Teaching After Childbirth

When is it safe to return to the studio?

Johnette Rutledge keeps an eye on her daughter Violet during class.

Johnette Rutledge didn’t exactly take it easy when she returned to teaching after giving birth to her first daughter. “I literally did across-the-floor—leaps and turns after two weeks,” says the mother of three, who teaches at Summit Dance Shoppe in Minnesota. “That was probably a mistake, but it just felt good to move,” she says.

Like Rutledge, you may be excited to get in the studio again after taking time off. But it’s important to acknowledge that your body will function differently from what you’re used to. Recovering takes patience, and it must be done moderately to ensure your safety.

Each person’s recovery plan will be different depending on various factors. “If you have a vaginal birth and have no lacerations, it will take about four to six weeks to fully recover,” says Dr. Robert O. Atlas, chairman of OBGYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. But Deborah Vogel, neuromuscular educator and co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, doesn’t believe in following a specific timetable for returning from giving birth. “I want people to really learn to translate what their body is saying,” she says. “How did that feel?”

During the first four to six weeks, the uterus will return to its normal tone and shape. Because of this, overexertion puts you at greater risk for an injury such as a pelvic organ prolapse, which can lead to urinary incontinence. Before getting into the studio, Vogel says to work within a normal range of motion. Focus on walking with proper alignment, doing daily Kegel exercises and performing gentle abdominal movements, like drawing the navel back to the spine as you exhale, to slowly redevelop the core.

Stretching should also be done lightly. When the body prepares itself for childbirth, it releases hormones that loosen joints and ligaments. These effects can remain in the body many months after birth, which may cause you to overstretch. Often, dancers feel especially tight in the hip flexors because of the extra weight carried on the front of the body, which puts more stress on back muscles. Vogel says that gentle stretches like a runner’s lunge can take strain off back muscles and will help in returning to proper pelvic alignment. You can also roll a tennis ball on the hips and under tight places, like the feet, to relieve excess tension.

Your body may not be the only thing that feels off. Having a child can strain your emotions as well. You may feel down in the two weeks following birth. This is normal and can be caused by hormones, lack of sleep and anxieties from being a new mom. If depression lasts longer, Atlas advises immediately seeking a professional. “Postpartum depression is an extremely common silent illness that it is often underdiagnosed,” he says.

For Rutledge, getting back to her dance community helped her feel better. “It’s really easy to sit in your house and be depressed or lonely,” she says. “I think therapeutically, I just needed to get out of the house and be with my students and do what felt natural.”

The mother of three attributes her picture-perfect recoveries to staying active until giving birth. It only took about four weeks to return to her full teaching and fitness routine after each delivery. Her advice, with your doctor’s clearance, is to keep moving throughout pregnancy. Your body will thank you throughout labor and recovery. “You will crave movement, and I think it really does help in healing,” she says. “The body is an amazing vehicle.” DT 

New-Mom Guide

These tips from Dr. Robert O. Atlas will help you through a safe, moderately paced recovery. Clear all exercise plans with your doctor before beginning.

Weeks One and Two

Practice walking in your new body. Begin Kegel exercises. If you’ve experienced tearing or have had an episiotomy, avoid opening the legs wide while the perineum heals. Limit your activity if you’ve had a C-section.

Week Three

Begin mild exercise such as walking, postnatal yoga or gentle dance. Focus on achieving a normal range of movement with light stretching before advancing to other forms of cross-training. Continue Kegels to tone the pelvic floor. Those who had tearing or an episiotomy should still avoid opening the legs. With a C-section, you can increase walking distances, but you should avoid anything that utilizes the abdomen.

Weeks Four to Six

For normal births, exercise routines may be resumed if the new mom feels ready and prepared from work in previous weeks. Be mindful that the uterus may still be healing, and avoid overexertion. If you’ve had a C-section, seek clearance from your doctor to resume a regular exercise routine.

Tess Jones is a freelance writer and hatha, prenatal and postnatal yoga instructor in Seattle.

Photo:Johnette Rutledge keeps an eye on her daughter Violet during class; courtesy of Johnette Rutledge

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.