Pilates for Prenatal and Postpartum: Podcast Episode #155
We talk about Pilates with Emma Jory of ePilates Online shares tips on how to take care of your body in all four trimesters. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m excited to chat with Emma Jory today about how to take care of your body in all four trimesters. Emma Jory is an international certified Pilates, barres, and Hatha yoga instructor. She’s also a certified health coach, online instructor, and specializes in women’s health, specifically pre- and postnatal programs with over 17 years of teaching experience. Emma is the creator of ePilates Online, an online global fitness business, and she’s the former owner of Emergy Pilates Lounge in Sydney, Australia. In 2014, she sold the business and launched her ePilates Online business. She connects with over 40,000 of her members by offering 300-plus classes and builds a community to help them transform their health. Emma’s been featured in Parenthood and Pilates Style magazine. She took the stage as an expert professional at Malaysia’s Murfest and Sacred Postpartum Summit and was a podcast guest on The Purpose Effect and Conscious Connections. Emma lives in Malaysia with her husband and pups. Welcome, Emma!
Emma: Hi, Kristin. Thank you so much. Lovely to be here.
Kristin: So excited to chat with you about four trimesters. Most people only think of three, but I would love to hear your take on postnatal prep and what your focus, both prenatal and postnatal care, for women is all about.
Emma: Nice. So true; a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to the fourth trimester, that’s for sure. It is definitely an important time for women. I actually teach women to prepare their bodies for birth during the first, second, and third trimester with exercise like Pilates and yoga, but also a little bit of mindset coaching, which is all intertwined, as well as meditation. It’s important to prepare the body, but then as you say, look after the body and your mental and physical wellbeing in the fourth trimester because you are a new mom. Obviously, you are – some are new moms; obviously, not everyone, but you are taking that change in your life as well as the baby’s. So it is important to recognize that.
Kristin: So as far as preparation, fitness, and as you mentioned, the mental preparation to get your body not only ready for birth but for that healing time.
Emma: Yeah, because technically – you know, we don’t think about it like this often, but really, the body has gone through trauma. It’s like having an injury. Often, it can be – you know, some people have more effects in their body than others, but the body has changed, and to recognize that change is really important, to not rush back to exercise too quickly, because if you had an injury, for example, in your shoulder or your knee, you wouldn’t go back into a normal level of exercise perhaps that you were doing prior to your injury. So I like to get my clients to think of it that way so that they do take regaining the exercise routine back steady and they don’t rush into things too quickly because you can actually do – not damage as such, but, you know, you can do a little bit more detrimental affects to your body than if you did take it slowly. Working from the inside out and letting your body recover is really important.
Kristin: So true. I feel like women are in a hurry to get back to their size pre-birth and just get into fitness routines, and it’s challenging for them to wait until they get clearance from their doctor or midwife. So very good advice. So I’m fascinated by Malaysian healing traditions. Would you like to share a bit about the 40 days and rest and nourishment?
Emma: Yeah, it’s interesting. I know you’ve spoken to Valerie from The Mommy Plan. I know Valerie here. I met her Malaysia, and she’s into all of the Malaysian techniques, as well. I’ve actually been very lucky and blessed to have learned a lot about these postpartum healing methods while living here in Malaysia for the last eight years, and it definitely has become a passion of mine, the postpartum period even more so of a passion to help moms because I’ve seen how much the local culture here really does embrace this fourth trimester. They really take care of the mother like she is just as important as the baby, if not more in some ways, taking care of her mentally, because I think it’s missed a lot in Western culture. We tend to rush back to work. We think we have to get back to normal tasks of everyday life whereas we do take this time to heal; we are definitely going to be in a better head space to look after our baby. And a lot of the techniques they use here, a lot of massage, specific foods that they like to eat that are very nourishing; they have a lot of techniques around binding the stomach muscles and the stomach area, but also putting on heat packs and creams, using different herbs. It’s a really beautiful process, and a lot of the women actually have someone come into their home to actually do all of these treatments for them, so they’re very lucky. And it’s something like once a week or once or twice a week, even. Some of them even have people living in. So they’re really well looked after here, and they make it a big focus, which is – I think we can learn a lot from that.
