Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

Pilates while pregnant

Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

By Dominic Pereira

So you’re going to be a mom, congratulations! Taking your first steps into motherhood can be both daunting and exciting. You might not know the first thing about being a mother or you might be ready to take motherhood head-on, whichever the case, it’s crucial to ensure you are taking care of yourself just as much as you’re taking care of the little one growing in your belly.

Now that you are pregnant and deciding whether you still want to continue with your Pilates classes or perhaps you want to start, stay with us, and we’ll find out if it is wise to do so.

Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

Before we get into the subject, it’s crucial that you first talk to your doctor before considering exercising.

Remember, just as each person can differ, so can each pregnancy, so it’s important that your doctor advises you based on your pregnancy and specific needs.

Pilates can be a safe and gentle activity to perform if you don’t overstretch or over-exert your body. From now on you’re not just thinking of yourself, you have to think about your baby as well.

There are a multitude of safe Pilates exercises that can be tailored to suit your tolerance levels, and trimester, however, there are a few things to keep in mind before stepping into the studio.

  • During pregnancy, the ligaments around your joints are much more flexible or lax. This is caused by your body increasing production of the relaxin hormone. Because of this, you’ll have an increased risk of injury during exercise.
  • Pilates puts a lot of focus on core strength. During pregnancy, it’s possible to strain your abdominal muscles which can cause them to separate, resulting in Diastasis recti. So many abdominal exercises will have to be modified or excluded.
  • A bigger belly can cause your balance to be thrown off. So be extra careful with sitting on a Pilates ball or balancing on one leg.

Keep in mind that although there are safe exercises to perform, you must avoid exercises that involve you lying on your back for longer than 4 minutes from the 16th week. Even sleeping on your back should be avoided.

Why Avoid Lying on Your Back While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, your uterus becomes larger after about 20 weeks (five months). The uterus becomes big enough to lie on top of your inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is a large blood vessel that brings blood flow back to your heart. If you’re lying on your back, the uterus will prevent your blood flow return which will cause less blood to flow back to your heart.

Although you’re not going to be lying on your back for an exercise for hours, researchers in New Zealand did a study where they found a potential increased risk of stillbirth for women who slept on their back the entire night.

When to Avoid Exercise Altogether

According to WebMD, exercise is not recommended if you have the following medical issues:

  • Weak cervix
  • Bleeding
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Multiple gestation/pregnancy at risk of premature labour
  • Persistent bleeding during the second- or third trimester
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease

Top 5 Pilates Exercises Safe to do During All Trimesters

Top 5 Pilates Exercises Safe to do During All Trimesters

1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Strengthening

By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, you can, amongst other things, help prevent incontinence, which is often an issue during pregnancy due to the weight of the fetus on the pelvic floor.

How to do the exercise

  1. Get down onto your knees, keep your legs together with your bottom on your heels and your hands on the mat in front of you.
  2. Imagine you are trying to hold in the urge to urinate. Concentrate on feeling the muscles contract.
  3. Try to hold this position for five to ten seconds. You don’t need to worry if you cannot hold the position for ten seconds as you’ll increase your strength day by day.
  4. Gradually relax the muscles.
  5. Repeat the process ten times.

2. Deep Tummy Strengthening

By performing deep tummy exercises, you’ll increase support for your back.

How to do the exercise

  1. Lie on your side and slightly bend your knees. Take a deep breath in and gently breathe out. While breathing out, try to pull your baby gently in towards your spine.
  2. Keep your belly pulled in for about ten seconds while breathing normally
  3. Gently relax your stomach muscles.
  4. Repeat this exercise ten times.
  5. Turn over onto all fours and repeat the same exercise.
  6. Once you are comfortable with this you can repeat the above breathing and tummy connection as you slide your opposite hand and foot out on the exhale. Keeping both in contact with the floor, alternating sides. Do 5 on either side.

3. Upper Back Strengthening

By performing upper back mobilisation, you’ll improve your posture.

How to do the exercise

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Keep your back upright placing your hands behind your head.
  2. Slowly breathe in, then breathe out while you pull your baby towards your spine and extend your back, by lifting your heart and tilting your face up toward the ceiling.
  3. Breathe in and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise ten times.

4. The Sword

Performing the sword exercise will improve your balance and strengthen your back, legs, and abdominal muscles.

