Yoga and Pilates
Pre and postnatal movement and counseling
I am a yoga and Pilates teacher with over twenty years of experience working in holistic exercise and therapeutic counselling. After training initially as a licensed mental health counselor, I qualified in yoga and Pilates with full certifications in mat and equipment Pilates from Stott Pilates and certificates in pre and postnatal training. I teach Hatha yoga with a focus on stress relief, yoga for back care, and prenatal yoga. I am also a certified hypnobirthing practitioner and completed a two-year certification in parent and infant mental health. I approach my work with Pilates and yoga with the highest level of attention to the individual as a whole and an understanding of the interplay between movement, emotion and wellbeing.
I graduated with my BS in Psychology and a master's degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While studying for my masters degree, I served as an intern in the mental health department of The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduation, I moved to Manhattan where I worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at JCCA in with families in foster care. Subsequently I worked in an outpatient mental health centre at JBFCS before training in behavioural therapy and helping families of very young children with pervasive developmental delays. I taught children how to re-engage with the world and grow away from diagnoses such as Autism and selective mutism and trained and counselled parents as they learned how to support their children's special needs and abilities.
After moving to London and having a second child, I trained as a prenatal yoga teacher and mat and equipment Pilates instructor. I currently lead classes and see clients individually to help with a range of needs including stress relief, improving strength and flexibility, establishing pain-free posture, and preparation for labour. I'm comfortable working with one or several modalities to create a bespoke treatment plan for individual clients.
Pilates was created in the 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It is a system of movement drawing on yoga, calisthenics, and gymnastics designed to strengthen the muscles of the back, abdomen, shoulders, and pelvic floor, or core. It is best known for strengthing the body's core--the muscles that support the body and facilitate greater strength and stability. It is is also known to help alleviate mild general back pain and bring movement throughout the spine, thus revitalizing and re-energizing the entire body.
I first took Pilates in New York City after my regular yoga class was cancelled and was immediately impressed by the precision and focussed energy in class. Little did I know that New York was at the time one of the epicentres of Pilates and that people who had trained with Joseph Pilates himself had trained the people who were teaching me. I took Pilates for years with Pilates teachers such as Alisa Wyatt, founder of Pilatesology.com, who trained with Romana Kryzanowska, one of a group of Joseph Pilates students known as the Pilates Elders. These initial experiences of mine continue to inform my classes and I strive to bring the joy and energy I felt in those classes to my classes today.
One of the most interesting concepts I have learned through studying Pilates is the way that stress can create imbalances in the body and weaken the body's natural centres of strength. Like all systems, the body needs stability in order to function effectively and efficiently. Stress can cause diminished and repetitive movement that can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Injury and stiffness can lead the body to adapt by relying on alternate muscles groups, such as those in the tops of the shoulders, the neck, and the lower back, to provide stability. This has the knock-on effect of further weaking the body's core muscles, which creates a cycle that slowly transforms the body into a less youthful and reslient unit. By re-igniting the muscles of the core, Pilates students learn proper muscle recruitment which allows tighter muscles to relax and resume their natural firing pattern, working only when necessary instead of all the time to hold the body up. This restores natural movement of the spine and a sense of ease and strength that emanates from within.
Pilates is helpful at all stages of life for maintaining pain-free posture and fitness. Through Pilates I have worked with professional athletes, celebrities, instagram stars, new mothers, and people with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and arthritis. I was drawn to Pilates in my 20's for fitness and fun. I came back to it after the births of each of my two children to rediscover my own sense of centre and adapability.
Softness, space and strength are all found in equal measure in yoga. Yoga focuses and calms the mind, creating an effect which is mirrored in the body. Yoga helps to realign and lengthen the spine which can also alleviate generalized back pain. I teach a gentle Hatha-based class, having trained at the Integral Yoga Institute and with Kristen Campbell’s Tapasya Hot Hatha Yoga Method. I find that less is often more in yoga, and by underpinning the poses with solid alignment and awareness on the breath, simple movements take on an elegance in their effectiveness.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness in pregnancy. Previous levels of fitness, work and family demands, and previous pregnancies all affect how pregnant women feel. Stress relief, mobility, breathing, and posture are all helped with Pilates and yoga. Pilates, whether on the mat or with equipment, excels at strengthening and stabilising posture and joints that shift during pregnancy and can help prevent or minimise pelvic girdle pain. Pregnancy yoga balances strength with softness and relaxation in preparation for labour. I also use Hypnobirthing methods to teach women how to further relax in pregnancy and labour for quicker, calmer labours.
In daily life women are often surrounded by negative stories about pregnancy, childbirth, and their bodies, which impacts their experiences in pregnancy and childbirth. I teach that when labouring women are listened to and treated with kindness and respect, their bodies are unbelievably capable. A 38-week pregnant women in my class recently noted that she was surprised to feel as good as she did; I want women to know that it is normal to feel this well, and, with rare exception, especially past the first trimester, they can expect it of themselves.
Postnatal Pilates recentres your body and and helps you feel like yourself again. I draw attention to the positions of the shoulders, hips, and lower back in easy-to-learn, stabilizing movements to support comfortable, open posture. A woman with her baby said recently after my group class, “I feel so much better. Thank goodness for this class.”
Taking a class with a specialized postnatal practitioner is very important. There are many movements that use the abdomen that new mums can do but shouldn't do until core and pelvic floor strength is re-established in order not to risk permanently damaging the connective tissue in the abdomen. These are unfortunately the very movements that many eager and well meaning new mothers do in an effort to immediately regain their pre-baby body. In class we support slow, measured movements initially and focus on ways that the body is becoming stronger that might not be immediately apparent to new mums who are distracted by needs of their babies. This leads to greater satisfaction with and acceptance of the changes and adaptations that new motherhood requires, and ultimately a healthier and more resilient body and being.
Pilates is typically suitable 6 weeks post-partum and variations are offered for mums with diastasis or who have undergone c-sections. Please check with your GP before starting to exercise.