Pregnancy pilates With Erika Charters

Pregnant, keen to exercise, but no time for a class and not sure what’s safe? Erika is here to help, offering two pregnancy pilates exercises for each trimester – that you can do at home…

Erika Charters co-runs Day Retreats London – one-day courses including yoga, pilates, breath-work, meditation and healthy food. Today, she shares two pilates exercises for each trimester

“You can do pilates the whole way through pregnancy, unlike yoga. If you’ve been doing it for a long time, you can continue almost as normal in the first trimester, as long as the doctor has given you the ok.

In the second trimester, we take out a lot of the abdominal work – that’s crunching, as it shortens front muscles… they want to be stretching and expanding. Also, you can no longer lie on your back.

Long lever work – so when you’re stretching your legs out – can be intense on the abdominals and cause back pain so you’ll need to start bending your legs. Lastly, take out any lunging – and anything else with wide legs – as it can cause pelvic girdle pain.

Doing pilates is a really nice way for the mum to connect with her growing baby. It’s about relaxing as well as exercising. At the end of the pregnancy it’s actually really important to calm the mind as well as the body. This should help the birth.

Breathing is great for relaxing the mind. You should inhale as you pull up the pelvic floor then exhale to relax – this opens you up for the birth. Post birth – breathing will be the opposite.

With the pilates plank, it’s ok to continue with this throughout pregnancy, but it shouldn’t be held for too long, as it puts too much pressure on the heart. Take breaks, or move slightly – back and forth.

Any twisting needs to be opening up, going outwards, so as not to crush the baby. And as you won’t be able to lie on your stomach, back bending is limited to just slight bends when kneeling or standing.

As always, communication is key. Something might be fine for one pregnant woman, while another feels uncomfortable with it. If anything feels wrong, don’t do it. And if you’re in a class, talk to your teacher about it.”

Here are some exercises to try at home.

For the first trimester:

  1. Side bend

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Exhale through the mouth as you lift your arm over your head, lifting the lower hip off the mat and stretching out your upper arm. Inhale as you stretch the arm up to the sky then bring it back down, also lowering the hip. This will work your obliques; the muscles down your side. Repeat five times.


2. Shoulder bridge

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Inhale to prepare, exhale to tilt pelvis back and roll all the way up to the base of your shoulder blades, taking your arms over head at same time. Inhale at the top – into the side of the ribcage – and exhale through mouth, rolling down from top of spine to base, bringing arms down with you.


For the second trimester:

1. Swimming prep

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Begin on all fours – hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Exhale as you stretch out opposite arm and leg, extending leg to hip height, hold for five, inhale to place them back down. Exhale and move into position to repeat on the other side. Keep both hands down if you feel unstable lifting your arms. Repeat five times on both sides.


2. Four point kneeling tricep press-up

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On all fours, inhale to bend elbows, lowering chest towards mat, keeping arms close to waist. Stop when you get half way and exhale to stretch arms out but be mindful not to lock elbows. Repeat 10 times.


Third trimester:

  1. Clam

pregnancy pilates - exercises to try at home - theearlyhour.comBring knees hip height and shins parallel to mat. Exhale to lift top knee towards the sky, keeping top hip inline with bottom hip, finding natural external rotation in hip. Inhale to close top knee. Repeat 10 times.


  1. Side-lying leg circles

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Reach top leg out, inline with hip. There’s an option to bend the top knee. Eight small circles with the top leg – exhaling with each one –  in one direction, inhale, eight small circles in the opposite direction. Repeat with the other leg.

Day Retreats London
Instagram: @dayretreats
With Erika

If you’re interested in postnatal yoga, check out Leyla Rees’ five exercises to try at home