How Pilates Can Support Your Changing Body Throughout Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a lot – your whole body changes dramatically over the course of nine months in preparation to bring a tiny human into this world, and even when you know your body is going to change, it’s still strange to experience it firsthand.

It can be exhausting, physically taxing, and a little weird.

When it comes to the pregnancy process, there are a number of things you can do to feel at home in a constantly changing body. Pilates specifically is a fantastic exercise to support your body with low-impact training that can be modified throughout your pregnancy.

A regular Pilates routine during your pregnancy can:

  • Minimize aches and pains (we’re looking at you, lower back pain)
  • Strengthen your body in preparation for birth
  • Help you practice deep breathing for the birthing process
  • Help you feel good in your body, regardless of the completely normal aesthetic changes that happen when your body is supporting a whole other person.

At the end of the day, it’s about helping you prepare your body, while also helping you feel at home in your body, too.

Note: Every pregnancy is different – even healthy pregnancies. Consult with your prenatal healthcare professional to discuss what exercise programs are healthy and safe for your body.

How Pilates can support a pregnant body

First, it’s important to emphasize that multiple studies have found that physical exercise in general carries minimal risk during a healthy pregnancy.

Pilates specifically has been found to minimize many pregnancy-related aches and pains while improving the birthing process and postpartum recovery period.

During pregnancy

Throughout your pregnancy, Pilates can provide a ton of benefits to strengthen your body and minimize pressure on your legs, back, and shoulders. A regular pilates routine can:

  • Improve posture. During pregnancy, your shoulders typically pull forward to help carry the extra weight in your body, By opening the chest and keeping the neck aligned with the spine, you can release tension from your shoulders, neck and upper back.
  • Prevent and minimize lower back pain. Lower back pain is incredibly common during pregnancy. Due to the changes in your body’s distribution of weight, your lower back can take on a disproportionate amount of pressure. Pilates will help you build strength in the low spine and obliques safely to support your lower back and mitigate pain.
  • Help you sleep better. A randomized control study found that regular Pilates resulted in significant improvements in sleep quality and an overall reduction of sleep problems for pregnant practitioners.
  • Calm your nervous system. When you’re pregnant, your body experiences increased blood volume, heart rate, and cardiac output, which can cause you to feel short of breath. Pilates breathing helps calm the nervous system, which can lower blood pressure and the probability of preeclampsia, as well as general stress levels.

During childbirth

Giving birth is like running a marathon. Pilates is like the cross-training you do to prepare for a marathon. By practicing Pilates regularly leading up to your due date, you can:

  • Increase body awareness and control: Pilates requires a degree of control over your body, which can help you mentally and physically prepare for childbirth.
  • Lower rates of episiotomies and C-sections during the birthing process.
  • Help you breathe better: The deep breathing techniques emphasized in our classes is similar to the Lamaze breathing emphasized during childbirth, which can enhance relaxation and decrease the perception of pain.
  • Strengthens your pelvic floor: Studies show that Pilates can significantly strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce labor pain intensity.
  • Shorten the labor period: Regular pilates exercise reduces “the length of the active phase and second stage of labor and increases maternal satisfaction of the labor process.”


There is always going to be a recovery period following childbirth. From your hormones and emotions to physical changes in your body, everything is all over the place.

That said, studies show that Pilates during and after a pregnancy aid postpartum recovery for your pelvic floor and core muscles, and can also reduce postpartum mental and physical fatigue.

As always, consult with your doctor to discuss the right exercises for your body postpartum.

Incorporating pilates into my most recent pregnancy made all the difference in the world! I had less joint pain, was able to stay much more active (which is completely necessary with 2 toddlers at home!), and felt this was overall, the quickest recovery out of my 3 pregnancies. Both practicing and teaching Pilates while pregnant made me feel strong and more confident. – Jillian D., RTR Instructor

How to modify Pilates throughout your body

As your body changes throughout pregnancy, you can adjust your Pilates exercises to support your body and respect its limits.

No matter where you are in your pregnancy, if something hurts, feels uncomfortable, or causes you to become lightheaded, stop the exercise in question. Now is the time to listen and be kind to your body (and ask instructors for help if you need it!).

Otherwise, we suggest a few general guidelines to support your Pilates routine during pregnancy:

  • Up until 20 weeks and with a doctor’s permission, there are typically no modifications needed, and you are free to partake in all aspects of the class
  • Somewhere between the end of your first trimester and after 20 weeks, it’s encouraged to stop lying on the stomach.
  • We encourage pregnant clients to keep their hips below their rib cage to avoid inversions, so as to keep the baby below your heart.
  • The heavier the baby, the harder it is to maintain circulation, so as you progress during your pregnancy you will want to avoid laying on your back.
  • The top layer of your abs becomes distended during pregnancy, and we want to avoid working against the way your body wants to grow. So rather than straightforward crunches, pregnant practitioners can focus on building obliques and transverse abs through diagonal crunches and planking.

Your third trimester

As your pregnancy progresses, it’s important to be aware of your limits, and to meet your body where it is. We generally recommend that pregnant clients stick to level 1 and level 1+ classes.

