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On Moms, Backs, and Babes

by: Elaine Ewing

I am a mom of a toddler, and I have been teaching Pilates for 12 years. Before I had my daughter, I thought I could teach a ‘Mama with Baby’ Pilates class. Now that I have her, I understand so much more clearly what new moms need.

Here are some of those things:

1. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding is a time where moms and babies share a special, beautiful bond. But until I became a mom I didn’t realize how much neck and upper back tension is created by the simple position of sitting and feeding a baby! A new mom spends a lot of time sitting and feeding with the baby’s weight pulling her neck and shoulders forward. Moms need to stretch the front of their shoulders and lengthen their spines to find relief.

2. Babies are so little, yet feel so heavy. Moms are constantly picking up babies and putting them down. To prevent low back strain, they need to build core abdominal strength to support the back. They also need to learn more effective methods of using the whole body to pick the baby up, such as squatting rather than bending down.

3. Even months after delivery, a new mom’s body is so different! Sometimes it feels almost impossible to contract the abdominal muscles at all. To build strength in the whole body that will truly last, a new mom has to begin an exercise practice such as Pilates slowly and precisely.

4. Building arm strength and learning correct posture for the upper body is incredibly important during and after pregnancy. Babies like to be held and carried in all kinds of positions, and the arms need to be strong and ready, or else the lower back will take the brunt of the work. Before I had my daughter I had absolutely no idea how much work it was to carry a baby around, or how often I would be doing it.

5. Being a new mom can be stressful and really try your patience. Deep breathing and learning how to take full, complete breaths into the upper back can really release tension and relax a new mom through those midnight diaper changes and 3 am feedings.

And here are some ways my Pilates training helped me personally during this time:

1. I have never had a lower backache. That’s very unusual. I credit it to my Pilates practice. My body knows how to lift my daughter, carry her, hold her up, and get down on the floor with her—all using my core muscles and correct posture instead of my lower back.

2. Practicing countless squats and lunges helps me tremendously. By strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, and having proper spinal alignment, I can move through the day with my daughter without muscle strain.

3. Every exercise in Pilates focuses on using core muscles to initiate a movement. This translates perfectly to motherhood. Every up and down, side to side, and back and forth movement I do with my daughter is initiated from my core. This core strength gives me the endurance I need to get through the day, and be prepared for the possibility of being up all night.

Three things students in my class have taught me:

1. That I’m not alone. Of course we all know that we are never truly alone, but it’s comforting to spend time with other new moms and realize I’m not the only one with insecurities about my new “mom-body,”and that other women also find these exercises and stretches so beneficial.

2. That I can be vulnerable. When I started teaching this class over a year ago, it was the first time I had ever taught a ‘Mama with Baby’ Pilates class. I was worried the class wouldn’t be hard enough, babies would start crying, someone would get injured… basically, I was worried that the class wouldn’t be perfect. As it turns out, the class isn’t perfect. But that’s what makes it so great. We can all be moms in this class. Babies sometimes cry. Sometimes we have to get up, stop exercising, and feed the baby. Sometimes my daughter wants me to hold her hand throughout the entire class!These women taught me that I can be a mom as well as teach Pilates. Their warmth, kindness, and gratitude is much more valuable than teaching a perfect class.

3. The moms in my class have taught me that even on days when it seems so hard, I can get out the door, make time for myself, and include my daughter in it. On cold winter mornings, they come to class with the baby all bundled up. On days when their baby has skipped naptime, they come anyway. If the baby is teething and cranky, they come. These women realize how important their time in class is, not just physically but mentally. They are such an inspiration to me! If they can do it, I can do it. Thanks to their example, I have brought my daughter to many new places where we’ve had fun experiences together.


Elaine Ewing is the owner of Rhinebeck Pilates, a classical pilates studio located in historic Rhinebeck, NY, about 1.5 hrs north of NYC. Her studio is fully equipped with Gratz apparatus and a team of five teachers. This year the studio is celebrating 10 years of business. Rhinebeck Pilates also hosts many continuing education workshops for teachers throughout the year.

Elaine began practicing pilates to suppliement her yoga in 1998 while living in New York City as an art student at the School of Visual Arts. She has since become a fully certified pilates instructor through the Ellie Herman certification program, taught by Erica Essner and Jessie Zalla in NYC. Since then, she has studied and practiced pilates extensively through workshops and classes taught by master teachers Bob Liekens, Shari Berkowitz, Ellie Herman, and Juliet Harvey, (to name a few), as well as attended many pilates conventions, continuing education seminars, and the renowned FAMI workshop in NYC.

Elaine’s style of teaching is not only influenced by her studies with pilates teachers, it is also heavily influenced by the Alexander Technique, which she has practiced extensively for eight years, as well as yoga.

Prior to owning Rhinebeck Pilates, Elaine taught at various studios in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Hamptons, and the Hudson Valley. When she is not teaching or doing pilates, Elaine enjoys running, hiking, and gardening. Besides staying active, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two kids, and their dog, Oscar. For more information about Elaine Ewing or pilates, visit her personal site and blog HeadsUpOnYourBody.com.


Posted on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 10:02AM by Registered CommenterPilates-Pro in , | CommentsPost a Comment

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