Vulnerable clients and support through Covid-19

Pamela Lam, PAA Member

Pamela Lam, PAA Member

Pregnancy & Postnatal Pilates during the Pandemic

Pivot! Pivot! No, it’s not Ross Gellar trying to move a couch up the stairs, it’s not your year 10 netball coach shouting drills from the sidelines. It’s not even me cueing clients in a Barre Attack class. It’s what we’ve all had to do in these seemingly endless months since March. Pivot ourselves, our businesses, our clients, our families.

The impact of the Covid-19 shutdowns was clearly felt widely across our industry. This was evident in talking to fellow instructors, studio owners and even clients. Facebook groups were awash with confusion, frustration, annoyance and sadness. Understandable emotions, especially given the lack of clarity offered by the government. Whilst dealing with the disappointment and financial hardship of having to close studios and stop seeing clients, many of us turned to online teaching for the first time.

As much as technology assists us in all our other daily tasks, teaching online is not the norm for most of us. There are teachers around Australia and the world who have worked hard in pre-pandemic times to set up high quality online teaching models, with professional filming equipment, functional websites and platforms for access and social media followings to boot.

For those of us who didn’t have this set up previously, what an adventure we were about to embark on. From creating online libraries of classes for clients to participate in at their own leisure; live online classes or both, the challenges may have felt Herculean at times. Choosing hardware and software to support our ventures, the physicality of actually doing hour long classes multiple times a day, the mental task of reframing cues for an online environment all whilst muting participants over and over again – and all this for our able-bodied, self aware, fit and healthy students. What about our special populations?

It Takes a Village to raise a Child…

The idea of catering to special populations and vulnerable clients in an online environment was and remains one filled, understandably, with some worry and caution. Being pregnant for the second time myself in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, I felt for my pre and postnatal clients who had suddenly lost not just their weekly Pilates session but so much more. The face to face midwife or OB visits, the antenatal classes, the chance to have family visit them in hospitals to meet their new arrivals, the mothers groups and playgroups, early childhood centre visits, baby rhyme time at the library and so much more. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and these vulnerable mums-to-be and new mums were being asked to take on one of the hardest challenges of life, in almost complete isolation from that very village. For that reason, I took the plunge with launching a pregnancy and postnatal program online and after 6 weeks of fantastic energy and positive community spirit and support, I want to encourage other qualified teachers who can, to do the same.

As Pilates teachers, we value ourselves for the physical strength and stability we create in our pre or postnatal client’s bodies, but we may underestimate the power and support our classes can provide from a mental and emotional perspective. For many women, a pregnancy or Mums & Bubs Pilates class may be the first time they have met and interacted with other pregnant and postnatal women – hearing and sharing stories, fears, hopes and joys. For some women, a pregnancy Pilates class may be the first time they learn about abdominal separation or pelvic floor dysfunction, or their first introduction to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. A Mums & Bubs class may be the first time they discover they aren’t alone in their baby blues, or the right way to wear a baby wrap, or the most efficient way to lower their baby into a bassinet.

A critical Touchpoint

For the past 2 months, many women have lost this critical touchpoint during a time in their lives when vulnerability and anxiety levels may already be increased.

Doctors in the United States have already said that they are “expecting to see a secondary outbreak of mental health issues related to ongoing stress that people are dealing with” and more specifically to pregnant women, that they are “seeing a worsening of symptoms in women who were already struggling with perinatal anxiety and depression”. Whilst Australia’s outbreak is nowhere near on the level of the United States, there is sure to be an impact on our pregnant and postnatal community who have experienced similar restrictions and changes as their American counterparts.

The importance of maintaining a village for pregnant and postnatal women throughout the remainder of the Covid-19 Pandemic cannot be exaggerated. The role our online classes can play in bringing some stability, familiarity and connection back into the lives of pregnant and postnatal women cannot be overstated.

I think about my clients who are about to or have just brought their babies into this new ‘Covid-19 world’ and I am so happy they are able to continue classes online. Not just for the physical benefits Pilates provides pre and postnatally, but for the mental and emotional support they are able to receive and the new friendships and connections they are able to make and hopefully keep into their early years of motherhood.

Moving into a post Covid-19 world, let’s not underestimate the importance and significance of our pre and postnatal classes as Pilates teachers. Let’s not forget the impact our classes can have on the life of even just one woman we come into contact with through our Pilates practice, and in turn the impact that will have on her child, her family and her own community. We have an opportunity to be so much more than just a movement or exercise instructor, so let’s embrace it.

 

Pamela Lam
PAA Member, Willoughby NSW