As a maternity and newborn photographer, I’m invited into the most vulnerable and difficult period of my clients’ lives. So many mamas struggle with back pain and discomfort during pregnancy as well as postpartum. I wanted to drop by and introduce you to an incredible woman, mama, business owner, and Pilates instructor: Rachael of Rachael Bridgens Pilates.
Rachael was the first ever #breyphotobride and is one of my favorite humans. If you’ve heard of my Milestone Collection, you can thank Rachael for the idea.
In between raising two kids, Rachael operates her boutique Pilates studio out of Collegeville, PA. She works in person and virtually with clients all over the country including LA, Boston, Maine, and Florida. She specializes in prenatal and postnatal pilates.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a low impact exercise similar to yoga, that focuses on posture and stability. It’s extremely versatile and can be done with or without any special equipment, although Rachael’s studio is outfitted to bring her clients everything that they need to meet their specific fitness goals.
For a lot of women, including Rachael, birth can leave the abdominal muscles feeling “dead”. Prenatal pilates will build stamina and strength required for labor and delivery and prepare the body for a faster recovery postpartum.
“I had a brutal first pregnancy and delivery, complete with birth injury and bad abdominal separation,” says Rachael. “I was struggling with postpartum depression and miserable about the changes to my previously strong and fit body. I committed to Pilates and have never looked back.”
Rachael has been training in fitness for over a decade, and says that most pregnant mamas know the basics of safe exercise (for example, avoiding crunches), but may not know the other alternatives that exist. Safe, effective core work is crucial to a healthy labor and delivery.
Who is Pilates for?
“I LOVE how Pilates makes almost everyone feel better, move better, and live better. Many clients say Pilates is the single best thing they have done for themselves during the pre and postpartum period, but it also makes them feel so much better in their everyday lives. Think ski-ing without knee pain, jumping on a trampoline without peeing yourself, sitting cross legged on the floor with your kids. Pilates is suitable for both the strongest athlete and the desperately underfit. Pilates is for every body.”
How Pilates can affect pregnancy & labor
“With the right Pilates teacher, there is a focus on the connection between pelvic floor and core that’s absolutely invaluable. So many women know very little about their pelvic floor beyond kegels. The pelvic floor plays a critical role in birth prep and recovery. Pregnancy also highlights any natural imbalances in the body and can make things feel worse. A focus on maintaining mobility and strength around these imbalances is crucial.”
In addition to Pilates, Rachael recommends seeing a pelvic floor therapist. “If your pelvic floor is tight, all the kegels in the world will make things worse. Many people do not realize back pain, hip pain— all can be caused by pelvic floor issues. Get an assessment before pregnancy and immediately afterwards.”
Rachael also recommends a birthing ball for both prenatal exercise and postnatal rest.
Starting your Pilates journey
To know if Pilates is right for you, you just have to give it a try, says Rachael. As I’ve seen from working with families welcoming new little ones (and from being a mama myself, to two babies!), the postpartum period can be brutal when it comes to finding motivation and courage to try something new, especially something that requires to be in tune with a new, changing body. “You are not alone and your body may be different, but you will feel strong and confident again. One of my favorite quotes, by Sarah Landy, is “’F*** bouncing back. Back is not the direction we are going.'”
Rachael is by referral only, but newly postpartum clients can join her for a 6 week private deep core and pelvic floor coaching program on an ongoing basis. You can follow Rachael on Instagram @RachaelBridgens or check out her website RachaelBridgens.com.