Transcript: Why Moving Your Body Is So Important For Moms
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Why Moving Your Body Is So Important For Moms and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Many women who have recently given birth, ask me about topics such as strengthening their bodies. I’ve interviewed a number of guests on the podcast who have shared their expertise in this area.
This week’s guest, Christina Whelan has a mission, to shift the dialogue around movement, so that more women will get moving with the purpose of finding the freedom that a healthy body and mind will give them. Christina teaches body awareness, using tools including Pilates, the Franklin method and Eldoa myofascial stretching.
Through her training she also helps women who are pregnant and/or postpartum to regain core control and to aid recovery. Christina helps women through her Matters of Movement business and she also has an excellent podcast, which I highly recommend checking out. I was honored to talk about baby massage with Christina as a guest on her podcast recently.
Christina shares many pearls of wisdom in this episode, including the importance of encouraging movement on your little one early on, so they get the vibe towards beginning an active life instead of a sedentary one, tips to help moms begin their recovery after they’ve given birth and after six weeks has elapsed, ways to improve your breathing and why it is so important to do this correctly, and the ways that Eldoa helps strengthen your spine
And so much more.
Hi Christina and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here.
Christina Whelan: Thank you so much for having me.
Helen Thompson: So tell me a bit about Matters of Movement and a bit about body awareness and what you do.
Christina Whelan: Of course, I’m happy to talk about my work it’s my passion. My work is based in Pilates and I not only teach Pilates, but I teach Franklin Method and the Oov, which is kind of adding instability to movement to access the core in a slightly different way.
And I also teach Eldoa. So I bring all of these influences into my work. And I work with a lot of moms and and a lot of time, when it comes to working in Pilates, not only are we building strength and capacity and all of that, but we’re also teaching people how to connect to their bodies in a way that is very useful.
You wanna be able to understand how your body works and to be able to communicate things that are going wrong to your caregivers. So if you’re to visit a physiotherapist or physical therapist, depending on where you’re from, you wanna be able to communicate how your body is functioning.
You just wanna be able to learn tools and to be able to be empowered, to take care of your body in a way that is in many ways independent of what is going on. We don’t wanna be so reliant on people on the outside telling us how our bodies are working. It’d be nice to understand and have the tools to be able to take care of ourselves.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s really important having your own little body clock that tells you exactly what’s wrong and what kind of thing you need to do to get help. So you mentioned the Franklin Method. So how does that combine with Pilate?
Christina Whelan: Yeah. So the Pilates method, Joseph Pilates created his method and he has a mat series and a whole equipment series of exercises and the way I was taught how to teach Pilates was really bringing your brain into your body and learning how to move really intricately and you learn how to sequence your spine and how to engage the core and do all of these things. So inherently you just become highly aware of your body while you’re doing all of this stuff. And then the Franklin method is a really nice addition because it really does hone in on the mind and movement connection.
And so if you think about athletes and the Olympics just took place. They do a lot of visualizations and visualizations are exactly like a partner to what we learn in the Franklin method and this is common practice now where athletes visualize their routines or their course or whatever it is and it’s been shown scientifically to be able to improve their performance. So why is this only being used for athletes? We are our own athletes in our normal life, whether we’re caring for children or we are working manual labor jobs, whatever it is, we all have the physical demands of life that we need to be able to step up to.
And we all wanna be able to live our lives with ease. We wanna have an excellent quality of life and having to struggle through our everyday life can be problematic. And if you can learn how your mind and your body work together really nicely, that is really great. And a lot of it comes down to understanding how your body works.
And so the Franklin method is a lot of anatomy. We learn a lot about the bone rhythms. So my favorite bone rhythm to think about and to imagine, so for example, if you’re standing and you bend over into a squat, your pelvic bones kind of move a little bit. So you’re sitting bones, which, when you’re sitting on your chair, you feel the bony protrusions on the bottom, if you wiggle a little bit.
Helen Thompson: Oh yeah I do. That’s interesting.
Christina Whelan: So when you’re seated those bottom bones widen and when you stand up, they narrow. And so if you can imagine those bone rhythms as you’re moving, if you allow those things to happen, instead of fight against them, which some people might do because of tendencies that they may have developed over the years, or perhaps they have improper pelvic floor function, maybe they are and a lot of new moms hold their bums tight. And so if you learn how to release and that allows you to squat and to move through life, like how many times do we squat every day, every time we go to sit down that is a squat, right? We wanna be able to allow those bones to move and to widen. So it’s not just about anatomy, but it’s also about positive thinking.
One of my favorite things too, to talk about is when I walk up the stairs, I live in a really old farmhouse and sometimes it feels like my legs are like lead. So I will, in that moment be like, you know what, I can change my experience right now by just shifting my mindset and be like, you know what, I’m gonna bounce up these stairs.
And then inevitably whether or not I actually feel better, scientifically, if someone were to be able to measure it, I might not actually, but the whole mindset and that whole shift in my thinking really helps me get up the stairs in a positive manner and I’m not laboring and feeling really super negative about the whole experience.
