Class #4152

Abdominal Correct Connect

60 min - Class


In this Mat class part of Leah Stewart's Prenatal Pilates series Move and Bloom with Leah, you will explore different movement options and ranges of motion available to you for abdominal maintenance. She begins by explaining the function of the abdominals and what happens to them with diastasis recti. She then leads you through exercises that will support your abdominals to keep you moving throughout your life with comfort, strength, and confidence. A cushion is recommended if you have discomfort in your knees or wrists.
What You'll Need: Mat

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Hi there, and welcome to another class here on Pilates Anytime, where we are gonna be continuing my five-week series for prenatal Pilates. This is my fourth pregnancy, and this is the fourth series that have been able to do here on Pilates Anytime, and I'm so excited. I am now 31-weeks pregnant. So I'm well into, not well into, but I'm into my third trimester and feeling really good. But today we're gonna be talking about abdominals, which is such a hot topic.

So, I'm gonna start this class with a little short tutorial for you, and then we're gonna move into the movement portion of it. So, if you're ready to retake this class, once we can see it, if you want to skip this little section, you totally can and go straight into the movement. So abdominals are a hot topic, like I said. (chuckles) We have a lot of information about diastasis recti, which is the natural widening or what people will say separation. I don't really like the term separation, but widening of the abdominal structure and kind of what we do with that during pregnancy, what that means for us, and then how we kind of heal from it postpartum after we have our babies.

So there's a couple of things I wanna say about diastasis. I'm so grateful that the information is really out there about diastasis. It's fantastic. There's a lot of great voices that are bringing in some good information in when we talk about diastasis recti. However, it often can kind of swing so far to one side where it becomes almost an obsession for some of us women that are pregnant.

We start to become really worried, because what does it actually mean for how we're gonna function or how we're gonna feel, and it's okay to think about how we're going to look, how our abdominals are going to look once we have our baby. So there's all of these concerns that overwhelm us as moms. So there's a couple of things I wanna say here, and of course you can always reach out to me in the comment section or emailing me individually if you wanna further this discussion. I'm happy to always join you on that. So, we wanna look about what the structure of the abdominals are in the first place.

We need to be reminded of that. The first thing is the abdominals help to support our trunk. They work in conjunction with our spinal muscles, with our pelvic floor muscles, and with our diaphragm. So it's this beautiful capsule which we call the core. And if you are well-versed in Pilates, you're very well aware of this.

So the abdominals are an integral part of that support system and they help support us when we're standing, when we're sitting, which is just that beautiful idea of supporting it. So that is really such an important function of the abdominals. The abdominals help us to maintain that support. They help us to maintain strength, to maintain the ability to move, and that's another thing that we wanna talk about. Especially during pregnancy, we can always acquire strength in our abdominals.

We can acquire control. We can acquire better support mechanisms. But we also wanna maintain the amount of support that we have, because as our belly starts to grow, and I'll speak to this in a little bit, and our abdominals start to shift, we wanna keep some sort of element of maintenance of support mechanisms so that we feel good, so our lower back feels good, so our pelvic floor can stay nice and healthy and strong and supple, and so that we can move with integrity and we can have the highest function when we move. The other thing we wanna talk about is movement and the function of the abdominals is to produce movement. The abdominals, we know we have the transverse abdominis, which is our deepest layer, the internal obliques, the external obliques, and then the rectus abdominis.

And that's kind of how they layer across, and they produce all sorts of movement of the spine in conjunction with other muscles. So what we're talking about here is what that movement is, and we need to be able to use the abdominals to create that full movement. And also the abdominals with other muscles help facilitate other movements. So we're looking at not just movement of the spine, but the role that the abdominal plays when we move our legs, when we move our arms, when we move our whole body in bigger motions. So we have to keep that in mind, is that we have to address the abdominals during pregnancy because the abdominals are an integral part of a healthy functioning, skeletal, muscular system, and a healthy functioning skeleton, so that we can go ahead and keep moving in our life and keep moving with comfort and with strength and confidence.

The next thing I wanna talk about just real quickly is diastasis recti. So diastasis recti is when your linea alba, which is the connective tissue between your right and left side of your abdominal muscle structures, it will widen naturally to accommodate the growth of the baby, to accommodate the growth of the uterus, and it's a natural occurring thing, and we want it to happen and we're grateful that it happens because it created a sense of room for our baby to grow. And so what happens is, as your abdominals will widen, as your baby grows and lengthen, the abdominal muscles themselves kind of become what we call displaced a little bit, and they, without getting too into it, in fact, I do have a workshop here on Pilates Anytime that gets into a really depth here, into big depth rather about the abdominals. But what I wanna say to this is that the abdominals start to, they function the same, but they can't function as the belly gets bigger, they can't produce the same amount of torque, the same amount of functionality that they are on a non-pregnant body. So we wanna pay attention to that.

We wanna know that it's a naturally occurring thing, but we don't want to exacerbate what is naturally occurring. We don't wanna worsen it. We don't want to get to a point where the abdominals are not able to support that growing belly, that's fine, in conjunction with the pelvic floor to help us feel good so where we don't have lower back pain, we don't have pelvic floor incontinence issues, or pain within our pelvis. So it becomes this full functioning thing, but we also wanna be aware that it's a naturally occurring event. The other thing that I wanna talk about is engaging in movement in all ranges of motion.

