Ask Rael Q & A: 13th Issue

by Rael Isacowitz

I recently found out that I’m pregnant. How early do I need to tell my instructor that I’m expecting? Are there any exercises I should or shouldn’t do while pregnant?

Congratulations! Tell your instructor immediately. This is something he or she needs to know. Also let your instructor know your history with pregnancies (if you’ve had one) and whether you are in any way high risk. It is imperative that you get exercise guidelines from your physician. This is a time to become focused on being in prime “pregnancy condition” for the Super Bowl of all Super Bowls…labor and delivery.

However there is nothing more important than making sure that you preserve your health and that of your baby. There are certainly excises you should and should not do at different stages of the pregnancy. So follow general guidelines for exercise during pregnancy, which your instructor should be familiar with. At the same time I have found that each person is very different and each pregnancy, even with the same person, is very different. I have had the good fortune of working with many women through their pregnancies and have witnessed quite a few babies from conception to college…makes me feel old!

Without exception each one of the women I have worked with during their pregnancy, and many more I have spoken to, reported how much Pilates helped them and made their experience that much more meaningful. This is the one thing I will never be able to experience first hand, but I regard it as a distinct privilege to have been able to teach Pilates to so many pregnant women. There are many wonderful resources available. Here are a few: an excellent book by Carolyne Anthony, The Pilates Way To Birth (, Tracey Mallett’s DVD, The 3-in-1 Pregnancy System ( and a wonderful chronicle of a pregnancy from beginning to end by Leah Stewart featured on the blog. Send pictures!



I teach a large mat class at a local gym that doesn’t own any Pilates-specific props. Any suggestions for how I can spice up my group classes?

I must confess that I am quite traditional in my mat classes. I find that the mat work is so potent and offers such variety, that simply by switching the order around a little and creating interesting variations of exercises (never losing sight of the original), I can keep clients challenged, interested and motivated for years.

Saying that, there are some small and very inexpensive props that I do like. My principle when integrating a prop into a mat class is that it still needs to be a mat class. The flow should not be disturbed and in fact the structure and exercises themselves should remain close to their original form. My favorite prop is probably rubber bands. They are not cumbersome and are very easy to integrate into the class. They offer the added benefit of providing resistance, opening the door for potential strength gains, besides relying only on gravity, as we do in a traditional mat class.

The various Pilates circles are also very useful and can be integrated seamlessly into a mat class. I have given many big ball classes that have been fun and challenging. But once you start using larger props like balls it becomes a different type of class and although it can certainly spice things up the essence of it being a Pilates mat class is at risk of being lost. This is a choice you need to make. I am a strong advocate of going back to the roots, there is so much to explore. Remember spice comes in many forms!


This article first appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Pilates Style Magazine. For more great stories about Pilates, check out the latest issue of Pilates Style, on newsstands nationwide, in the app store or at

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