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Kirsten King on empowering mothers through movement

Kirsten King, an Australian pilates teacher and mother of three, empowers mothers on their postnatal journey through her movement platform Fluidform. Her mission is to guide mothers to discover their inner strength and flexibility after childbirth. Kirsten believes in helping women realize that a strong version of themselves exists, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. In a heartwarming conversation, she shares insights on cultivating self-compassion, reclaiming one’s vitality, and offers practical tips on easing into movement after giving birth. Plus, dive into the cosmos in our Astrological Forecast for August.

On giving yourself grace
“I always remind my clients: ‘Nine months in, nine months out.’ After giving birth, it’s essential to tune in to your body, both physically and emotionally. Many moms put immense pressure on themselves, striving for a quick return to their pre-baby body or the ‘it-body.’ However, we must remember that pregnancy changes our bodies over a nine-month period. The journey back to movement should be gradual and steady, mirroring the slow and steady changes that occurred during pregnancy. Around nine months after childbirth, you should start feeling more like your pre-pregnancy self. The female body is truly phenomenal, with its ability to carry a baby, go through childbirth, and then adapt afterward. As new mothers, we must care for our bodies and regain strength relatively quickly, as we become the primary caretakers for our little ones. Whether we’re bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, we find ourselves in unusual positions for extended periods, which can lead to rounded, hunched, and tense postures, affecting our neck and torso. That’s why it’s crucial to embark on a gentle, slow, but consistent journey of movement. Balancing our bodies allows us to be at our best, taking care of our baby and the rest of our family, especially if it’s not our first child.”

On when to begin again
“We suggest a checkup around the six-week mark, similar to what the medical world suggests, whether it’s with your obstetrician or midwife. The type of birth you had, whether vaginal or c-section, and any birth-related trauma may impact your recovery differently. It’s essential to reflect on what your body has been through, considering aspects like the pelvic floor’s condition, the reconnection of your abdominal muscles, and how heavy your breasts are. I often emphasize the importance of first ‘getting everything back together.’ By taking this approach, you can safely and effectively work towards returning to your pre-pregnancy activities like running or cycling at a quicker pace. Recovering the right way allows you to sustain more intense exercises for extended periods without compromising your well-being.”

On starting slow
“To start your postnatal journey, focus on slow and consistent movement at home. Dedicate fifteen minutes a day to lie next to your baby and perform gentle mobilization of your lower back, while also activating your pelvic floor and gradually bringing your abdominal muscles back together. Incorporating some light stretching is beneficial too, as the body tends to adopt certain postures during pregnancy, which can affect your overall posture. By releasing tension and tightness, you’ll help your body return to its pre-pregnancy posture. After two to four weeks of this gentle routine, you’ll begin to feel stronger. Your lower lumbar area will feel relieved, your pelvic floor and abs will become more engaged, and you’ll start reconnecting with your glute muscles. At this point, you’ll be ready to gradually transition into more intense workouts.”

On reconnecting your core
“If your abdominal muscles have separated, the journey to bring them back together begins with focusing on your breath. During pregnancy, the ribcage expands to accommodate the baby, so it’s essential to concentrate on breathing and gradually drawing the ribcage back to its original position. Once the ribcage returns to its normal placement, the abdominal muscles can reconnect and engage underneath it. Allowing the ribcage to stay out can hinder the connection of your abdominal muscles. Therefore, it’s crucial to use breathwork and incorporate some oblique exercises (side and lateral movements) to guide the ribcage back to its home position. Gentle abdominal movements like chest lifts and oblique exercises are the starting points, laying the foundation for the process. As your body becomes ready, you can gradually increase the intensity of your abdominal workouts to further strengthen the muscles.”

On the impact of postnatal pilates
“Pilates and the postnatal phase complement each other beautifully. Pilates is specifically designed to target the postural and stabilizing muscles, which are vital during this phase. These muscle groups, the slow-twitch fibers, are responsible for providing endurance, allowing you to sustain repetitive movements, such as holding a baby for extended periods and repositioning the spine correctly. Fluidform offers a dedicated ‘getting everything back together’ program, consisting of two stages, each lasting two to four weeks. The exercises are carefully crafted to be slow and steady, and each session takes anywhere between nine and fifteen minutes, making them ideal for new moms who have limited time. Upon completing this stage, you can progress to more advanced workouts that focus on reconnecting your abdominal muscles in a more intense manner, as well as targeting your inner thighs, which play a crucial role in supporting the lower abs. Additionally, these workouts address shoulder placement and other pilates principles, making it a holistic approach to postnatal fitness.”

On listening to your body
“I practiced pilates throughout my entire pregnancy journey leading up to the births of my three daughters, who are now 12, 10, and 7 years old. All three births were natural and vaginal, and I recovered quite well after each one. However, my third daughter, Harper, was significantly larger than my first two, and I missed a step in the slow and steady recovery process and paid the price for it. When Harper was 18 months old, I experienced a reseparation of my abdominal muscles. I woke up one morning to find my skin almost hanging off my belly. It took me six weeks to slow everything down and focus on reconnection. If you have ab separation, your tummy might feel quite hollow, like jelly, when you press on it. Without separation, it feels more solid like a trampoline. I learned from this experience and knew what steps to take to fix it, and eventually, everything was back to normal. We’ve had some mothers come to us whose children are nine years old and they are still dealing with ab separation. The longer you postpone addressing it, the slower the recovery journey becomes, and you must fully commit to doing pilates and reconnecting from the inside out once again. In most cases, it is possible to get everything back together.”

On the benefits of movement
“My journey into pilates began with an injury. Being a runner, I pushed myself too far and ended up hurting my knee. Pilates became my rehabilitation, and I fell in love with it. I felt my body shape completely change. Before pilates, I had been quad dominant, but with this newfound practice, I leaned out, felt stronger, and even taller. With Fluidform, my goal has always been to help put people’s bodies back together, making their lives better. It’s incredible how pilates has allowed me to connect with people all around the world, and have a positive impact on their lives.”

On cultivating self-compassion
“As new moms, we tend to be incredibly hard on ourselves. I truly wish that, regardless of age, we could embrace the greatness we can achieve without feeling that overwhelming physical pressure. Social media plays a significant role in this, but we must remember that motherhood is a deeply personal journey, and it differs for everyone. The most crucial aspect is to be kind to ourselves and prioritize self-care. While the baby’s well-being is essential, it all starts with the well-being of the mother – being happy and healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s beautiful to see how movement has become a form of medicine for many postnatal women.”

On what every mother should know about movement
“There’s a stronger version of yourself waiting to emerge. I’ve witnessed mothers become happier and experience newfound mental, emotional, and physical strength after childbirth. Having a baby doesn’t mean losing yourself; it means discovering another version of you. You learn so much from your children; they teach you to be carefree and remind you of what’s possible in the world. As we grow older, we sometimes forget what’s truly possible, but it’s essential to remember that your dreams are still within reach and can be pursued as a mother.”

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