The abdominals help to flex the spine, tilt the spine to the side, rotate the spine in conjunction with other muscles. So in today's class, I wanna take you through a whole bunch of different exercises and different series of exercises that really help you explore the different movement options that you have. And this is the most exciting part about it. Yes, I could sit here with you and I could have you pull in your abdominals, and we could do this whole release and engage of the abdominals and pulling the belly into the spine, and that's fantastic, and that has its place in prenatal work. However, we can take that same idea and we can start to explore all sorts of different ranges of motion, rotation, and tilting, and kneeling, and sitting, and standing, and we can make that work so much more dynamic because that's gonna translate into how you move in your daily life.

It's gonna translate into how you reach over and grab something, how you get up out of bed. It's gonna translate into the movement and the confidence that you feel when you go into labor and you go into birth, and it's also gonna translate into the health and then just the connectivity and the health and the suppleness and the blood flow to your muscles when you go into the healing phase, which is the postpartum phase. So I hope that that makes sense. Again, reach out to me if you have any questions. I'm more than happy to prolong this discussion, but I wanna move and I'm sure that you do too.

So we're gonna transition into the movement portion of our class. So, here we go, we're gonna move. This is abdominal correct connect. I'm gonna be talking to you as much as I can throughout the class, but more importantly, we're gonna be exploring the movement. I would suggest that you grab a little pillow or a cushion, because we're gonna be doing some work on our knees, where we sit back on our heels with our bottom.

So if you need that to provide some support, go ahead and grab that now. And then of course, if you have a mat or any cushions, if you're having any discomfort in your wrist, you can always use that for a little extra support as well. So let's go ahead and get started, I'm excited. So like most of my classes, I prefer to start in a seated position to kind of enter us into the class. So today, I want you to start with your feet flat on your mat and I want them to be wide.

Now, if you have a smaller belly or if you're joining me today and you're not pregnant, you can narrow your legs if you want to, but the reason I choose to put them wide is because I want your pelvic bones to be really wide here because we're not quite warm yet, right? We're just starting to move. So I want you to feel like you can sit right on top of your sitz bones, really nice and high. So you have this beautiful crease in your hips. Now, as you sit there, you kind of just relax your shoulders here, I want you to feel, even as you're trying to sit, you should automatically feel that you're engaging your abdominals to maintain the verticalness, I might just be making up words, of your spine.

So you wanna feel that here. Now, we're gonna start by just letting the belly be really nice and relaxed here. And I want you to put your hand on the front of your belly and I just want you to breathe. (exhaling) So if you already know this technique, that's great. (exhaling) You're just using this as a nice warmup.

So, inhaling. (exhaling) So I really want you to feel the rib cage expand. The belly (exhaling) push out and soften as you breathe. And as you breathe, find your calm, and just kind of get into the mental state that we're gonna be moving and using our muscles and learning. Take a big breath in.

(exhaling) So now you're gonna take your inhale. Now both hands are gonna go on the belly. As you exhale, you're gonna just pull the abdominals in and draw the belly in or draw the baby back in towards your spine. You can feel how your belly will become smaller. You can feel those muscles tighten and then inhale, relax, belly is expand, exhale.

I just want you to feel that relationship between expanding the belly and contracting the belly. So as you do this, I want three more, you maintain that length in your spine. You do the last two on your own as I speak. Can you feel any engagement in your glutes? Because we don't want that.

We don't want you to tighten your buttocks to create this movement. Keep your sitz bones nice and wide, last one, and just feel that connection coming through the center. So I want you to try to hold it here. Now take a little shallow breath if you can, holding that contraction of the abdominals and lengthen the spine up a little bit more so you're sitting up taller. And feel how the back muscles will engage to do that.

Feel how you come a little bit higher on your sitz bones. Now, if you feel a tightness in your lower back, I want you to combat that by drawing the abdominals in a little bit deeper and feel that connection. Now place your hands on your knees. Now I want you to release the belly again, and this time you're gonna curve and you're gonna draw back. So we're starting really basic here.

And if you're a more advanced mover, just enjoy this as your warmup, and exhale. (exhaling) So now we're producing that same idea of contracting the belly, but we're including flection of the spine and a posterior tilt or a tuck of the pelvis. So you can see that this comes in here, that you wanna make sure that your glutes aren't overpowering this movement, and you wanna feel that your two pubic bones or your sitz bones rather are narrowing underneath you. And as you come up, they widen. Let's do that again.

Exhale. (exhaling) And even though this is so basic and I would consider myself a pretty advanced mover, I do this on a daily basis as a maintenance routine, and it really helps to keep my body in check. One more time. (exhaling) So now I want you to hold this position. I want you to hold that abdominal connection. I want you to feel that narrowing of the front of the pelvis, the narrowing of the sitz bones, and I want you to hold that. Now notice that even though my spine is flexed here, I'm not hunching over in my upper back.

I'm allowing that curve that happens through my middle and upper spine to happen naturally occurring. It's a long, beautiful curve, or in Pilates, what we call a C-curve. Now in this position, you're gonna hold the tuck of the pelvis for a moment, not the whole time. You can put your hands behind your thighs. You're gonna extend up on a diagonal.