Kristin: I agree. Mothering the mother is so essential, and you are correct, I’ve learned so much from Valerie and her books and lectures and so on. I would love to hear more about your online program, if you’d let our listeners know a bit about what that involves and how they can join anywhere in the world.
Emma: Oh, yeah. So I have been teaching postpartum and prenatal women for many years. I’ve been teaching Pilates for 17, and throughout my whole journey, I’ve been teaching mums through this period. And I have helped a lot of women face to face, and there was a lot of women that I couldn’t get to see because my schedule was so quite busy and full. I felt like I really needed to be sharing this information and these techniques with more women. And this is actually – this online program I created for postpartum women and prenatal, as well. I actually put together before everyone was sort of going online, so it’s been a well-received program for many years, and it helps to regain the body back after giving birth in a safe way. It helps to strengthen the pelvic floor. It’s safe for women who’s given birth probably – sometimes even women will start as early as six weeks. It’s very gentle. It’s safe to do. Some even earlier. You know, I’ve had some ladies actually do the breathing and connecting of the pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominals earlier on like four weeks because it’s very gentle, and sometimes the sooner the mothers can do that if they’ve had, especially, tearing or even a C-section, as long as it’s feeling comfortable and there’s no pain, they can do that gentle engaging to help actually recover from the scar tissue. It helps bring blood flow back to the area. So the program helps with restoring the body, also after Cesarean, and it’s in a functional way, as well, so you are not just doing Kegels where you’re just squeezing the pelvic floor muscles. You’re actually doing gentle movements, pelvic curls, cat-cows, those sort of movements, and that’s really great to have that functional movement, not just connecting the pelvic floor. So it’s a three-month program, and it’s tailored for women who’ve just given birth, so it gives the content in a weekly, I guess, delivered format, so you don’t progress any sooner than you should, than you’re ready for. It’s basically the same program that I would teach my clients if I was going in face to face to teach them. So it’s a really beneficial program, not just for women who’ve had babies recently but I’ve also had ladies who have done this program and their baby’s 20 years old, and it’s still helped their pelvic floor. It’s really good, and it’s not normal Pilates. It’s – yeah, different style. It’s also using – releasing the fascia, so if anyone has a diastasis, as well, it’s really great for repairing diastasis. I’ve had a lady who – or quite a few ladies I’ve helped repair that; many, actually, but a couple who were recommended surgery, and they had a four to five finger gap, their diastasis. And we got them down to two fingers after just a couple of weeks, even, two or three weeks, which is far better than having surgery. So it’s a great program for all those conditions, even pubic symphysis pain, as well. So it’s definitely a really great healing program.
Kristin: Sounds like it. So glad that you were thinking of doing something online before the rest of us. We just launched an online course called Becoming A Mother during the pandemic, and I feel like there are so many more online options, but you thought of this, you know, so far in advance. So it’s a beautiful resource.
Emma: Thank you, and I did see, yeah, your amazing program, too. It looks fantastic. You’re helping women in such a great way. I love that. It’s so important to give women the guidance during this time because I think so many women can feel alone and unsure of what they’re doing. So I love what you’re doing. I love your work.
Kristin: Thanks! So you have a supportive community in addition to the courses, correct?
Emma: Yeah. I actually – I have the pre- and postnatal focused programs, and I also have another program that is Pilates for women who are a little – obviously, you know, not going through the changes as pre- and postnatal, so they may be getting into more cardio style or strengthening and toning. I have that program, as well, and I do have – yeah, I’ve got a Facebook community of about – nearly, I think, 45,000 people now, which is growing and quite amazing. Yeah. I run regular challenges, and yeah, it’s quite an exciting online studio, really. I’m very proud of all my members and the clientele I’m helping around the world. It’s wonderful. It’s incredible what you can do, actually, still online. So a lot of people are getting some great results.
Hey, Alyssa here. I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming. Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between. You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood. You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more. You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most. And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls. If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at email@example.com, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com. We’d love to see you there.
Kristin: I will share that with our Becoming students and our doula clients. What a wonderful resource. So as we recently interviewed a client, and she had a successful VBAC after a Cesarean, and she really raved about the benefits of using Pilates throughout her pregnancy and how that really helped her prepare for a vaginal birth after Cesarean. So it’s great timing that I’m talking to you.