Additionally, towards the last 4-6 weeks of your pregnancy, we encourage clients to avoid pushing to edge of a stretching exercise. As your body prepares for birth, it releases a host of hormones that cause your body to become extra flexible. As a result, you may not be aware of your body’s normal limitations, so we advise cautious stretching.

Exercises we love for pregnant bodies (from personal experience)

As our clients and instructors practice Pilates through their pregnancies, here are a few of the exercises they LOVED (and we think you’ll love them too)!

  • Side lying: exercises on your side will naturally feel amazing during pregnancy. Our side lying series releases the lower back and hamstrings, all while strengthening the glutes. Additionally, it can feel like a very supportive position for your growing baby.
  • Planks: planks are a great way to engage all of your abs, pulling them in to your core. One client said it felt like they were hugging their baby, which we absolutely love and agree with.

Pregnant or not, I love teaching side lying. Working the glutes (inner and outer) helped relieve some of the lower back pain and pressure associated with pregnancy and the positioning is safe for woman at any stage during pregnancy. Forward seated arm work is another favorite, and strong arms are a must when that newborn wants to be held 24/7! An articulated bridge was my go-to stretch for my lower stiffness. By tucking the pelvis and lifting one vertebra at a time I was able to decompress the pressure associated with pregnancy. This is safe throughout pregnancy in moderation. – Jillian D., RTR instructor

Work with your instructor to tailor classes to your needs

Most of our classes can be modified to support a pregnant body. In order to experience a safe, effective workout, discuss your concerns with instructors before class and review any necessary modifications to protect you and your baby.

Experience the power of Pilates today!

As you navigate your pregnancy, it’s important to find the activities that help you feel comfortable in your changing body, as well as mentally and physically prepared for the marathon of childbirth.

Whether you’re looking to reduce labor pain, sleep better, get rid of lower back pain, or just feel more at home in your body, Pilates is a great exercise to add to your fitness routine.

Join our community at RTR Pilates and see the results for yourself! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.


Pilates for Neck Pain: Exercises that Support and Protect the Spine

Neck pain is a common issue that can stem from any number of causes. From sleep, stress, or posture, there are a wide variety of culprits.

Luckily, depending on the cause – and with a doctor’s approval – Pilates can help prevent and alleviate neck pain, so you can return to feeling your best.

Instructor modifications

If you are experiencing neck pain and are interested in taking a Pilates class, you definitely can. Again, this depends on the source of the issue, i.e. if it’s from sleeping poorly or some sort of injury. If you experience moderate or severe neck pain or have any concerns, we always recommend consulting with a doctor and following their recommendations.

If you have light to moderate neck pain and limited range of motion from the daily wear and tear of life, then Pilates could be a great way to alleviate symptoms and prevent further aches and pains.

If you come to a class with any sort of injury or pain, it’s important to discuss these issues with the instructor before class.

Our instructors are trained to modify exercises for anyone who needs it, but they can’t help you if they don’t know about it! So always discuss any limitations with instructors before class. They’ll help you modify exercises to protect your body, while still providing you with a great workout.

“If a client comes to me with neck pain, I usually recommend lighter weights for arm work and a decreased range of motion (hands stay below shoulders). I advise against crunches while we focus on the client’s core getting stronger to avoid any neck straining. I’ll also pay closer attention to the client’s form throughout class, making sure their shoulders stay relaxed and away from the ears and find proper core engagement. Most importantly, I encourage clients to listen to their bodies and to take breaks!” – Alex G.M., RTR instructor

How Pilates can alleviate neck pain

Increased tension and fatigue on the neck and shoulder muscles can happen for several reasons, but we are seeing an increasing number of issues related to the neck due to poor posture and hunching over computer screens. Working a desk job, in addition to being stressful, can create a number of posture-related issues.

Neck pain can also lead to shoulder pain, tight muscles, and headaches. That said, multiple studies have found that regular Pilates exercises can significantly decrease neck pain in a relatively short period of time.

Strengthening the muscles that support an upright and aligned posture can promote improved spinal stability, which decreases neck tension and pain.

Supporting the spine

Pilates focuses on building core strength, flexibility, and stability in the body. By strengthening the core, lower back, pelvis, and glutes, a regular Pilates routine can build foundational muscle groups that are instrumental in supporting the spine. Over time, these exercises can improve posture and alignment and decrease neck pain.

Posture and alignment

Your abs and back muscles work together to support your spine and neck. If these muscles are underdeveloped, then your neck and scapula take on additional pressure, which can make it difficult to experience a full range of motion without pain.

In reformer Pilates, we target the muscles in the neck and upper back that help keep your spine upright, which can improve posture. We help bring the spine back to its natural, neutral position, with your head and neck in line with your shoulders.

I’d say the most common complaints we have from clients are neck and low back pain. Most clients note that they see significant improvements once their cores and backs get stronger and they stretch out their chest muscles.” – Alex G.M., RTR Instructor

Breath work

Many people experiencing neck pain hold increased tension in their bodies. Pilates’ focus on deep breathing promotes healthy habits that release unwanted tension around the neck.