So now you can see my pelvis moved back to a neutral position, but I'm hinging back on a diagonal. Now this time, instead of initiating from my pelvis, I'm gonna initiate the movement from my rib cage. I'm gonna take the top of my ribs, I'm gonna pull them down, and I'm gonna meet... So they're coming together here. Then inhale, I'm gonna expand, reach, lengthen.

So you're feeling the energy aligned here. Feel that back engaged, and then draw the ribs down, pull the pelvis underneath, and they're gonna meet in the middle, and then inhale, expand, and exhale. (exhaling) So you should start to feel those abdominals warm up really nicely. Two more, inhale, (inhaling) and exhale. (exhaling) And one more time, inhale, (inhaling) and exhale. (exhaling) So you feel that contraction, you feel that the lower back is starting to become supple, you feel at the hips where the thigh bone, the femur bone meets the pelvis, where it's starting to become mobilized and supple, and you feel the spine. You feel those abdominals starting to heat up with that energy. Then inhale, I want you to lift and hold on this diagonal.

Now hinging forward as far as you can, I'm coming past the point of verticality and I'm reaching forward. So now I have my spine working. I'm stretching out the posterior elements of the muscles here. I'm really pulling that chest forward, but I'm allowing that maintenance and that support to happen in my spine. And then come straight back up to vertical, and hinge forward, and straight back up.

Now, (exhaling) I learned way back when, from my teacher Rael of BASI Pilates, that a lot of times the subtle, more simple work is where the real deep work of Pilates happens. As I've matured in my teaching over the years and I've gained more experience professionally and personally, I couldn't agree with him more. And this little sequence is an example of that. So reach forward, holding forward. Now you're gonna take it up to vertical.

You're gonna hinge back. Now, this is where it gets a little tricky, and I wanna tell you why, because if I were to go back too far and my abdominals weren't able to provide the support, I would literally feel a pop out, like an expansion of my abdominals. I would no longer be able to hold them inwards, so to speak, and to feel that support. I would feel just that intuitive sense of I've let go, I can't do this, meaning I don't have the support mechanisms there. So depending on where you are in your pregnancy and the capability of your abdominal support and maintenance and strength, it's gonna determine how far back you can go.

So for me, this is where I feel like I can maintain control, not only in my abdominals, but where I can keep that spinal extension. Now I'm gonna reach up and go forward. So I'm gonna hinge back, inhale, exhale up and forward. Now I'm trying to minimally use my arms as support here, and then just trying to feel that beautiful, straight line of my spine hinging. Now, if you wanna test yourself and just release your arms a little bit, you absolutely can, but just remember you don't have that little extra work or support of your arms, so this is gonna demand even more on your spine.

Reaching forward one more time, inhale, (inhaling) and exhale forward. So holding it here. Now, if your hands are behind your thighs, that's fine, but I want you to reach them forward so they're parallel with your shins, holding here. Now, you're gonna rotate toward your screen so you can see me, and you're gonna twist (gasping) just a little bit funky, right? So you feel that rotation of your spine, you feel the oblique starting to engage, to create that twisting, and then come right back to the center, and rotate.

So it's easy to collapse in the movement here, but I want you to challenge yourself to keep that extension of your spine. And back to center. Now, where should you initiate this movement from? I want you to feel like a umbrella that's rotating around the stand. So you get this beautiful twisting here, but your spine remains in the same spot.

So we're not leaning forward or back or tilting our body. We're feeling that rotation, then we come right back to center, and away from your screen, and inhale back to center. Exhale, reach those arms, feel that expansion, and back to center. One more time, away from the screen, and back to center. Hold it here, grab the back of your thighs, reach the energy forward of your chest.

Feel that strength. Now, I want you to breathe and relax your abs as much as you can, not pushing them out, just relax. Inhale and then exhale, draw them in, and lengthen that spine even more. Feel that length, feel that power. Now, sit up, sit up with that contraction.

Feel like you're lifting the belly up and in, feeling that length, and then soften. So I hope that you feel nice and warm. You're gonna face your screen and cross your legs for me. So you should feel, oh my gosh, so I am giving you my feedback. I feel really nice and warm here, a little bit hungry too, but I feel nice and warm in my belly.

I feel nice and warm in my hips. So now I wanna play with some other elements of abdominal work here. So sitting with your legs crossed, hands on your knees. In last week's class, I played with tilting, but we were emphasizing the upper body. Today, we're gonna emphasize the abdominals.

So you're gonna shift over to your left, so you're mirroring me, and you're gonna lift your right leg up. Now from here, you feel how this side shortens. I want you to lengthen it. So I want you to literally pull that right hip down, away from that right side of your rib cage without dropping your hip all the way down to your mat. And then I want you to draw it back up, exhale.

Inhale. So I like this position because we are tilting over, so we have to have that support 'cause we wouldn't wanna fall, but at the same time, we're mobilizing the torso and what we call lateral flection. We're mobilizing the pelvis. We're mobilizing the hip joint. We're doing this beautiful work that is pretty subtle, but it's still there, exhale.