How to do the exercise

  1. Stand upright with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Slightly bend your knees and move your right hand towards your left knee. Keep your arm straight.
  3. Raise your right hand up to the right as you would remove a sword from a hip belt. Keep your eyes on your hand while performing the movement.
  4. Repeat on your left side.

Now that we’ve established that you can perform certain Pilates exercises while pregnant, the next question is: Which Pilates moves should you avoid during your pregnancy?

A Few Pilates Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

  1. Crunches or Compresses – During your pregnancy, avoid exercises that allow you to crunch your stomach.
  2. Pilates Roll-Up – After your first trimester, avoid the roll-up exercise as this can put a lot of pressure on your abdominal wall.
  3. Criss Cross / Bicycle Crunches – The criss-cross or bicycle crunches put too much pressure on your abdominal muscles.
  4. Swimmer – During pregnancy, you must avoid exercises that involve you lying on your stomach.

Other types of exercises to avoid while pregnant:

  • Exercises that allow you to lose weight – gaining (a healthy amount of) weight during your pregnancy is a sign that your baby is developing healthily.
  • Contact sports – these should be avoided after your first trimester.
  • Activities where you’re prone to fall like bike riding or horseback riding. Rather, ride a stationary bike.
  • Bouncing activities like aerobics or kick-boxing. During pregnancy, your joints get loose, which will increase your chances of injury.
  • Exercising when it’s too hot. Either workout in the early morning or at night. Avoid joining classes like hot yoga.

Tips for a Safe Pilates Workout

  • Make sure you join a Pilates class with an experienced instructor.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that isn’t restrictive.
  • Avoid overstretching your joints.
  • Avoid exercises where you crunch your abdominal muscles.
  • Take balance into consideration.
  • Don’t get off the floor too quickly.
  • Don’t lay on your back and lift your feet above your head.
  • Allow gentle contractions and focus on your posture.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Don’t exercise in hot temperatures.
  • Stop if you feel discomfort or fatigue.
  • Avoid exercising on an empty stomach or right after eating.

If you’re keen on staying involved in your Pilates classes, make sure you ask your doctor for the go-ahead and also chat to your Pilates instructor. Having informed your instructor of your pregnancy (if the bump isn’t yet visible) will ensure you have a Pilates exercise regime tailored to suit your body.

Join group or individual Pilates classes at moveOn 89 where our skilled instructors can modify your workouts according to individual fitness and capability levels. Get in touch.

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Movement Into Your Day

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Movement Into Your Day

By Dominic Pereira

Finding time to work out or elevate your heart rate enough to burn a few calories can be tough for people with busy schedules. Our guess is that you are one of those looking for ideas. You’ve come to the right place!

Many of us are glued to our desks for long periods and this can really wreak havoc on our body and mind. Taking the necessary steps to ensure you take care of yourself will benefit you as you grow older and your body starts to suffer from all the things you did (or didn’t) do when you were younger.

So here are 6 easy ways to incorporate movement into your day.

1. Go for a Walk

Back to basics! Walking is a brilliant workout for anyone looking to lose a few kilos and trim the visceral fat (fat that wraps around your abdominal organs). Having too much fat around your waist can be dangerous to your health as this raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, a stroke, or high cholesterol.

Walking has such great benefits including boosting your mood (it releases feel-good endorphins), burning calories, strengthening your heart, lowering your blood sugar, and so much more!

It’s also a great low impact exercise, especially if you cannot run due to a sensitive back, some trouble with your joints, etc.

So grab your tekkies and your dog, and go for a walk!

Some tips before you hit the trails:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that protect your feet but which don’t impede your natural foot biomechanics.
  • Walk with a friend or let someone know you’re going for a walk by yourself. Maybe it’s time to adopt a pet as they are the best companions when going for a stroll!
  • Always cool down after a walk and do some light stretching.
  • Take it slow at first to build up your tolerance.
  • For extra fat burning, try to keep your heart rate up.

2. Join a Pilates Class

What is Pilates (Pi-laa-tees)? Pilates focuses on training the brain and body to connect. This is initially done using small, controlled movements to teach your muscles to fire by laying down new neural pathways. This motion will strengthen your muscles and create optimal movement patterns.

This will improve posture, breathing, digestion, joint health, and many other physiological benefits.