So there’s a lot of components to the Franklin method, which are really wonderful and useful and I incorporate them, I weave them into my classes. Now you could do a whole Franklin method class that has nothing to do with Pilates, or you can weave in concepts into the Pilates work, which is what I do.
Helen Thompson: So a mom, let’s say they’ve just given birth and they’ve just gone home and their pelvic floor obviously needs a bit of support. What sort of tips would you give to that first time mum so they can understand their body and help them to be more realistic in what to do, rather than what the doctors say, just get up and move.
Christina Whelan: Well in the early days, before six weeks, there’s not a whole lot that can be done, other than getting up and moving. Return to regular activity, not physical activity where you’re running or lifting weights or doing anything like that. But, gentle kind of pelvic floor exercises and learning how to breathe that’s all really, really wonderful things that you can do in the early days before exercise is then recommended. So, one of the first things I do, and I think a lot of moms are disappointed because the first thing I do is, we are going to learn how to breathe and you know, they might be like, well, wait a minute, but the foundation of everything is your breath because if you’re not breathing properly, if your pelvic floor is not responding to your breath in the way that it should be.
So for example, giving you all the secrets, so when you inhale, your pelvic floor moves down and it lengthens. For those of you listening, I have my hands and I have interlaced my fingers, so if you wanna interlace your fingers, as you breathe in, you’ll allow your fingers to slide away from one another and lengthen.
So the fibers of the muscles are lengthening and kind of pressing down as you inhale. And as you are exhaling, slide your fingers towards one another, become more interlaced and it kind of pops back up into the body. So understanding that that’s how the pelvic floor moves in conjunction with your breath and also to make sure that your breath moves downward instead of breathing up in the upper chest area, which contributes to sore neck and tightening of the shoulders across the front, which if you’re nursing a child or even bottle feeding, that is a lot of rounded shoulders forward right. So learning how to be able to breathe to the back of your body and low and understand how the pelvic floor moves in conjunction with that, is the number one thing I teach people. I do that before anything else.
Helen Thompson: Yeah. I think that’s really important cause I know that’s something that when I do it properly, I know that I’m doing it properly, but there are times when I don’t and I feel the tightness in my chest. I’m still learning how to breathe properly. I know that sounds crazy because we breathe every day, but it’s learning how to do it properly. When you’re meditating or when you’re doing anything, if you’re not breathing properly, it doesn’t have any effect.
Christina Whelan: And then after the six weeks, right, then I start introducing other things like posture and squatting mechanics and foundations of squatting and one of the things that new moms have the hardest time with is finding the time to work out and to carve out time.
Now, if you have a wonderful support system, which I highly recommend you getting, have someone come in and help out and give you half an hour to carve out some time to move. If you don’t have that support, I think it’s really important to change the mindset around what exercise can look like.
It doesn’t have to be you getting into your exercise gear and doing an hour’s worth of exercise. You can go for a walk with your child, right, you go for a walk down the street you can while you’re waiting for water to boil at the stove, maybe there’s eight minutes left before your meal is gonna be ready and you can do whatever you can with that time, I would suggest doing some stuff whether it’s some squats or whether it’s some safe sit ups or some arm weights or one of my favorite things I did with my little one was I played with him and I did lots of lifting and just getting physical with my son, which he loved.
So I think that even breaking it down to five minute intervals. If you do four or five different five minute intervals throughout the day, great, that all counts, right? Maybe if you have a vehicle and you park somewhere, you park further out, so you have to walk a longer way to get back into either the home or the grocery store, wherever you’re going.
All of these things count and even if it’s not half hour increments, doesn’t matter.
Helen Thompson: I love what you say about moving with your baby. That’s good because you’re supporting your body and moving with ease with your body, but you’re also encouraging and teaching the baby or the child to be able to relax and to be able to move their body more. Cause I know from baby massage that when you’re massaging your baby, you are actually moving as well. If you incorporate your exercises with your baby, it’s giving you both some fun time. It’s also giving you that bonding experience and that bonding attachment, which I think is really important as well. Yeah. And it lessens the tension in both your body and your baby’s body.
Christina Whelan: Absolutely and the other thing too, is modeling physical activity. I think a lot of people don’t realize how important it is to model movement, so that later on, movement becomes more a part of their child’s life rather than being sedentary, right. The other thing moms get sucked into is more of the household cleaning and that kind of stuff like taking care of the things and the dad will walk in and do a lot of that physical play and I think that, I, for one, with my two daughters, I did, I did some when they were littler, but my husband would come in and do all that. And if they don’t have husbands, cuz right, not everyone is in a relationship like that, there might be one parent that is more physical than the other. And so I think it’s okay, for the one that’s less physical to take that time and just say, okay, let’s take 10 minutes, five minutes and let’s do something really silly, like a dance party and move around. That counts as movement. Your heart beats up a little bit, maybe you sweat a little bit, you have a good time. You’re bonding. You’re modeling movement. It’s all good. You can’t lose.