So you wanna feel those obliques, internal oblique, external oblique, that literally layer over the side here, and you wanna feel them shorten along with muscles in your back, your spinal extensors, your quadratus lumborum, they're all creating that lateral tilt movement. Now in the following classes, we're gonna be addressing the pelvic floor, and we'll be doing a lot of this sort of mobility stuff, but we'll be doing it in the context of pelvic floor, so we'll change our emphasis, so it'll be a little bit fun, so I hope you get to do those classes, too. Let's go one more time, lengthen, and exhale. Now hold that position there. Bring your arms out to the side and come straight.

(gasps) Do you feel that warmth on that side? And now bring it up and straight. Exhale. (exhaling) Now, traditionally in Pilates we'd do a sideline series, which we're gonna do later in our class, to kind of get the same motion, but I wanted to show you how you could do it in a seated position as well. Inhale and exhale, come back to straight here. Now feel that warmth on that side contract to this side, and let's go over and let's just stretch it out for a little minute.

Use your breath. (exhaling) So when you do side work, it's really important to keep in mind that you don't wanna feel the work in the lower back excessively, in that what we call that quadratus lumborum, which is a little muscle that sits right in the back here. Go ahead and switch your legs and we'll switch sides. And the reason we don't wanna do that is because we wanna have that balance of what we call the front body and the back body to create that lateral flection of the spine or that lateral tilt of the pelvis, which we're doing both in this instance. So we wanna feel that equality of those muscle groups so that we don't bias one way more than the other.

So on this side, I'll show you some ways you can adjust your body if you're feeling it one way or the other. So we're gonna tilt over. So you're gonna bring that hip up. So it should be your left hip this time. And you're gonna draw it down, and exhale, bring it up, inhale.

So I like to take my hand and feel like I'm pushing that side of my pelvis down. And I'd like to think that my pelvis and my rib cage are coming together to kiss, (mimics kissing) if you wanna think about that. So it's really delicate and it's really controlled. Now, if you're feeling too much in your lower back and not a equal amount in the front body, you might need to open your body a little bit just to bias the work towards your obliques. 'Cause sometimes when we're pregnant, we tend to lean forward a little bit naturally because gravity and the belly is pulling us forward a little bit.

So we'll tend to put a little bit more work into our lower back, but we wanna help balance out that work. They wanna work together. The front body and the back body work synergistically to produce good movement. So all you need to do is just slightly open up your body, slightly tilt back on your, this would be your right buttocks now, and that way you can bias the work a little bit more toward the obliques in the front. Inhale, exhale. (exhaling) So the work of this, this is such a dynamic piece of work, even though it's fairly simple, and exhale.

And it's so obtainable throughout the entire course of pregnancy. It puts us in a comfortable position as pregnant women, because sometimes we don't wanna lay down. It's just a little bit uncomfortable, especially if we're dealing with heartburn or indigestion or anything like that. And it allows us to be able to explore this movement in a position that's advantageous for us as pregnant women and that's really comfortable. And one more time, inhale and exhale.

So arms come out, you're gonna come to your seated position and you're gonna tilt over. You're gonna try to do the work and the sense of balance. Inhale, now reach those energy through the arms, inhale and exhale. (exhaling) Two more, inhale and exhale, and last one, inhale, and find that tilt and take that leg down and then come over and stretch, you know that beautiful stretch. Now you can keep that left hip down as much as you can to really get that stretch. Now again, you can open your body a little bit, rotate towards your ceiling to feel a little bit more stretch here, or you can rotate down towards your mat to feel a little bit more stretch in your lower back.

But the goal is to stay nice in the middle here. And come on up. So we're gonna hold this position. Now this time I want you to take, if you can, I want you to bring the bottoms of your feet together. Now I slid back on my mat, so that that little diamond shape of my legs is a little bit wider, a little bit more open, so that I can sit up higher on my sitz bones.

So I don't need your heels to be in towards your center body as much. I just want you to feel the demand of this position, bringing the bottoms of your feet together, but let your legs come forward, your feet rather come forward as much as you can so that you feel it's more important that you're sitting up vertical than your legs being closer in towards your body. So if you also need to sit on a pillow or a cushion or a towel to elevate your hips, you can do that here. Because as soon as we release our hands, we're gonna come to a little prayer position here, you feel the demand on the core musculature, you feel that sense of support. You feel that sense of control.

You wanna maintain that. Now, you gonna take your arms out to the side with your palms facing up, and you're gonna lift your chest up a little bit more just through your sternum, and you're gonna feel how that demands even more support through your abdomen. And I want you to feel the challenge in that. This is daily life right here. This is functionality right here.

This is where we are. This is where we've been standing in the kitchen, cooking a meal or attending, doing work or shopping or doing something. We feel our posture start to weaken. And this is where we wanna check ourselves. We wanna feel that sense of support when we need it.

We're gonna rotate to our left with an exhale and inhale center. To the right, exhale. So simple rotation to start. I want you to keep the hips, both sitz bones, drilled down into your mat so that you don't shift weight from one hip to the other. Now, you're gonna stay to your right.

You're gonna lift your arms up. You're gonna curve forward. You're gonna tap your fingertips down on your mat. So your right shoulder is directly, actually, I'm sorry, this is your left 'cause you're mirroring me. Your left shoulder is directly over your left thigh, so you're gonna find that curve and you're gonna lift it straight up.