You can join a Pilates class either online via Zoom, or in a studio (like ours in Gardens, Cape Town). The studio is great if the online world isn’t your favourite place to be right now.

Some benefits of joining online workout classes or using one of our pre-recorded, edited videos:

  • Get fit and healthier
  • If you’re bored, this is a fun way to burn some calories!
  • Interact with others. We know lockdown can be a bit lonely and it’s hard to go on group outings these days
  • You have instant access to classes

3. Mini Workouts Throughout the Day

Have a desk job that’s keeping you glued to your seat for 8 hours a day without much movement other than going to the bathroom or grabbing some coffee? Our bodies aren’t meant to be in a seated position for extended periods. Sitting for so long can increase your risks of type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Don’t worry, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting diabetes, but all the sitting isn’t helping your body in any way!

Luckily there is good news! If you don’t really have time to fit in a 30-minute workout in your day, a study has found that doing mini-workouts throughout your day can be beneficial. But, there’s a catch… Your heart rate must be elevated for at least 10 minutes for this type of exercise to be effective.

Ever heard of High-Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT? Other than it being such a quick, effective workout, this type of workout will burn fat HOURS after your session has ended.

Does your street (or any nearby street) have a nice steep (ish) hill? Try doing some hill sprints as a HIIT workout! And if you don’t have hills near you, stairs are just as beneficial.

4. Invest in a Standing Desk

If you’re still working from home (or if your boss is cool and will get you one), a standing desk is one of the best purchases if you want to improve your health.

We already mentioned above how bad too much sitting is for your health (and your glutes) so adding a standing desk to your office space will surely help you sit less.

This adjustable standing desk by JUMBO DeskStand is a popular purchase by many.

However, if this one is a bit out of your budget, here is another more affordable option (it’s also eco-friendly), and here.

Alternate Between Sitting and Standing
Ensure you alternate between sitting and standing as too much standing can also be detrimental to your health.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, standing for long hours can cause the following problems:

  • Varicose veins
  • Low back pain
  • Sore, swollen feet and legs
  • Neck and shoulder stiffness

A good rule of thumb is to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 minutes to an hour.

5. Light Stretching

If it’s possible, stand up and do a few light stretches at your desk. This will help you wake up and it will get your blood flowing again.

Below are a few stretches you can do at your desk, but be careful and take it slow so you don’t hurt yourself.

stretches you can do at your desk
Credit: Working Against Gravity

6. Invest in a Smart Watch

This tip is only if you don’t mind splurging a few bucks on yourself for your health. These nifty watches are a great addition to your health journey as they have many cool functions including reminding you to stand up and move. Depending on the watch, you can adjust its settings to remind you every hour that you must move around a bit or get some steps in.

This tip is only if you don’t mind splurging a few bucks on yourself for your health. These nifty watches are a great addition to your health journey as they have many cool functions including reminding you to stand up and move. Depending on the watch, you can adjust its settings to remind you every hour that you must move around a bit or get some steps in.

Make it fun
If this whole idea of living by a watch is not your cup of tea, why not make it more fun by creating a challenge between you and your partner, friend or family member?

For example, the one with the least steps or calories burned by the end of the week has to do laundry or wash the dishes the following week. Or the winner can choose the next movie when it’s movie night. This is a great way to keep you (and the other person) motivated to continue making healthy choices.

Join Pilates, Yoga, and HIIT Classes with moveOn 89

Whether you want to join us via Zoom (when offered, buy a pre-recorded, edited video or at our studio in Gardens, Cape Town, at moveOn 89 we offer a wide range of wellness classes including Pilates, Yoga, and HIIT.

To join our classes, simply visit our Schedule page to choose a time that works for you and book!

Get More Out of Every Workout with a Mind-Muscle Connection

Mind-Muscle Connection

Get More Out of Every Workout with a Mind-Muscle Connection

By Dominic Pereira

By now we all know that our brain is in charge of everything our body does and feels. It helps us think, walk, sit, talk, pick up items, etc. So it makes sense that your mind is able to improve the way you work out and help you increase muscle strength; aka having a mind-muscle connection.

What is a Mind-Muscle Connection?

