Pilates for pregnant women can be a good way to stay somewhat fit and relieve stress during this stage of a woman's life. The goal is not to lose weight, which is why most exercises mainly involve smooth movements and gentle stretching. Some movements require the use of a chair or exercise ball, such as the spine twist. Others are more effective when sitting on a comfortable mat or even lying down, such as the saw or the side kick. Lastly, certain moves used during Pilates for pregnant women involve starting out on the hands and knees.
While most Pilates moves do not require equipment, some work best using an exercise ball, though a chair could be substituted if necessary. For example, the spine twist starts in the sitting position, with the arms at shoulder height and stretched out to each side. The first movement is twisting the torso to the left, while simultaneously looking at the left hand. The torso should then be turned toward the right, with this motion being repeated as many times as comfortable. The point of this type of Pilates for pregnant women is to stretch out the back, which often becomes stressed and tight due to the extra weight.
In most cases, though, the only equipment needed is a cushioned exercise mat, as many types of Pilates for pregnant women involve sitting or lying on the floor. For instance, the "saw" is an exercise that helps improve the strength of the body's core, with the starting position involving sitting on the floor with the legs spread a bit wider than the hips. The arms should be stretched to either side, and the torso should be twisted to the left first, while the right hand touches the left foot. Another exercise requires pregnant women to start out lying down on their side with their abdominals contracted. They should then move the top leg forward as far as it will comfortably go, returning to the starting position before switching sides.
Some kinds of Pilates for pregnant women require them to begin on the hands and knees, which is actually a comfortable position for many women during pregnancy, since it tends to take the weight off the back. One move that starts in such a position involves lifting the right leg back and up, while also lifting the left arm forward. This can help strengthen the core while also working on balance. A similar move is called the modified leg front pull, and starts by extending the left leg out to the side, so that it is as high as the hips, and then returning to the starting position on the hands and knees. The move should be repeated with the opposite leg, keeping the abdominals contracted to continue building core strength.