Now this initiates from your rib cage, pulls down, your pelvis tucks under. So we're doing rotation here and then straight up. I want you to drag your bones down with your muscles and then inhale straight up. Exhale. (exhaling) And inhale up. Two more, exhale (exhaling) and inhale up, one more time, exhale, (exhaling) hold this position so you feel that curve.

I want you to place one hand on your knee, one hand on your shin, right in front of you. So when you're looking down here, you should see the left side of your rib cage pulled down towards your pelvis. You should see your right hip pulled back so that your hips are still straight forward, but your spine, particularly your upper spine, is rotated towards your thigh. Now in this position, you're gonna extend out on the diagonal, holding that rotation. So again, drop that right hip down in opposition.

Feel that extension. Now from here, you're gonna thread your belly button in and you're gonna almost feel like you're going up and over. (exhaling) You're gonna draw in. Now what I like about this is I feel a nice stretch through my shoulder blades as well. Inhale, expand, reach out.

Now simultaneously as your sternum is reaching forward, your hipbones are reaching behind you. Feel the power of this movement. Feel the length of this movement. Feel how demanding this is on your hips, on your spine, on your rotation, on your abdominal, on your upper body. It's simple, but it's not easy.

And then exhale, draw it in. (exhaling) Inhale, we're gonna go a little bit faster. And exhale. (exhaling) Inhale, and this is a safe amount of rotation for pregnant women, inhale and exhale. (exhaling) One more time, inhale and exhale. (exhaling) Now this time, place your fingertips back down on your mat. Reach up, open the arms, and come back to center. Let's go ahead and do the other side. So arms out to the side, and we rotate.

Arms come up, we go forward. (exhaling) So now you wanna let this left side release because that's the side we were just challenging and working here, so allow that rotation to increase naturally as we work through the movements here, then inhale up, exhale, rib cage draws down. (exhaling) And inhale up. So you wanna feel beautiful, long, tall, lengthened, whatever word you wanna think of here, as you come up. You really wanna feel that you're putting energy, your best effort into every aspect of this exercise. Exhale, draw down, feel that oblique connection.

Then inhale up. Two more, exhale and inhale up, one more time, (exhaling) hands one on the knee, one on the shin, and reaching forward. Now let's settle into this position for a moment. Keep your left hip down, feel that rotation, so the right shoulder is in line with the right thigh, feeling that lift. And then the idea is to thread the belly button in and kind of come up and over.

And inhale, (inhaling) exhale up and over (exhaling) Inhale, lengthen that spine, reach that chest out, exhale up and over. Inhale, exhale. (exhaling) Last one. Actually, we'll go into a contraction and then we'll go back into an extension one more time. And reaching, and arms come up, open, maintaining the rotation of the spine, and come back to center. How's that feel?

I hope that feels great on your body. I want you to just kind of release your legs for a second. Reach them out in front of you. You can kind of shake them out and just kind of release those hips there. I hope that that felt really good.

We're gonna go into and have a little bit more time in a seated position, and then we're gonna move into a kneeling position, which should be really fun. So let's go ahead and keep working here. So, this is a little bit of a fun sequence. I want you to make sure that you feel safe as we do this because we are gonna be moving the body and I don't want you to feel like you are gonna fall. I know you're probably on a mat on your floor.

Maybe I'm speaking for myself so I don't fall off my table here. But we're gonna come into a curve. We're gonna contract. So we're gonna lift the leg up, the front leg up, right? Now you're gonna take the leg, extend it, and you're gonna reach to the side here.

So my legs are apart like open scissors. This arm is straight, that's down, so it should be your left arm perhaps, or I don't know, depending on which position, which direction you're facing. And now I'm feeling a stretch through my abdomen, which is really nice because we just did a bunch of that contracting. So I'm gonna press here. Now, I'm gonna initiate from my abdominals.

I'm gonna curve. I'm still supporting myself with my arm. I'm gonna come back to this position and then sit up. So it's a little bit more complicated. So you can do this with your hands out or your hands behind the thighs.

I'll do a couple more times with my hands behind the thighs. So I'm gonna curve into that position that we did at the top of our class. I'm gonna lift the leg up. I'm gonna reach the leg up that's closest to your screen and reach out into an expansion here. I'm gonna initiate from the abdominal.

So you can see my spine is already curving here. My pelvis comes underneath me. I'm gonna use my hands to come back to this position and then sit up. So the curve happens first. I don't care what your breath pattern is at this point, I just want you to breathe.

Lift the leg up. Extend out, feel that reach, feel that strength, feel that length through the abdomen. Initiate from the center body, curve in, bring the leg back to that bent position, then up. Exhale, curve, (exhaling) reaching. I'm doing an inhale here.

Exhale (exhaling) and back up. One more time, and curve, and reaching my legs out, I'm gonna hold this position. So feeling really long, really lifted, really proud here. I'm gonna bend my top leg in, and I'm gonna come into a curve. So I'm gonna bring that knee up to my shoulder, so I'm here.

So see, it's kind of a funny different position, but it's fun. So you're gonna come to this curve, and then you're gonna reach back. Exhale and reach again so that curve of your spine, that bending your spine is gonna come from the center body. You're also supporting with the oblique, so with the latissimus dorsi, pushing that hand down into the mat. This hand should be able to be free at any point, so support is coming from that front hand.