According to

“As you know, movement is controlled by the brain. The first step towards muscular contraction is a signal sent by the brain to your muscles telling them to contract. You might say that the mind-muscle connection (MMC) occurs at something called the “neuromuscular junction”. This is where the mind meets the body. The brain releases a chemical neurotransmitter called “acetylcholine” to communicate with muscles in the body.

When acetylcholine is released at the neuromuscular junction it crosses the “synapses” (the tiny space that separates the nerve from the muscle) where it binds to receptors on the surface of muscle fibers. Voila, muscle contraction.” [sic]

Neuromuscular activation is a well-known term often used by physical therapists when they are helping people with injuries strengthen their mind-muscle connection. According to Wellwood Health, “This brain to muscle connection happens naturally within the neuromuscular system when the nervous system (neural) and the muscular system (muscular) are working together effectively.”

In conclusion, the mind-muscle connection is merely focusing your thoughts on the muscle you are using during your workout whether it’s lifting weights, Yoga, Pilates, etc. to ensure you increase the muscle fibres used; allowing for a better quality workout.

“…almost like ‘flexing’ without actually making any large body movements.”

Alan Snyder, DPT, owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.

interaction between nerves and muscle fibres
Image Credit: COR

The figure above displays the interaction between nerves and muscle fibres.

Benefits of a Mind-Muscle Connection

  • Better form – as you’re focusing on the movement, you’ll reduce your chances of obtaining an injury.
  • Enhanced performance – since you are focusing on your form and properly executing the movement, you’ll be more in tune with your body’s ability to either push harder or ease off.
  • Great stress relieving method – as you’re focusing on the workout, it can help you forget about things causing you stress (even if it’s just for an hour).

How to Effectively Develop a Mind-Muscle Connection

Here are a few tips and tricks to help develop a mind-muscle connection:

1. Clear Your Mind

In order to fully focus on your workout and your form, you have to try and clear your mind of unrelated thoughts, like your to-do list. This will allow you to fully connect with your body during your chosen workout.

2. Focus on Your Form

According to SkinnyMs., proper form is not just for creating an effective mind-muscle connection; it’s crucial to ensure you reduce the risk of injuring yourself during your workout.

If you’re focusing on the muscle you’re working on, you’ll notice if your form starts slipping or if you’re doing the exercise too quickly to really feel it working.

3. Gain Strength From Inside

According to Sheer Balance, by focusing on the strength you have inside, you’ll start to understand the deeper framework within your body and start correcting its imbalances, misalignments, etc.

“If we can manipulate our bodies with our minds, we can correct misalignments and unhealthy posture, balance muscle groups making sports or daily activities easier, safer, and more enjoyable, and we can remember how to feel the strength of our body and all that it’s capable of doing.”

4. Slow It Down

According to, by performing exercises slower than usual, you’ll be able to concentrate on the movement and which muscles are being contracted. It will help visualise the muscles you are using. And if you’re unsure where certain muscles are, try researching them before your workouts to know where to feel the contraction.

5. Warmup Properly

Important for any type of workout or movement, warming up the body remains essential in order to properly wake up your muscles and ensure they are warm enough for a great workout.

For instance, if your focus is on your legs for a specific workout, doing small, unweighted squats, hip bridges, etc. beforehand will get them warmed up, allowing you to know exactly which muscles are working during your exercises.

6. Eccentric Exercises

According to My Fitness Pal, performing eccentric exercises will ensure your muscles are properly stretched before contracting. Eccentric contraction is when you slowly lower yourself or weights to really help you focus on the movement and ensure your muscles are working optimally.

The bottom line? There are immense benefits when slowing down and focusing your mind on your movements. You’ll be able to increase strength without having to start using heavy weights or additional equipment.

Looking for a way to stay fit and healthy at home? Rent or buy one of our pre-recorded, edited videos. Our library has a selection of Pilates (and Pilates Stretch), HIIT, and Yoga classes, which you can easily join from the comfort of your home. Start taking action to ensure you have your healthiest body and mind. Get in touch to make your booking or join an IN Studio class

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We use cookies to track visitors, measure ads, ad campaign effectiveness and analyze site traffic. We may also share information about your use of our site with 3rd parties. For more info, see, our Cookies Policy, our Privacy Policy. By clicking “Accept All” you agree to the storing of all cookies on your device. In case you don’t choose one of these options and use our website, we will treat it as if you have accepted all cookies.