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A Longtime Bar Method Instructor Shares How Barre Strengthened Her Body and Mind Through Pregnancy
You may have heard that barre is safe for pregnant women, or even that it makes labor, delivery, and recovery easier. Easier, not easy. That’s a hugely important distinction.
I’m a Bar Method teacher, not a doctor, so please always consult an actual medical professional and take their advice over mine. What I can share is my personal experience, and I will happily do so in detail to anyone who asks – once you have delivered a baby, your ability to be embarrassed goes right out the window. As someone who knows the modifications inside and out, and has guided countless students through their own pregnancies, I am a generally skeptical person who worried I’d have a tough road ahead even if I went through all the motions. I very much did not expect to be great at being pregnant. I was both wrong and right, in that order.
I had the good luck of fairly complication-free paths to my two children. Babies come into the world in many ways, and for a planner like me, accepting the fact that there’s very little about it that you can control can be tough. There are no guarantees, but taking care of myself was something I could do. I could go to class and participate and feel like myself for an hour at a time. As I grew, being in class eased my round ligament pain and I was so much more comfortable on days I went to the studio. Everyone fixates on how exercise impacts labor, but shout out to The Bar Method’s focus on strengthening your back and stabilizer muscles to protect vulnerable joints during a time they are under additional pressure. It’s also a testament to the technique how easily it can be adapted to accommodate the changing blood flow, center of gravity, and extra weight. I never felt like I wasn’t working as hard, and I never felt like I wasn’t part of the group even if I was doing a different version of whatever move the rest of the class was doing.
All of that purposeful breathing and supported abdominal work paid off when the time came to push. For both children, my doctors commented on my ability not just to push really hard, but to control and direct the effort in a productive way. This minimizes tearing and speeds up the overall process, or so they tell me. Again, not a doctor. It’s never going to feel great, but I can’t imagine going through it without a baseline of strength to power me through.
The next morning, I coughed and it felt like I had done 800 sit-ups. You don’t realize how integral your abs are to every movement until those muscles are under duress. I relied on my strong posture during feedings, and on my biceps and shoulders to rock my kids to sleep for what felt like endless stretches. If you’ve never heard of a pelvic floor, you’ll know all about it post-baby and be grateful that so many of The Bar Method’s exercises support pelvic floor health. Trust me on that one, although sometimes sneezes are still dicey….but the end result is worth whatever process it takes. Kids are pretty cute.
As I healed and settled into life as a mom, I struggled with feeling like my body wasn’t mine; things weren’t exactly in the spots they used to be, and those things were functioning in new and strange ways. There was also the adjustment to my time not being my own. I was itching to get back to the studio to have an hour to myself, and I was pleasantly surprised at how naturally I fell back into the familiar rhythm of class. I set no expectations for how I would do, and refused to engage in any negative self-talk about needing to take a break or modify. My kids are now 5 and nearly 2, and I still show myself this kindness. I do not compare my appearance to what it was before children, and appreciate that I am strong and continue to make progress – I recently upgraded to heavier weights for the first time in years!
Growing little people is a tough job, no matter how you do it. I can’t imagine having gone through the process without the support of my Bar Method community, the physical strength it gave me, and the permission to do something for myself without guilt. Whether you are worlds away from kids, contemplating them, currently pregnant, or anywhere on the other side, there is something to be gained.
For more information on our recommended modifications for prenatal fitness, click here. Please note that we also strongly suggest consulting with your physician about your fitness routine.
About the Author
Stephanie Kagan took her first Bar Method class in 2011; that initial step led her to later become a certified instructor at The Bar Method Baltimore and a national coach. Stephanie now serves full-time with The Bar Method as our Continuing Education Leader. Stephanie lives for a good challenge and loves spending time with her husband and two children.