August 2018: Fishponds Mum

August 03 2018

Core blimey - give me parenting strength!

When I was trying desperately hard to become pregnant, as a fair few 34-year-old women are doing, a friend of mine offered me some insight. She had parented her two girls on her own for almost ten years. She simply commented that raising babies involved an awful lot of what she called ‘drudgery’: washing, cleaning up, folding, hanging, clearing up. I nodded when she said it and then, a couple of years later, when aforementioned wished-for-baby arrived, I realised what she meant. There were two of us doing the work in our house and the drudgery still seemed endless.

Little did I realize the toll ‘mature’ parenting would take on my body. We were suddenly struck down with every random illness going: my partner broke out in an allergic reaction to Milton sterilising fluid and her childhood eczema returned. 

My back became so bad that I ended up shirtless on the bed of a local osteopath called Gabi at The Fishponds Practice. Now, some people say that osteopathy is a myth but for me it was like magic. 

After weeping, and sharing my list of self-diagnosed-very-likely-medical-conditions, she began treating my terrible pain which had accrued, in short, from carrying a baby-toddler around on my hip, the trauma of multiple miscarriages and constantly bending down to pick things up at awkward angles. It sounds ridiculous but it is the small everyday, repetitive motions that affect the back in strange ways. What a delight it was to live this amazing life with this wonderful new child, but I had to do something about my back (parenting ailments, by the way, was not a chapter in the parenting book: your back might give way, your eczema might return…no where, in any book on child rearing.) 

Gabi, the osteopath, innocently asked what exercise I did.

“urm, walking,” I replied, quietly. 

She frowned, “walking? As exercise?”

“Yes, you know, walking from A to B, to the shops and the like.”

And then I proceeded to tell her all the exercise I did at school, in the late eighties/nineties, such as, playing hockey, netball (centre), doubles badminton, very good at tennis, doing county hurdles, playing volleyball for the county. 

“I used to cycle to work,” I chirped, to which she just slowly nodded.

“You seem to have no ‘core’ strength, Claire,” she said after about six visits, “and I would advise, unless you want to keep coming back to pay for osteopathy, you try some medicinal pilates…”

I felt so relieved that an authority had decided this for me that I sought an opportunity, immediately, to find me some ‘medicinal Pilates’ locally. It was then that I came across our local Fishponds Pilates practitioner, Emily Osborne. Gabi had told me that one could become a Pilates instructor in a weekend and so to be discerning. After two attempts at finding the right Pilates instructor for me, thank goodness, I found Emily Osborne. 

Emily Osborne is a local pilates practitioner and instructor who runs classes all week in Fishponds. She has been practising for seven years following her career as a social worker.  She runs regular, weekly classes, evening classes and drop ins. She says what inspires her is “the incredible potential for people to recover, change and transform. On a micro level, I see people arrive at a class feeling tense, talking very fast and looking tired and they leave with a greater sense of calm, looking more refreshed and say something along the lines of “I really needed that!” 

Emily says that “on a bigger scale, I observe people’s mobility improve, their pain reduced or gone and improvements in their mental health, to name a few. My clients and their commitment to coming to my classes inspires me.”

She says, “Pilates is especially good for women who have experienced birth or miscarriage because it can address both their minds and bodies and work on restoring some balance. Physically, Pilates can slowly and safely help women to rebuild tone and strength, particularly in their core and reduce areas of tension and pain. By gently inviting women to be aware of how exercises feel, to listen to their body and to slow things down they can gradually re-establish a relationship with themselves and their body, which may have been significantly affected by pregnancy, birth or miscarriage.”

I was looking for a regular class (that was considerably cheaper than an osteopath) and that is exactly what Emily provides. Her classes are pretty booked up, as many have discovered her brilliance, and she has waiting lists for evening classes, but she did have some spaces in day classes and drop ins.

That was six months ago. I now go weekly and see it as a date with my own body and my own wellbeing. The class begins with stillness, connecting with your limbs, your back, your tummy, your pelvis. At the start, my pelvis was so painful, I couldn’t feel anything for weeks, but I slowly moved my body, stretched my back, lifted my legs at the angle I was told to and slowly I gained movement back in my pelvis.

What is important about Emily’s class is that everyone arrives with something – sore wrists, tender back, painful knees… and so each stretch is staged at different levels. She encourages participants to feel how your body is different on opposite sides of your body, to accept how you feel this week and offers a new exercise another week. 

Emily doesn’t rush or add pressure and this make a tremendous difference. I feel like I can give it a go, which can be quite a challenge for a parent if you haven’t slept through the night for three years and haven’t been in lycra in a while or have a new body to which you need to become accustomed.

No week in Emily’s class is ever the same, upper body, lower body variations, including varied music. It was such a relief to stretch and feel that I was in safe hands. I can only describe its impact on my back as if someone had oiled my joints and muscles. I come back clearer and brighter, mentally and physically. I’m able to move without tensing. It makes me want to move more and help my body to feel better more regularly. 

It is about prioritising time that is just for me to reconnect with my body. I have not been back to the osteopath since…

See Emily’s website

She has classes at Lincombe Barn in Downend, and The Life Church,  The Cross Hands and All Saints Church Hall, all in Fishponds.  Please see website for details. 

She can be contacted at or facebook Emily Osborne Pilates.

Claire Stewart-Hall