Pilates for Everyone!!
puh-LAH-teez!!! What IS Pilates? You have friends that do it, right? Your wife does it? Do you practice it? Do your friends do it? You’ve heard of it, It’s like yoga, Right??? It’s not like yoga. It’s for dancers. It’s not for men. Right??? Wrong?? AHHHH!!! What IS it?!?! Have you met people who rave about it and claim it has healed them and they look quite good. Some have lost weight from it and they look taller, stronger, leaner or… something is different about them, that’s for sure! AND THEN, there are stories of how Pilates has wrecked someone’s back and gave them different injuries. OH MY! What is going on with PILATES?!? Be sure to see bottom of article for some basic exercises to get started!
Pilates is an exercise system formed nearly a century ago by German born Joseph Pilates. His own personal story is quite compelling. He was born to a gymnast father and a naturopath mother. As a small child Joseph suffered from several illnesses that inspired him to self educate and to heal his body. In his early adult life he performed in the circus and had also been a boxer. When World War I broke out Joseph found himself helping soldiers within his encampment to practice daily exercises for their physical and mental well being. Some soldiers were too weak and bedridden, so Joseph took srpings from the beds and attached them to the bed’s headboard and footboard posts. These springs became resistance mechanisms for the weak soldiers to use in order to regain strength. These springs were later designed to become what we know to be the springs used on the classic Reformer and Cadillac apparatus. Later he moved to NYC and experimented with his mind / body endeavours with dancers. He dedicated his life to developing this exercise system which he called, “Contrology”. Today, we know of these exercises to be “Pilates“. His philosophies bridged some eastern meditative/ mind / body centering practices with practical, functional, bio-mechanical approaches to our physical bodies.
With that said, WHAT IS PILATES??
Pilates is an exercise routine that helps to condition the mind and body or rather the relationship between the two. Stability, Flexibility, Coordination, Alignment, Breath, Endurance, Strength and Balance are some of the main principals of Pilates. There are exercises that are performed with precision to help connect to the core and to condition our body to function with all of the above principals.
The CORE! You gotta connect with your CORE. If it’s not about my abs, what really is my core? Abs are important, but they are not the aim in Pilates. Yes, we talk about abs A LOT, but there is so much more to it. It may be ones desire to have a six pack or to have the tightest of abs, but with this intention, you’d be missing the mark. The core encompasses several things. Your core is the central part of your body. Where do your extremities (head, arms, legs) connect? The core. Your core houses your organs (besides your brain). Now go more internal. Where is the center of this core? What connects your lower body to your upper body? THE PELVIS. What’s at the core of the Pelvis? Now we begin to get deeper into the pelvic floor muscles. The Pelvic Floor muscles are where it’s at. At least some of it. You may have heard this area called the Power House, Core, Pelvic Floor and even abs although the abs are quite different.
Awareness and Beyond with Your Pilates Routine: Suggestions and Directions!
- Pilates exercises can help you gain more awareness of your body and mind.
- Slow and Steady are wise words to experience with Pilates exercises.
- Use your senses. Look and See your body. Use a mirror or have a qualified friend or teacher to give you feedback.
- Quality over Quantity! Take the time to FEEL how you are engaging while doing the exercises. Better to do fewer with quality than to do many with lack of connection.
- BREATHE… In through the nose and Exhale fully. (Is your breath full or shallow? Let your entire rib cage expand into the inhale.)
- Apply your Pilates experiences to your daily life activities.
- Have FUN with it too!
- If you have injuries or are pregnant, Please see a qualified teacher who specializes in that area. ASK, Ask and ASK questions.
Varieties of Pilates:
What type of Pilates should I do? Like yoga classes, there are various methods of Pilates. All styles have their benefit. It is simply a thing of preference. Some teachers abide by a traditional approach to the exercises and follow the teaching lineage of Joseph and his closest apprentices. If you enjoy a routine that sticks to the classics and follows a repetitive series that gradually progresses to more challenging exercises, look for a teacher or studio that emphasizes in Classical Pilates.
