When you become pregnant, literal balance becomes an issue. Pilates can both offset this physical imbalance and prevent injuries because of it. When women become pregnant, they typically gain an additional 25 percent to 30 percent of their usual weight. Unlike a normal weight gain, where those extra pounds would be spread fairly evenly throughout your body, weight gain during pregnancy is all in your belly. This in itself throws off your balance a great deal. In addition to upsetting your balance, the weight gain means a greater threat of injury.
When you increase in size and weight in your abdomen, you have a tendency to sway your lower back, and this causes discomfort and in extreme cases constant pain or even injury. If you injure your lower back, how will you get relief? Your doctor will not give you an injection or prescribe drugs for your pain. Alternative medicine will also be limited. What chiropractor will work on a pregnant woman? Your pregnancy limits what a physical therapist can do for you. You are essentially left to your own devices. Pilates will allow you to elongate the spine and to strengthen your abdominal muscles. The strengthened abdominal muscles, dubbed “the girdle of strength” by Joseph Pilates, will improve your posture, allow the spine to straighten, and dramatically offset your imbalance due to your added frontal weight.
In addition to affecting your physical balance, your pregnancy is also causing an imbalance of hormones. While this hormone is at work, its effects are compounded by a decrease in testosterone and an increase in estrogen. Nature intends for you to slow down when you are pregnant. The natural increase in cortisol increases our fear or tentativeness in movement. We are chemically placed in a protective mode. We become uncomfortable around strangers, among crowds, and in unfamiliar places. Testosterone is a major player in hand-eye coordination as well as balance. Even before pregnancy, women have lower levels of testosterone than men do (which may explain the number of women who walk the high wire or drive race cars), but when they become pregnant their testosterone levels decrease even further. So in addition to becoming more protective and tentative, pregnant women have a diminished capacity for balance. The result is that each step they take is unsure or feels unnatural, and they have a greater possibility of bringing harm to themselves and to their unborn children. When men fall, they have the innate ability to break their fall with their hands, but when women fall, they tend to land like logs.
Obviously, falling during pregnancy can be problematic. When you do Pilates, however, not only does your cortisol level drop significantly, but there is also a notable rise in your testosterone level. By raising your testosterone levels and decreasing your cortisol level, you will become much more confident in your movement, you will have better balance, and you will both eliminate the sensation of being ungainly and lower your propensity for injury.
Another level of balance, a figurative definition, refers to a big-picture notion of our lives as a whole. If this is your first child, you will be amazed at how much in your life will need balancing over the coming months and years. You will have to balance the immediate needs of your child and your own needs. You will have to balance time between what you normally do and the additional tasks you need to perform as a parent. Soon you will need to balance time between your child and your mate. After a while you may have to balance time between work and your family. You have to balance your energy between those you love and the things you love to do.