Emma: Yeah, absolutely. It’s quite powerful. And just to have that body awareness, I think, as well. You know, if you haven’t done a lot of that mind-body connection work prior to giving birth, you may not be as, I guess, as prepared as you could be. You know, once you start to go down that path of really understanding your body when you’re in the situation, which obviously you know all about – I don’t need to explain that to you, but you really are – not necessarily in control, but you have a little bit more control over your breath and mind and what you may do if you didn’t practice some of these mind-body connection practices.
Kristin: Exactly, yeah. And she is a big fan of the barre method and used that in recovery as well, and all through pregnancy. So I would love to hear what’s next for you. You’ve got so many achievements, but I’m sure you’re planning your next release into the world, whether it’s a book or a new program?
Emma: Oh, yeah. It’s true, actually. I have a lot of my clients asking me about weight loss, and I am a certified health coach, and I tend to give a lot of free advice, you know, just helping my existing clientele around that. And they keep asking me, you know, can I help them more, and it’s something that I’ve decided to put together. Not necessarily weight loss, but an inch loss program, which will be hopefully coming out this year at some point. It will really be – I don’t believe in looking at the scales. I think that’s why I wouldn’t want to call it a weight loss program, but it will be inch loss, so I think it’s a little bit more about how our clothes fit on our body as opposed to what we weigh on the scales, what the numbers are. It will be a lot around mindset. I’m quite big around being kind to ourselves, loving ourselves, and that’s all part of the journey of weight loss. I have come from a background of myself with an eating disorder when I was younger, so I know too well what it’s like to be monitoring my weight, but I feel I’m in a really good place in my life now at 47, turning 48 soon. You know, I have had fluctuations up and down, and really now I’ve really embraced my body and love it and still believe in a balanced attitude towards our diet. I believe in the 80/20 rule. We can still indulge. We can still eat the things we love. I’m a chocolate fan, and I don’t mind a wine. So I fully believe in that and not depriving ourselves because once we start to do that, that’s when we want things more. So really helping women through that journey and making lasting changes, not just following a diet for a short period and thinking that’s – they have to reduce what they eat or those sorts of things. But incorporating an exercise program alongside what the individual needs, because I think often we do – often, we over-exercise thinking we need to do that to lose weight, and often if we’re already stressed, we can be having the opposite effect. You know, if we think we have to do a lot of cardio or strenuous exercise, we’re actually putting more stress onto the body, which can often have the opposite effect, and we can hold on to weight. And there’s a lot of reasons behind that. You may have already heard all of those, but it’s driven by hormones. The stress hormone is called cortisol, which is released when we’re stressed, and so that can tend to cause us to hold on to weight. So that’s sort of the program I’ll be putting together – hopefully, it will be coming out this year, which will help a lot of women, both postpartum and everyone, I think.
Kristin: Yeah, everyone can benefit. And as you mentioned, the hormone changes, and even women entering perimenopause or in menopause are struggling with some of the weight gain issues there.
Emma: Absolutely, yes. I’m actually in that phase myself, and certainly feeling and noticing the changes. The energy levels change, as well. So you really have to adapt to what your body is asking for. I believe in that. I teach that a lot to my clients, to really listen to their body, not to force things. Obviously, you need to know the difference between when you’re just being – thinking you can’t be bothered to do anything, and yet you could find the energy for it, or whether you really are exhausted and you don’t have the energy and you’re pushing yourself if you do do it. So I think it’s important that we learn the difference and start to really listen to our body and what it needs.
Kristin: Beautiful, yes. So what tips do you have for women who are going through so many transitions, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four? You had talked earlier about that mental preparation. What mindset tips do you have for our listeners?
Emma: I love to help my clients to visualize the birth that they want to have, which you probably teach a lot of, I’m sure, to your clients.