Helen Thompson: That’s what I like about what you do with your Matters of Movement because you are more realistic about it and you encourage people to do it in the right way. I’ve watched some of your Instagram posts and I love watching them because they’re very intuitive, it helps you to see how to actually do it, which I think is good.
Christina Whelan: Yeah and in my, I have an online studio and I have classes of many different lengths of time. I have from 10 minutes to full hour long classes and some are half an hour and I have some people who only do the 10 minute classes. They’re like, you know what, I do 10 minutes. They say they do Pilates every single day, whether it’s one of a full hour, if they have the time or they do 10 minute intervals and they play around with that and I think that’s great, cuz if that’s all you have and you don’t even have to change into anything.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, especially for a first time, mom, who’s sleep deprived and I think it’s good to start with a 10 minute slot and build it up as well, because if you start with a 10 minute slot, then you’re not having to think, gosh, I’ve gotta do this every day.
Christina Whelan: Exactly. I think, you know with the amount of fatigue. I have three children, so I know what it’s like. and if you promise yourself 10 minutes, that’s great. Just do that and I think your recovery will be a lot faster. And I know with the amount of fatigue that a lot of women have and the body soreness that they have, they might have their backs are aching and a lot of things are happening. The more they start moving their bodies, even though it may feel undesirable, the better they’re going to start feeling.
Right and so one of the things I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine. She just had a full foot reconstruction. She’s in her fifties, she’s got kids who are my children’s ages and we had a little talk about how she’s gonna recover and how important it is to consistently move number one, but to also get yourself into a position where you are feeling a little bit uncomfortable.
Right and push yourself just a touch, right? Because the more you get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the more your body is going to start healing and things are going to start feeling better. Life is going to feel easier and that is my recommendation. So say am I uncomfortable right now and can I withstand this discomfort for a little longer? And you do that regularly and consistently you’ll notice that you’re gonna be walking further every day and lifting heavier things and maybe your back will feel less uncomfortable.
Helen Thompson: I can relate to that cuz I get back problems sometimes and if I do a certain exercise it is sore, but I just do it very gently and it does actually help. I think that’s important for a mom too.
Christina Whelan: The last thing I wanna share is a little bit about the Eldoa that I do. So Eldoa is this beautiful myofascial stretching. It’s not really myofascial stretching, it’s about creating space between your vertebrae and getting yourself into these contorted positions, but all for good cause in order to create.
And so segmentally it’ll allow you to pull your vertebrae apart and so they’re quite effortful, but they’re really quite amazing because when you create space between your vertebrae, your intervertebral discs suck up all the water that surrounds them. And so all the nerves that are feeding the rest of your body, get a breath of fresh air. They’re like, oh, there’s less pressure there. You become more mobile and so I incorporate that into my work too, which can be really amazing for strengthening your spine and improving your posture and doing all of these amazing things. So that’s another thing that I have been doing and learning this year.
Helen Thompson: It sounds intriguing that. I rather like the idea of water sucking up in between the spine. I think that would feel quite relaxing, I would’ve thought.
Christina Whelan: Afterwards, the exercise itself is not, you wanna make sure you’re really well hydrated so that there’s actually water in the body to be able to soak up so that your intervertebral discs get nice and cushiony and plump that’s what you want. Right. You want a nice, long, strong spine that will allow your posture to just correct itself. So many people do really well with Eldoa.
Helen Thompson: If anybody wanted to get in touch with you, how do they go about doing that?
Christina Whelan: Well, I have a website it’s MattersOfMovement.com and that’s fairly simple. You can find me on Facebook at MattersOfMovement and you can find me on Instagram at MattersOfMovement. So it’s all the same, it’s consistent across the board. You can find all the goodies there.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Christina, for sharing all your pearls of wisdom with me and I highly recommend that people also check out your podcast because it’s, it’s very informative and you share a lot so thank you for sharing with me and I just want to add that I particularly like your skeleton in the background, looking up at that beautiful picture.
I think it’s very appropriate. It’s a bit of a shame that my listeners can’t see the video, but I think it’s actually very good the way he’s sort of bending over and looking at the picture. It makes me think of a museum, when you go to an art gallery, you see people looking at the pictures and seeing a skeleton actually doing it is a very good idea. I like that idea.
Christina Whelan: Oh, well I teach with bones. It’s one of the things I do, I teach with bones so I can show people how these things work and I find that there’s really useful. I don’t have a name for it yet. So if anyone wants to pipe in with a name?
Thank you so much for having me.
Helen Thompson: It’s a pleasure, Christina, and thank you.
I do hope that you found what Christina shared of interest. I was fascinated to hear about the Franklin Method and Eldoa, neither of which I had come across before. They sound like excellent techniques to help increase one’s body awareness. I think the importance of improving your breathing, can’t be understated and it is highly worth the effort.
I’ve included links in the show notes to Christina’s website, Instagram and Facebook pages at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/075. That’s MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/075.