In March 2013 I was about four months into my pregnancy and teaching GYROTONIC® sessions at Triyoga. As I followed my changing body with an observational eye I was invited to write a blog on the benefits of practicing GYROTONIC® exrecise while being pregnant.
Three years later I am re-publishing an edited version of the article here in the hope it will be useful to currently pregnant women who may be looking for a gentle form of exercise.
I recently found out that I am expecting a baby and as a GYROTONIC® practitioner and instructor I am discovering how welcoming the system’s exercises are in relation to my changing pregnant body.
There are a few basic principles of the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® that I find particularly beneficial to pregnancy.
The first is the principle of ‘Narrowing’ which refers to an internal action that lengthens the spine lifting the pelvic region and by so doing creates greater space for the baby and provides support to the womb
This principle is linked to the idea of creating stabilisation through contrast which translates into finding the right balance between expanding our bodies and pulling in toward the centre or the core of the body. This creates a mobile stability as opposed to a fixed stability, a kind of jelly fish action which, incidentally is an image I have been told to be useful to visualise during labour.
During pregnancy, the increasing weight of the baby can easily make women assume a posture that compresses the body’s joints, particularly in the lower back and in the legs.
In GYROTONIC® exercises it is important to create and maintain space in the joints of the body. One way of creating this space is through the opposition of forces described in the narrowing above.
In a GYROTONIC® sessions we generally follow series of exercises that are categorised as Arch and Curl, Hamstring series, Upper Body, Openings and others. In the Hamstrings series for instance we encourage a scooping action of the leg that helps to keep the hips, and the knees free from compression. After a GYROTONIC® session my lower back feels lengthened and my legs lighter and having more spring when walking , this because GYROTONIC® exercises decompress joints to allow their maximum range of movement.
The second aspect of GYROTONIC® exercise that I find beneficial to my current pregnant state is the breathing. Breathing patterns in GYROTONIC® practice are influenced and based on Yoga Breathing (Pranayama). Early on in my pregnancy I came across the book ‘Mother’s Breath’ by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli where yoga breathing patterns are explained in detail to prepare the mind to relax in labour in order to let the body do its workings. Practicing GYROTONIC® breathing patterns while exercising can help with encouraging relaxation in labour.
As a pregnant woman I have noticed quite quickly how the increased blood supply has impacted on my body. The breathlessness comes more easily when I am walking and my legs also feel more tired than usual. GYROTONIC® exercises when executed with deep breathing and fluidity encourage cardiovascular activity which helps blood circulation. This helps to ensure a healthy circulation, particularly in the legs, which can struggle to pump the blood back up when holding the extra weight. A healthy circulation prevents the emergence of varicose veins and leg cramps.
Lastly, one of the main movements in GYROTONIC® sessions is the Arch and Curl, a fundamental movement of the system that is usually encouraged at the beginning of a session. This action integrates a rocking motion of the spine which encourages mobility in the pelvic region, also facilitating the natural movements of the baby inside the womb and encouraging its best positioning for childbirth.
In an ante-natal class taught by Lolly Stirk at Triyoga she spoke of embracing the baby in curving the spine which I found a beautiful and appropriate image even for a GYROTONIC® curl. An embrace is supportive, and that is also true in GYROTONIC® exercise where we think of an (embracing), scooping action of the pelvis.
Generally since the GYROTONIC® equipment is designed around and to support the human body, it is a further advantage in pregnancy for the simple reason that as one does get progressively heavier the apparatus’ handle unit and the traction provided by the weights and pulleys will naturally support the need to accommodate the extra weight.