And reaching out, two more (exhaling) and reaching out. Last one, (exhaling) and reach. Now hold this position. I want you to bring your legs together. So you're lifted here.

So this is a little bit funny because you're straight on top of your legs here, straight on top of your pelvis, but your upper body is still rotated a little bit. I'm gonna scoot back just a little bit. So you wanna feel really nice and confident here. Then you're gonna curve or rotate, lift the leg up, and you're gonna look at it. So I'm allowing my pelvis to kind of rock back here as I look at that leg, and then I reach back up.

Exhale. (exhaling) So we're gonna feel oblique work here. Exhale (exhaling) and straighten. Doesn't this feel good? I don't know, I feel kind of fancy in this position. And curve.

And I'm allowing my pelvis to tuck underneath me. Two more, (exhaling) and reach, one more time, and reach and hold it here, hold it here. Bring the arm up. I hope that you feel really nice and confident here. Now you're gonna curve, and you're gonna just thread your arm underneath your body, trying to look behind you.

And then you're gonna reach and look up at the ceiling. So notice here, my arm and my shoulder are gonna follow. I'm gonna curve underneath and look, and then reach back up. If you need to soften your elbow, you absolutely can of the supporting arm. And exhale, curve, and bring it back up, feel that expansion, exhale, (exhaling) and bring it up, feeling that length, a little smile on your face, last one, and reaching up, feeling that power, feeling that reach, feeling that length, and soften.

How does that feel? Does that feel good? That feels really good for me. And just see how fun and awesome that was. You feel your abdominals engaging, they're supporting, they're maintaining strength.

They're being really functional, but it's a really safe and kind of fun way for us to move as pregnant women. So let's go ahead and explore the other side. And the challenge for me is always to remember (chuckling) the exact same ones I did. So I apologize if it's a little bit different this time. So let's go.

We're gonna curve. (exhaling) Leg comes up. We expand the leg, reach out, extend both legs nice and straight. Initiate from the center body, bring the leg up, and then sit back up. Exhale, (exhaling) leg comes up, feel that contraction. Now reach the leg out, reach the leg out nice and long.

Put that energy through your body, Make the work more dynamic for yourself by just where you sit in your posture. I could do it here and be looking at the screen and be like, okay, I've got the position, but how much different is it for us to really expand? Feel that stretch lengthen. And I'll speak to that in a moment. Hopefully I don't forget.

And reaching out. Exhale, draw, lift that leg up. When we work muscles, we need to contract them, lengthen them, and relax them. We need to do all the function that the muscles can do because when we do that, we're creating healthy muscle tissue, and healthy muscle tissue is muscle tissue that can contract efficiently, that can lengthen efficiently, and that can relax efficiently. And that is where we get the best function, where we get to move without pain, where we get to acquire the most strength that we need, the most length that we need, where the bones then become mobile.

We really wanna make sure that we're doing that. So when we think of abdominal work, let's do two more, sometimes we think, leg comes up, we think, oh yeah, I gotta contract those babies. I gotta contract, contract, contract, contract, contract. But you also have to lengthen, you also have to lengthen those muscles. Let that beautiful suppleness happen in the muscles.

And up one more time, (exhaling) lifting the leg up and reach, holding there, feel that length. Now you're gonna pull the knee in (exhaling) and lengthen it out. So this is coming from the center body. Contract, like the abs are curving, the pelvis is curving, and that leg is being drug in at the same time, and reach. I'm gonna take the supporting arm out a little bit so I don't struggle in my shoulders so much.

Exhale, you can bend that elbow a little bit, too, if that feels more comfortable for you. Now, even your leg is gonna be on your mat here. So I want you to feel like you're keeping that leg on the mat, but you're keeping energy through it. You're not just relaxing it. So I apologize for that.

So let's get back to this position. So we're gonna curve in, then inhale length. So this leg is staying active, your bottom leg. Curve in (exhaling) and inhale, lengthen, last one, exhale, curve in, and inhale, lengthen. Now bring your legs together.

Adjust your arms if you need to. Arms, nope, arm stays down, and we're gonna kick. Now remember we rotate, we allow the pelvis to tuck underneath us, so we feel that oblique connection. Now we're gonna take it and go all the way back straight and a little bit of upper body rotation. Exhale. (exhaling) And inhale.

Exhale (exhaling) and inhale. Exhale (exhaling) and inhale. Keep that nice, beautiful fluid movement, and reach. Last one (exhaling) and hold that position. Bring your hand in if you need a little bit and reach the arm up to the ceiling, and we're gonna curve in.

So again notice that it comes from the abdominals, from the rib cage. I'm gonna rotate, just bring that hand underneath the arm and reach and lift up. Exhale. (exhaling) And reach. I'm slipping a little bit here, I'm a little bit sweaty. Exhale, (exhaling) and reach, expand.

Again. And reach again, getting that beautiful mobilization through your spine. But you're holding a lot of support through your upper body, through your hips. Reach, last one, exhale, (exhaling) and reach up and hold, feel that extension, and go ahead and release. So that feels really good.