Other studios and teachers practice outside these boundaries and change up the daily routines for sake of not getting ‘bored’. Some teachers focus with more detail to specific areas for physical therapy reasons, while other teachers bridge their practice with a multiple of movement and exercise methods such as Yoga or Tai Chi and even cardio ballet.
Essentially, the fundamental principals of Pilates are woven into whichever method you practice.
Mat Pilates or Apparatus?
- Mat sessions challenge you to use your own body rather than getting feedback from the springs on a machine.
- Mat sessions can be cheaper if in a group class.
- Mat sessions can be practiced just about anywhere.
- Apparatus machine sessions provide great feedback and assistance to your exercises.
- Apparatus machine sessions can provide a variety of exercises that can not be done on the mat.
- Apparatus machine sessions are generally more expensive, though group classes help cut the costs.
- Apparatus machine sessions limit you on where you practice.
Group Class or Private?
- Group classes cost less (single mat class ranges from $10 – $20. Group machine classes $18-$35)
- Group classes offer social connection.
- Private sessions give you more personal attention.
- Private sessions are great for beginners or anyone with injuries and for pregnancy.
- Private sessions generally range between $60 and $100 per one hour session.
Pilates Re-Cap ~ A hand full of Key words to keep in mind:
- Core Connection
Basic Pilates Exercises For Just About Everyone:
* If you have injuries (especially back injuries) See a doctor and find out the cause of the pain. If there is nerve damage or disc injury, some exercises may do more harm! Find out the issue and then research teachers who are qualified to work with injuries.
*If you are pregnant, get consent from your doctor first and then find a teacher who is qualified to work with pregnancy. Some pilates exercises are discouraged and outright avoided during pregnancy.
Here are some basic exercises ~ Enjoy!
1: Inner Thigh Squeeze. Lay down on floor with knees bent and feet a couple inches apart from each other. Place a medium size ball or even the magic circle between your thighs and squeeze and hold for a full exhale. Repeat 10 times. This exercise helps to strengthen and tone the inner thighs.
2: Core Strengthening. While laying on your back, lift your legs into table top position. (knees over your hips and keep your toes within your eye sight) Heels stay together and keep your feet active (to ensure that you are engaging your inner thighs lightly). Reach your arms straight out in front of you and lift them a few inches off the floor. Pull your belly towards your spine AND up the spine (a subtle scooping action beneath your belly button). Engage that pelvic floor and lower abdominals! As you exhale, you can focus on drawing your ribs closer together and feel your transverse abdominals engage. Lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor for more abdominal engagement or modify and keep your head down. Hold position for three full breaths. Repeat 5 more sets.
3: Bridge. This exercise helps tone and strengthen the hamstrings. Lay on your back with knees bent and feet just a few inches apart from each other. Heels should be just under your knees. Make sure your knees are NOT reaching past your toes (keep your knees safe). Arms long by your side. Firmly press your upper arm bones into the ground to help engage your shoulder girdle for stability. Lift your pelvis off the floor. Hips are mid air. Engage your abdominals by exhaling and drawing your rib cage closer together. Lengthen through your spine. From your shoulders to your knees, you will be forming a diagonal line. Make sure your feet are firmly grounded. This means big toe (metatarsal) is pressing down just as much as the pinky toe side of foot. keep your thigh bones parallel to one another. Play around with the pressure you feel in your feet. Notice how it feels when you press a bit more into the front of your feet by your toes verses when you lean a bit more into your heels. When do you feel your hamstrings and butt engage? As you exhale, slowly roll your spine to the floor one vertebrae at a time. Repeat 5 times.
4: Side Leg Circles. Laying on your side. Bottom leg can be bent for more stability. Top leg extends out. Keep your hips stacked and stable. Keep a natural curve in your low back (neutral spine) rather than flexing at the hips. KEEP THAT SPINE LONG! Life that top leg and Draw small circles with that leg. Repeat 10 circles both directions. Same on other side. This exercise helps to strengthen your hips and upper legs.
If you have any questions on Pilates or even your own fitness program, feel free to contact ME!! I have been teaching for nearly eight years. I’m a local to Austin, Texas; but you can always reach me via email.
Explore, Engage and Experience! Pilates is an Excellent Foundation For Everyone!