All about Pilates. I’m a huge fan of Pilates and everything it does for our bodies. My first encounter was when I was dancing and tore my hamstring. It was so painful I could barely sit, never mind walk. As my post-physiotherapy rehabilitation, I started studying Pilates. I needed to regain my mobility and flexibility since stopping dancing was not an option. It took some time but I quickly came to appreciate the profound results that Pilates can accomplish. I’ve since learned to have a deeper appreciation for my body and how it functions. Even though it has been growing in popularity and most major sports teams and individual athletes have incorporated Pilates into their daily/weekly training routines. I’m always surprised when I hear people saying that they don’t know anything about Pilates or that they’ve only tried a mat class at their local community center. When they ask me if it’s like yoga, I just have to laugh. Read more about: Yoga vs Pilates
ALL ABOUT PILATES
Origin. Developed in the 20th century by German born Joseph Pilates (an athlete and trainer), this exercise system has its roots in a World War 1 interment camp where Joseph Pilates trained other internees by rigging springs to hospital beds so that they could work with resistance equipment when they were ill.
Equipment & Apparatus. The most common Pilates classes that you’ll see are mat classes and while they can be beneficial, there is so much more to this discipline. In a typical studio you should find small equipment like the common physio balls, resistance bands, fitness (magic) circles, small balls both weighted and soft, the wedge, barrels and foam rollers. All of this equipment should be used on a regular basis (thought not necessarily every single item in every single class). The equipment is used to modify exercises making them easier or more challenging or even possible for people with physical differences and challenges. A certified Pilates instructor can work with pregnant women, post rehab individuals, and elite athletes. In most studios, you’ll also find one or more reformers, towers, cadillacs, chairs and ladder barrels also referred to as apparatus. Each one of these is used by beginners, all the way through to professionals and ideally your instructor will create a workout that is tailored to your specific needs.
Pilates has evolved over time and whatever you call the basic principles, the foundation of all the movements are the same. Different styles of Pilates have different names for them and you might see anywhere from 5-8 of them. Many of the words you’ll hear are: concentration, control, precision, breathing, alignment, flow and integration. The ones I’m most familiar with are more anatomical by name and there are 5 of them (although if you really break them all down they are very similar between all the styles) .
Breathing. Proper breathing oxygenates the blood and allows you to release any muscle tension you might be holding on to. It also helps you to connect and activate your deep support muscles. While breathing in, Pilates focuses on expanding your rib cage three dimensionally while keeping your abdominal muscles lightly engaged.
Pelvic placement. We look at pelvic placement to ensure that your spine and pelvis are stabilized whenever you are moving or sitting still. As an instructor my aim is to have you working in a stable shock-absorbing position which will in turn (and over time) give you optimal movement.
Rib cage placement. Rib cage placement is crucial because since anatomically your abdominal muscles are attached to the lower ribs, they are used to help stabilize them and your mid back (thoracic spine).
Scapular movement & stabilization. You’ll notice in every single exercise I show on this blog that I say keep your shoulders lengthening down your back, well that’s this principle. You are a 3 dimensional being and as the abdominal muscles help stabilize the rib cage from the front, your scapulae (shoulder blades) help stabilize your back (so that you don’t overwork your shoulders and neck). Each needs to be engaged before every movement.
Head & Cervical placement. Here we look at how your head is positioned on your spine. Ideally, your ears should be in between and in line with your shoulders. If they are not then we would look to see if you have kyphosis (essentially when your head is jutting forward and your spine is curved).
Keep in mind there is a lot more to these, but they are best explained when you are actually performing the exercises. Note also that this is what we establish in your very first class and pay attention to every time you come in.
The beauty of Pilates is that while you are working really hard, it’s so much fun that you don’t even realize when an hour is up. Every move you make forces you to think, so it’s impossible to just show up to a class. You also need to be present in the moment. It should force you to think of your muscles while you work your way through an exercise.
Have you ever taken Pilates in a dedicated studio? Did you enjoy it?
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