We know -- you’re growing a baby in that belly of yours, so it’s totally okay that it’s getting big and round. But we also know it can be easy for your abs, arms, glutes and thighs to grow as well with all the excitement too. Luckily Figure 4, Pure Yoga’s signature barre-based class, will keep your pregnancy expansion to a minimum by targeting those, yes four, body parts. Founded by former professional ballet dancer Kate Albarelli (pictured above), who is currently pregnant with her first child, Figure 4 (and its pre- and post-natal version) is an intense workout designed to tone and sculpt. And as if a gorgeous pregnant body wasn’t enough reward for coming to class, unwind afterwards in Pure Yoga’s ultra-luxe studios -- both are upscale escapes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Here Albarelli shares her pointers for a beneficial Figure 4 practice during pregnancy.
Tell us about Pure Yoga’s Figure 4 class.
I was a professional ballet dancer for around 15 years, then transitioned into fitness. I saw a gap in what could be the next biggest barre class. Classes that existed used antiquated exercises, and didn’t address enough of body health. Figure 4 is a traditional barre class in the sense; we target all major muscle groups, use a barre and do exercises based in the Lotte Berk method, but we’ve also revolutionized it. We’ve added modern exercises for abdominals and glutes, which allow body to get more into fat-burning zone, and amped up the pace and energy. We launched prenatal about a year ago, which is open to both members and non-members (other Pure Yoga classes can only be accessed by members).
How is the prenatal Figure 4 class different?
We keep the class structure relatively the same, but focus more on alignment. Regular Figure 4 is high intensity on choreography and pace, while the prenatal class is more about how the body should be structured. There are modifications for abdominals and we limit overhead arm work. We’ve also added in wedges so that the head stays higher than the heart when doing lying-down work, and we adjust stretching for the pregnant body and birth preparation.
What are some of the Figure 4 exercises that benefit a pregnant woman?
Pelvic tucks are great exercises for the pelvic floor. Lying on your back, lift your pelvis up by "squeezing" the glutes, varying the temp, speed and range. Each time you lift, you want to "pull in and zip up." This is another way of saying, “Engage your pelvic floor,” and can also be referred to as "kegels." This exercise is not only great for the glutes and hip sculpting, but also great to engage and strengthen the pelvic floor.
Your regular Figure 4 class can accommodate for pregnancy, which is great since we hear so many women who want to keep up their regular exercise routines while pregnant. How would you advise they go about doing so?
Always inform your instructor that you are pregnant before every class so he/she can help guide you correctly. I am an advocate of signing up for one or two private lessons in the given workout method so that you are equipped with all the necessary modifications and can work out in a smart way when you enter group classes.
Now that you are pregnant, how has that changed your philosophy during class or given you added perspective as an instructor?
I am much more focused on breathing exercises and guiding students with how the breath can help their movement. I have also become much more focused on my own intensity, knowing where to put the fire and where to pull back a bit. I am now more in tune with what feels right as a pregnant student. Before I only knew what I had learned or been trained in, but now I know firsthand what is natural and what isn't!
How does Pure Yoga’s fantastic studio space enhance the pregnant fitness experience?
It is always smart to pamper yourself a bit while pregnant. Soon enough, you won't have any time to do so...so take advantage of the moments that you can be good to yourself! Pure is a zen, beautiful, spacious environment where you can zone out and relax.
Can you give us one Figure 4-style “do-at-home” exercise that pregnant women can try during pregnancy when they can’t get out to a class?
As a "prego," I notice that the thighs tend to get thicker to accommodate the growing belly. This thigh blaster is a great one to do at a kitchen counter, window sill, or couch arm:
-Holding onto a sturdy surface, stand with the heels together and toes 45 degrees apart.
-Bend the knees and lift the heels 2 inches off the floor. Keep the heels connected.
-Bend your knees so you are in a "frog style" deep bend. Keep your back straight.
-Perform 20 small, isolated "down and inch/up and inch" movements at mid level. Straighten the legs for a moment of need be.
-Back into position, perform 20 pulses at mid-level. Straighten the legs for a moment if need be and get back into position.
-Perform 10 full range movements (never letting heels touch the floor): Sit to the heels (letting heels naturally come apart), come up to mid level (heels come back together).
-Finish with a balance!