Barre-Bump

7 reasons to bring your bump to the barre

By Melanie Dimmitt

Your body takes on a life of its own when you’re pregnant (it does, after all, take on a new life) and doles out a host of surprises – wonderful, uncomfortable and just plain weird – to expectant mothers along the way. So in the spirit of taking back a little control, centring and strengthening your changing body, and perhaps even helping with a smoother delivery and speedier recovery, we’d suggest you join us at the barre. “It’s a really beautiful, loving and nurturing environment for pregnant ladies,” says Melissa Chivers, who, like all of the teachers at Barre Body, has done workshops on how to keep pregnant ladies safe and feeling good in class.

Here she takes us through some of the benefits…

  1. IT’S LOW-IMPACT

Barre is one of the safest exercises you can do during pregnancy because it works around what Mel calls “low-impact, closed-kinetic chains”, meaning you can keep both feet planted to the ground the whole time. It’s also not stressful on the body, as the movements tend to be taken slowly and with control. “It gives you an opportunity to really focus on where your body is in space,” says Mel, “and that’s the most important thing for pregnant women – to make sure that they know where they are in space to make sure they’re always in a neutral spine and neutral pelvis so that they’re not putting extra strain through their bodies.”

  1. IT WORKS YOUR PELVIC FLOOR

‘Kegels’ is a word you’ll hear a lot once you’re sporting a sizable bump – and with good reason. Kegel exercises engage and strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles and may even lead to a shorter labour and post-birth recovery. The good news is, if you’re at the barre, you’re already doing them. “We try to encourage pregnant women to release and let go of the pelvic floor muscle, but also contract and lift,” says Mel. “It’s important to know where your pelvic floor is and how to lift up for Kegel, but also to realise and relax the muscle as well, because it is constantly straining with the weight of a growing baby.”

  1. IT HELPS YOU BREATHE

We’ve all seen the movies. Rhythmic breathing gets many a woman through to her final push, and “connecting into your breath,” says Mel, “is such good preparation for labour. Knowing how to deepen your breath and keep breathing through the thigh exercises can be really helpful, too.” All forms of Barre Body classes will help you here, and Mel recommends Barre Body, Barre Tone, Barre Moves and Barre Yin, in particular, “if you feel like you just want to breathe, connect to your body and connect to your baby.”

  1. IT’S A STRESS RELIEVER

Stress in early parenthood is inevitable, but in pregnancy it should be avoided – particularly in the first trimester (recent research links stress to a greater risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in babies). “Having a space where you find stress relief in your life is super important, particularly if you want to conceive or are pregnant,” says Mel. “So find that thing, whatever it is – your soul food – that place that just makes your whole body chill out and your mind Zen out.”

  1. EVERY MOVE CAN BE MODIFIED

Your teacher will take you through the specifics around modifications as your bub grows, and as a general rule you’ll want to avoid forward flexion (“lying down on your back and curling up into abdominal work”) and closed twists both during and soon after pregnancy. Mel’s absolute go-to modification is what’s known as the ‘Superman’ pose – “a four-point kneel, extending an opposite arm and leg out, because it works the posterior chain of the body to give you that support through your back for the growing front.” She’s also partial to push-ups on the barre and rolling on to your side for some clams – “side-lying, lifting a leg.”

  1. IT STRENGTHENS YOUR CORE (EVEN WITHOUT CRUNCHES)

“You want to be working your core throughout the entire class, from conception all the way through to full term,” says Mel, referring to the deep muscles that wrap around and stabilise our spine – not those superficial six-pack abs (you’ll be giving them a rest at this point). “Having a healthy core is so, so beneficial and that’s what you work in every single exercise in Barre – so you’ll always have that strong base and foundation. Even in plank work you’re still working all of those layers of the abdominals.”

  1. YOU SET THE PACE

For devotees to first-timers and everyone in between, barre is beautifully suited to pregnancy as it puts you in control. “It’s so good to be in class – to be moving your body, to be strengthening in the areas that are going to really support you throughout the pregnancy, throughout labour, throughout post-pregnancy, but there’s no point in pushing yourself,” says Mel, who mentions that there are some great pre-natal and post-natal instructional videos on the Barre Body online studio, and a one-on-one pre-natal service is available, too. “Your body will always tell you what it needs and what you need to do. So be okay with modifying things and just loosen up and let yourself have some fun with it.”

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