The Pregnant Pilates Teacher
As teachers, we see individuals from all walks of life, however Pilates is particularly helpful for pregnancy, birth preparation and the monumental post natal recovery.
But what happens when the pregnant person is you? Take it from me, navigating such an active profession as ours as a pregnant Pilates teacher can prove tedious during this marathon journey. You can practice what you’ve been taught in your women’s health courses and what you’ve learned experientially, however you never truly know until you’re in it. Every woman and every pregnancy is different. Some women breeze through and some women struggle no matter how much prep work went in beforehand. I, unfortunately, experienced the latter.
If this is a journey you are planning or lucky enough to be experiencing, I’d love to share some tips so you can teach for as long as possible until you are ready to take maternity leave.
Our industry isn’t one-size-fits-all when it comes to maternity leave. It pays (literally) to do your homework on Centrelink’s Paid Parental Leave and whether you meet work and income criteria in order to receive government financial help. Other Centrelink benefits such as Family Tax Benefit , Parenting Paid Partnered and Child Care Subsidy applications are also good to research when trying to conceive. All of these you can apply for once bubs has arrived but it greatly assists in forecasting your financial plan to know early. Most businesses in the Pilates sector are not profitable enough to provide paid leave to employees. For that matter, many teachers are contracted and therefore are also not eligible for paid leave from the business they are contracted to.
Check out Service Australia for information on the payments and services available.
THE FIRST TRIMESTER
You have just found out you’re expecting! Woohoo! This is a very exciting time, but also when you should be starting to make your plans. Review your teaching schedule. If you are teaching early mornings and late evenings work out what is realistic for you. You are growing a human and you WILL BE TIRED. Like, hit by a bus tired. I would encourage you to advise your employer early so they can have a back up plan if you are heaving in the toilet at 6am before your classes. Although, you’ll be pleased to know once you have spewed, you usually feel better and can carry on with your teaching. Keep a lunch box of snacks on hand that don’t turn your stomach and keep up your water intake; even if it needs to be sports drinks just to get you through! Avoid rapid changes in position and begin to educate your clients on how to change their own springs and machinery at this point. It is amazing how much this will help you in a month’s time!
THE SECOND TRIMESTER
You quickly realise that as a pregnant Pilates teacher you can’t get away with demonstration all the time now. Practice utilising imagery and verbal cues and don’t do anything you wouldn’t advise your pregnant clients to do. It is a tough habit to break when teaching ‘chest lifts’, ‘Russian splits’ and ‘climb-a-tree’ is your job but you must put your body first when teaching and pay attention to what is sensible. You will find that the Pilates exercises are an excellent marker for your body’s growth and highlights its limitations. If you’re experiencing pelvic girdle pain be strict with not demonstrating any single leg work. I ended up with crippling symphasis pubis pain from 20 weeks until delivery and I believe I exacerbated my imbalances by “pushing through” and demonstrating when I really didn’t need to.
THE THIRD TRIMESTER
You’ll be surprised how difficult it is to teach and breathe at the same time! Pace yourself when teaching; you will become breathless very easily and if you try to teach like you usually do, you can easily become light headed. If you teach consecutive hours, you may experience swelling and discomfort in your lower limbs from standing for hours on end. My limit was 2-3 hours maximum by late second trimester! You can still teach while sitting on a fitball, or my favourite was horseback position on the ladder barrel. Decide when is appropriate to take maternity leave. My advice is don’t feel pressured to teach longer than your body is capable of (the pressure usually comes from ourselves). I took leave from 35 weeks and I could not have worked a day more.
We are lucky to be in a profession where our employers understand the needs of a pregnant staff member and you’ll likely find your clients will be thrilled for you. It is a huge life transition, and an exceptional change from when you are the one caring for everyone else. Allow yourself the time to rest, observe what your body needs and take it one day at a time.
PAA Professional Principal Trainer Member, Polestar Pilates Educator Victoria