Emma: Yeah, I thought so. So we’re coming from definitely the same page there. You know, I teach yoga and Pilates, and you know I like to have the ladies focus a lot on their breathing, which obviously would come into the doula focus, as well, I’m sure, and to really visualize and stay focused on the birth they want, but obviously, at the same time, things don’t always go to plan but to really embrace and be kind to themselves no matter what happens, you know, during the birthing process. So for me, that’s a really big one. And I try to support my clients in probably a fairly gentle approach. I still give them some good workouts, but I also make sure that they get the relaxation part, as well. I find that’s really important. I think many women these days tend to probably do a lot, and they don’t realize they’re doing a lot, so to give them a few moments in class, even if it’s at the end of class, five, ten minutes of focusing on relaxation, breathing, mindset. It’s sometimes the only moment they get during the day, so I like to always incorporate that.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And we focus so much during pregnancy on connecting with baby and taking that time. I feel like self-care can be an overused term, but it’s also so important, and after having baby, for women to feel like themselves again, like a whole person, versus being in this new role as a parent or being a parent all over again, to take that intentional time for themselves is key. So the fact that your program offers this break, it’s not just the fitness aspect of it.
Emma: Yeah, it incorporates all of that. And I do a lot of work with the women on the fit ball, as well, so I find – I teach them how to use the fit ball during labor, also, which I’m not sure if you go into that, as well, but I’m sure you probably would touch on that. So that’s a focus I also bring into class, teaching them how to use it during the session so it becomes second nature so they know what to do and it doesn’t feel foreign to them during labor if they do decide to use the fit ball. They know all the moves and have been practicing it weekly. So we incorporate it for core strength when they’re in the prenatal phase but also some of the moves for labor.
Kristin: Love it. Any final tips for our listeners on any of the subjects that we covered?
Emma: I think one thing that I do really try and emphasize, I guess, is – a lot of women don’t sort of think about it when they first get pregnant, but I like to teach the women in their first trimester about the postpartum recovery because in the first trimester, you’re still feeling the connection of the abdominals. You still have your body, technically, prior to it changing, if you like. Your current connections of abdominal muscles, and that starts to change as you get further along in the pregnancy. So I love to teach the women what to look out for and what to feel in the postpartum recovery in the first trimester. So it’s really quite an easy or easier, I should say, transition into postpartum recovery. You already know the feelings so that you know what you’re looking for because it can be different to find that once you’ve given birth to find that connection back to the abdominal area. So having that reference before in the prenatal time, especially if it’s new; if Pilates is new to you, or this style that I teach is new, I find that’s a really beneficial way to go through stuff and it can make it an easier transition.
Kristin: There are so many things. I love that you’re doing that education for postnatal recovery during pregnancy. Like you said, there can be surprises, and you don’t really feel like friends or even providers are talking about some of the things to look out for. A lot of our clients talk about that cramping after delivery and the difference between baby one and baby three and how you might feel in recovery.
Emma: So true. And a lot of women also have Cesareans, so that can take a little bit longer to recover, also. Knowing what you have felt at the beginning, it’s good to have that reference point. The training that I teach, as well, is really great for Cesarean because it’s not a normal Pilates. It’s a deeper connection, and it’s interesting because a lot of my clients who come from my Pilates membership, the online membership – I call it the Core Fit Club – they’re doing sort of more of a fitness style of Pilates, but some of them have tried my Core Restore program, which is the postpartum program, and they find a whole new connection. So even women who haven’t had children or had children many years ago, they come back to this program even though they’re fit and strong, and they still find new connections and new awareness. So it’s quite powerful and quite an interesting technique that I teach in that respect.
Kristin: Love it. So how can our listeners connect with you? I know you’re on social. You’ve got a website. So if you’d share the best ways to connect with your program or you directly?
Emma: Thank you, yeah. So if any of your listeners are interested in the postpartum program, that’s the Core Restore Program. My normal website keeps all of the information, as well. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook at epilatesonline. All the information can be found there. I do have a free five-day kind of like an intro to the course or program there, which is my five day core awareness challenge for new moms or anyone wanting to strengthen their pelvic floor. That’s available free, and I do have a Pilates pack for free, also, that can be found on my website. And I do offer the prenatal Pilates, so that option is there, as well.
Kristin: And then you mentioned you have a Facebook group?
Emma: Yeah, that is – it’s a different section, but it can be found on my website, as well. Usually, people join that when they’ve joined some of the programs or at least the free program.
Kristin: Love it. Well, thank you so much for your time and sharing your wisdom, Emma. It was a pleasure.
Emma: Thank you, I really appreciate it, Kristin.
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