So we're gonna shift our position a little bit here. We're gonna come on to all fours. I'm gonna do a little bit of a different version of like a classical kind of like bird dog sort of exercise. So we're gonna walk through this together slowly and then we'll increase our tempo. I apologize for this happening again here.

So let's get on to all fours here. So shoulders are directly over the wrist. Knees are directly underneath the hips. So in this position, you're gonna bring your right leg forward and your left hand forward. You're gonna bring your other hand forward, your right arm and your left leg.

And then you're gonna reach the leg out here. So I have the left hand forward and the right leg up. I'm gonna curve and tap my right foot down, and then lift up. Initiating from the abdominals, I curve and lift. One more time, curve and lift.

I'm gonna hinge back to come back to my crawl position back and back and neutral. So I know it's a little bit funny. We're just gonna work through it together. I don't care if our sequencing, you and I, are exactly on. I just want you to get the idea of walking forward, crawling forward, and then getting the leg up.

So, we go left hand, right knee, right hand, left knee, and then we reach the left hand out and bring the right leg up. So you see my hands are separated here. And then I curve, I'm pushing my hands down, tapping my foot on the mat, and I'm lifting the abdominals up, and then reach. And I'm gonna go past that point of straight and lift my leg up. Exhale (exhaling) and reach, exhale (exhaling) and reach.

I hinge back, bringing my hand and my knee down, walk and center. Let's do it again. Right knee, left knee, left hand up, right leg up, exhale (exhaling) and up, exhale (exhaling) and up, exhale (exhaling), and hold it. Hinge back, bring the knee and the hand in here and here and center. Last time, right knee, left knee, right hand out, right leg up.

Exhale (exhaling) and up, exhale (exhaling) and up. One more time (exhaling) and hold it. Hinging back, come down and down and neutral. Did you guys get that? Let's do the other side.

Let's see if our brains can switch. So we're gonna go left knee, right knee, right hand out, left leg up, and curve and up. Exhale, so gentle abdominal work, but good abdominal work. Curve and up, hinge back, knee and hand in, and in and neutral, so rest underneath the shoulders. So we're gonna go left knee, right knee, right arm out, left leg up, exhale, curve, and up.

Exhale. (exhaling) And up, one more time, (exhaling) and up, hinge back and down, and walk and neutral. Two more times, and left and right, right hand out, left leg up, (exhaling) and up, exhale (exhaling) and up. One more time, (exhaling) and up, hinge back, and walk and walk and neutral. Again, one, two, three, exhale, (exhaling) and up, (exhaling) and up. One more time, and up, hinge back, and one and two and neutral.

Yay, you guys did it! So I hope that felt good. So now come back onto all fours here. So you can feel this position nice and wide here. And I want you to actually shift your way over to your left leg, bring your right leg up. You're gonna lift that right leg up.

You're gonna curve your body, and so you're looking at your knee, not the most attractive position, but a good one, 'cause we're doing a lateral tilt at the torso. We're gonna curve in, draw that knee in, as high, as close as you can to your forehead, then reach out. So when your leg comes out here and around, I don't want it to just go in, like you just draw your knee in. I want you to reach your leg around and then suck your knee in towards your body. So let's give it a little bit more oomph, a little more pizzazz, and waking up those muscles, those energy lines a little bit more.

So reach it up, reach out, and draw the knee in more, more, more, more, more, more. You have to curve, curve, curve, curve, curve, and extend. Let me slow my heart rate down a little bit. Reach out, draw it in, feel that abdominal connection and reach out, long leg, draw, suck the knee in, suck the knee in, suck the knee in, go more, more, more, more, more, more, and reach. Two more, draw that knee in, pull it all the way in nice and tight and reach, last one (exhaling) and all the way in nice and tight and extend.

Let's do the other side. Left leg up and circle around. Then draw that knee in nice and deep, and reach. Reach the leg out, (exhaling) go more, more, more, more, more and reach all the way, pulling it in, and reach, nice and strong for your upper body, drawing it in deep, and reach. One more time and draw in, and reach.

Come back onto your heels. So you should feel that beautiful connection with the abdominals, nice and awake there. Whew, I'm sweaty. So hands are gonna be behind your head. (exhaling) You gonna tuck the pelvis.

You're gonna draw the legs up, and then you're gonna reach it back. Three more times. So we're curving the pelvis underneath us tucking forward, and then reaching back. Again. (exhaling) Now this time the arms are gonna go forward, we're gonna keep that curve. We're gonna do our Pilates 100 in this position.

So pelvis is tucked underneath you. You have that beautiful connection, breathe in. (rapid inhaling and exhaling) Two more sets. (rapid inhaling and exhaling) And back. Now for our last five sets, we're gonna add movement to it.

So hands down by your sides, breathing in to prepare, we're gonna go (rapid breathing) inhale two, three, four, five, so you see my pelvis moving. Exhale (rapid inhaling and exhaling) and hold it. Good, so find this position, hands behind the head. You're gonna rotate. You're gonna curve.

You're gonna lift back up to the rotation, center. Rotate, curve, lift up, and center. Toward me, rotate, curve, lift up, and center. One more time away from me, rotate, curve, lift up, and center. So I'm gonna face you.

