yourself up.

Just sitting here and just one last time for me. We charms gently back and just lift your sternum up. Hopefully you're feeling good, you're feeling nice and open and strong. And thank you so much for this little short little fun little mat class and lots of good arm work. So you should be feeling nice and buff and strong. So thank you for joining me today and I will see you soon. Take care.


I loved the class, although I am 11 months post partum, and I though having a heavy baby has given me strong arms. I loved the rolling like a ball / single leg stretch variation and the squatting cats.
1 person likes this.
I'm NOT post-partum ... and I usually practice all different levels of mat, frequently. Maybe it had a lot to do with the weights (and of course, Leah's instruction) but this was a delicious and challenging jump starter after being away from Pilates for about a month.
Hi Leah. Thanks again for your classes! Quick question. I'm now 5 months pp (second baby) and healing well and feeling strong. On the classic diastisis test I now only have 1.5 finger separation and the abdominals draw together well (I only had 2 finger seperation immediatley post partum). I'm starting to introduce thoracic flexion. However, if I do a diastisis style test with my fingers when I'm in full spinal flexion e.g. rolling like a ball, I still find my abdominals still "gape" like a too-tight cardigan (around the tummy button. Is that normal when in full flexion. I guess I never tested it first time round (with baby one) but now I've noticed it I wondered what your thoughts are. There's no abdominal bulging ....just a feeling that the two sides aren't drawing together fully and, as I say, only when in full acute spinal (pelvic and thoracic) flexion, it doesn't happen when in only thoracic flexion e.g. curl up. Will this just get better as I get stronger? Thanks!
Anna and Miriam - thank you both for you comments, I am so happy that you enjoy the class

Leonie - I am so happy to hear that you are healing well and feeling strong. The separation of a diastasis is normally mostly present near the belly button as that was the apex of your pregnant belly. By most accounts and definitions, a diastasis recti is defined by a separation of two finger tips or more. By that definition, you are doing very well. Now remember, you will still feel the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles with the linea alba in the middle, particularly in certain ranges of motion or when all of the synergistic muscles are not firing or functioning to their full potential (time, healing, good technique and practice will help this).

continued in next post....

If you have good control of your muscles during the movement, as you said, with no bulging, then you are in a good position. I cannot say whether your 1.5 finger tip gap will "fully close", but I can say that as you get stronger with proper technique and with natural healing (you are still quite early postpartum) you will experience more control in all ranges of motion, and hopefully experience less of that "gape" you describe and the muscles will continue to thrive in their functionality for support and movement. Does all this make sense? Let me hear your thoughts, and we can continue the conversation
Hi Leah! Thanks so much for taking time to reply. That is very helpful and reassuring and it's kind of what I expected you to say! I guess it's always harder to get a full active abdominal firing in exercises like rolling lie a ball where you can rely perhaps too much on the hands holding the shins (and also gravity) to keep you in position. I was just having a little play and I think for now on those sorts of exercises I'll try and just take myself as flexed as my abs alone will get me, if that makes sense, which may be less of a ball but makes it easier for me to really focus on drawing the abs together to keep me there. Also, it appears the wider gap occurs any time I am in full flexed table top (supine) so I am going to release the hip flexion a bit, so I can focus more on drawing the abs together in that position too (e.g. the hundred prep). It's oddly easier to pull the muscles closed with straighter slightly lowered legs than flexed at the hip and knee...
It's odd, you get so far and regain control of the muscles but then that almost sets you further back as you realise the limitations you are still faced with until everything fully heals! Thank you again!
Leah, I loved this class! I'm 9 months postpartum and looking for a regular class to build up my strength. I've been finding even level 1/2 classes in regular series to be really challenging to my abs, while the beginning classes have so much explanation that the pace isn't challenging enough. This was just the perfect pace and difficulty. I also really enjoyed your teaching energy and vibe. Do you have a regular class through P.A. that I can follow?
Hi Leah,
I feel both energized and relaxed after your post natal classes ! 30minute classes are easier to fit into the crazy new mum schedule too!:) One question to ask - it's kind of similar to Leonie's but not quite. I have been practicing prenatal pilates throughout my pregnancy and doing your postnatal classes after the delivery (natural). Now I am 12 postpartum and have a 1,5 finger gap in my addominal muscles when doing the diastasis recti test. However the gap completely disappears when I contract the muscles and there is no bulging (both when contracted or relaxed). Can I start adding slowly traditional pilates exercises or should I wait until the gap completely closes? Is it going to close if I am 12 weeks postpartum?
All the best!
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