Stress release

Neck pain is often the result of significant stress. In general, a regular exercise routine decreases stress and anxiety to improve overall mood and well-being. Pilates specifically is great for stress release because of the focus on centered alignment, breathing, and control over the body. These moments of stillness and inward focus promote stress relief that will follow you outside the studio and into your daily life.

If you experience neck pain during class

Always let an instructor know if you are experiencing pain in your neck during class. They can evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain.

Similarly, it’s important to let your instructor know if you are new to Pilates. They can help keep an eye on your form in order to provide additional instructions as necessary, so you can get the most out of your workout and prevent injuries.

Remember: our instructors are here to help you get the most out of your time in our class. If you have any questions, ask!

Start reducing your neck pain today

Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the power of Pilates firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.


Pilates for Skiing: How to Train Off the Slopes for Your Best Ski Season Yet

Pilates is a great way to cross-train for almost any sport. As an efficient, whole-body workout focused on strength, flexibility, and balance, it’s the perfect compliment to a well-rounded exercise routine. For many of us this winter, that means hitting the slopes!

Whether you’re focused on injury prevention or beating your PR on that black diamond, regular Pilates can help you reach your goals this ski season.

Your body on the slopes

Skiing is a full-body workout that tests your mobility, flexibility, core strength, balance, and control (not to mention – it’s a fantastic leg workout). It can also put your body to the test, and push you to your limits. It’s physically demanding, and particularly injury-prone as a sport.

Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding work most of the major muscle groups, with particular pressure on the back, abs, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as the knee and ankle joints.

Common injuries during ski season include knee and ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations, fractured wrists, and spinal injuries. Obviously, wearing proper equipment (especially a helmet) are critical components of injury prevention. But many of these injuries are caused by overextension, and improper form.

Prepare your body before you hit the slopes to improve performance and avoid injuries and falls. Regular Pilates practice in the weeks before a ski vacation can improve your form, muscle control, and overall performance, while decreasing the risk of injury.*

*You should 100% still wear a helmet at all times. Please.

“Pilates is a great exercise for skiers! Through spine strengthening exercises as well as ab/oblique exercises, your body can more easily transfer force from the lower limbs to create better movement and rotation in the torso, without putting too much pressure on one joint.” – RTR Instructor Gina D.

Mobility and flexibility

A wide range of motion for the spine, hip, and ankle are essential for skiing and snowboarding. This need for mobility and flexibility is critical for your form on the slopes, and it’s not a static ability.

Our reformer Pilates classes focus on moving from the core and using abdominals to stabilize the spine. This focus on spinal rotation helps our students maneuver on skis, while balance disk exercises imitate the transfer of weight you’ll need to race down the slopes.

A stable, mobile spine will help skiers avoid the stress and fatigue that comes from a long day on the mountain, while spinal rotation emphasizes the correct form to pivot during turns.

Plus, a mobile and flexible body has another advantage: it can protect you from injury if (and let’s be honest, when) you do fall. A good range of motion will help you recover if you fall, or if you twist suddenly to avoid another skier.

Building strength = more time on the mountain

Pilates is a great way for skiers to strengthen their abdominals, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings, all essential components of your form.

A strong and stable core is absolutely vital for a skier’s endurance because when you ski, your core needs to stay relatively still, with the majority of movement concentrated in the legs. Unnecessary upper body movement can hinder form, which consumes unnecessary energy and makes you more injury-prone.

For all that lower-body movement, Pilates exercises like bridging will build strength in the glutes and hamstrings. Because the classic ski squat stance puts so much pressure on the quads, our lower muscle groups can become unbalanced and more injury-prone, especially in our hamstrings. Pilates exercises will strengthen the hamstrings to balance the body, protecting your knees and the surrounding muscle groups.

Overall, skiing can put disproportionate pressure on one side of the body on your dominant side, putting your body off-balance and under-developing critical muscle groups. Pilates’ single leg work exercises help even out your muscle development, so both sides of your body are equally strong and capable.

Legwork & Footwork

In our Pilates classes, we often focus on exercises in parallel, external, and internal rotations, all of which help build strength in the muscles supporting the ankles, knees, and hips. These exercises improve mobility, so you can move your body with confidence.

Footwork is another critical Pilates component for skiers of all skill levels. Footwork will strengthen your feet and ankles, and ensure that you use your entire foot while skiing, not just one part. The foot is the foundation of all movement, so the stronger and more balanced you are in the foot, the more that balance and control will extend through all other movements.

Good Pilates exercises for skiers will help with alignment, strengthening the core, and improving flexibility. Some great moves include footwork, bridging, short box abs, side box abs, long stretch, feet in straps- focusing on the hamstrings, adductor stretches, and piriformis stretching. – RTR Instructor Gina D.

Perfecting your form

Proper alignment and form are so important for skiing. Knees should be aligned correctly with ankles and feet for stability and injury prevention, while all those side-to-side hip movements need some seriously strong lateral muscles and control.

Again, Pilates is a perfect way to increase your ability and awareness to control your body movements. Pilates improves alignment from head to toe and fosters an awareness of the body that will improve your performance as a skier.

See the results for yourself

Sign up for RTR Pilates and experience the results for yourself – on and off the slopes! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.