Last little set of exercises here. So hands are gonna be out to the side. So you can see my knees are nice and open, and I'm gonna lift my hips up and I'm gonna tilt to the left. So I'm gonna reach, push those hips forward as much as you can. So you're pressing those hips forward, pulling the pubic bone forward.

From here, you're gonna continue over with that right hand. You're gonna curve, circle. You're gonna reach over to the other side, find that nice extension, and then sit back down. So you're gonna reach over to your right, press those hips open, circle them out. So this initiates from the abdominal.

Circle around, circle around now, press those hips forward. Feel that reach, and sit. We'll go a little faster. Over to the left, exhale, (exhaling) reach, and sit. Now I'll do it to the side so you can see my angle there.

To your right and circle (exhaling) reach up, and down. Last set. And hinge and come over (exhaling) and reach to the side and down. To your right and circle, and reach up, up, up, up, up, and center. Go ahead and just kind of shake it out here.

(exhaling) Feel that connection, feel that abdominal connection. Now I want you to come to a standing position. We're gonna do a very short standing sequence here. I want you to bend your knees. Arms are gonna come up to the ceiling.

You gonna just shift your weight to your right leg, you're gonna lift your left leg up, and straight. Exhale (exhaling) and straight. Now notice that I'm going past the point of extension and I'm arching my back. (exhaling) And arching my back. (exhaling) So now we're using those abdominals in their functional sense, a little bit more balanced as we stand. Last set. Up, one more time.

(exhaling) Hold it here. Now, neutralize your position. Feel that abdominal support. Take the hands behind the head, and just very gently, I just want you to rotate your upper body. You don't have to go very far.

Just feel like you're rotating around your rib cage, (exhaling) pulling that centered groundedness through your feet. Stop at the top and go the other direction. Just noticing how mobile your spine is here, how connected you feel through your abdomen, and circle. (exhaling) Up one more time, circle, and all the say up, sitting up, standing up rather. My hair is a hot mess.

Feeling that connection there. I'm gonna face you. I want you to bend your knees and float your arms up and come down. Rather your arms come down and you come up. So when you extend your legs, I want you to feel the same thing that you felt at the top of the class, drawing the center body in.

Inhale, you wanna put your hand on your belly, you can. Draw that center body in. Again, inhale. (inhaling) feeling that vertical lift through your body. Inhale and (exhaling) one more time. (exhaling) So feel that connection. Feel that power.

So even though you don't need to keep your abs contracted (chuckling) all day long, that's not necessarily a good thing to do either, you just wanna feel that sense of, you can go ahead and take a seat if you'd like to, you just wanna feel that sense of connection, a sense of support, the sense of continuity, of synergistic energy through your body. We want to facilitate that natural stretch of the abdominals that happen during pregnancy, because it's necessary. We want our baby to grow, we want our uterus to grow, but we need to facilitate that with good abdominal support and maintenance. And this class showed you a whole array of interesting fun exercises that we can do that really expand on prenatal Pilates abdominal work, and kind of really, it's just kind of fun ways that really help us feel connected. I hope that you feel good in your abdomen, in your spine, in your pelvis, and in your hips.

Let me know what you think in the comments, or you can email me, like I've said a couple of times. Next class, we're gonna be exploring the pelvic floor. We're gonna spend two classes on the pelvic floor, doing all sorts of really cool exercises and talking a little bit more about healthy pelvic floor function during your pregnancy. So thank you for joining me today. It's been an honor.

Thank you for sticking with me for this long class, and I can't wait to see you next time. Bye.


Lina S
Interesting workout. I've liked the seated section and my favorite part was the exercises on all four. I found challenging the exercises where you scissor the legs (around 33:00). The actions of engaging the abs, pulling up, extending the muscles did not seem enough to prevent some discomfort in the lower back, but I appreciate the idea. As a Pilates instructor, It's inspiring to see the wide range of exercices that can be done during pregnancy. Thank you for your teaching.
Nicole H
1 person likes this.
As a physical therapist assistant I loved this, spot on Leah! Great creativity and educational talking points!!
Hannah W
1 person likes this.
Looks so simple but a lot of it was really challenging! 37 weeks now and I love that I can still exercise using your classes right up until the baby arrives. Thanks Leah! 
Such an awesome class! Thank you ❤️
Roxann C
Just amazing! I'm 23 weeks into my 7th pregnancy and I know how critical the concepts you teach are. And you teach them in such a wise way. Where were you during my first 6?! XO 
Liana R
Great class! Such a great reminder that abdominal work is not as limited during pregnancy as we sometimes think! 
1 person likes this.
This felt amazing on my Preggo body... loved all the side bending stretches! Thank you!
Lina S Hi Lina! Thank you for your honest feedback. It's so fun to explore different movement ideas and options, and in that, not all movement is right for our body on a certain day or in a certain season of life. The key is to explore movement, take what serves you and leave the rest for hopefully another time when your body feels better equipped to try it. The scissor exercise is defintiely challenging, which is why I included it, and I am happy to hear that you tried it and appreciate it when it didn't feel quite right for you. 
Nicole H Hi Nicole! I'm honored, thank you so much! I always appreciate PTs opinions and thoughts on my classes, movement choices, education, etc. Thank you!
Hannah W Absolutely, Hannah! I am happy to know that you accepted the challenge of this class and I hope every time you did it, you felt great!
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