The benefits of Pilates have been heralded worldwide. Many a celebrity credit their rocking body to Pilates. And let’s not forget the benefits to the mind. Pilates instructor Phoebe Lee shares with us the principles behind the the practice and gives us a few examples of exercises to get you started.
Pilates was developed in the early twentieth century by Joseph Pilates. Originally called “contrology”, it is a form of exercise designed to develop and improve physical strength, lengthen and strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and posture, and enhance mental awareness.
Pilates emphasises proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment and placement, as well as the mind and body connection. Executing correct breathing techniques helps to connect the muscles and allows you to move effectively. Concentrating on smooth and flowing movement enhances the process.
Practising Pilates correctly will give you a longer, leaner and more toned body. In order to get the most out of the exercises a good understanding of the principles around Pilates is important.
- Concentration: Focus on executing the breathing correctly. Concentrate on movement and work the muscles effectively.
- Control: Concentrate and be in control of the movement. Be aware of the positon and alignment. Control the movement and the muscle activation
- Centre: Pilates exercises need to be executed from a stable core and through the correct activation of the “powerhouse”, which refers to the abdomen (rectus abdominals, internal and external obliques transverse abdominals), lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs.
- Precision: It is mandatory to concentrate on each movement and ensure the exercises are executed correctly to gain benefits. Correct and quality movements will challenge and allow for progressions. In Pilates the quality of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions
- Flow: Linking Pilates movement closely to control and precision should create flow and elegant movements, without jerkiness or stiffness. Exercises should flow into each other to challenge and build strength and stability.
- Breathing: A correct breathing pattern increases awareness and enhances connection between the core, pelvic floor and the diaphragm. It also enhances control of the trunk and the muscles closest to the spine. Focus on lateral costal breathing. This means on inhalation breathe deeply into the back and sides of the ribcage, and on exhalation engage deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Maintain this engagement as you inhale. This is one of the most important principles in Pilates. As Joseph Pilates quoted: “Above all, learn to breathe correctly”.
- Alignment: Maintain correct alignment and posture in every exercise. Pilates works primarily from a neutral pelvis position, however variations may be needed for different participants.
- Coordination: Pilates moves and works the body as a whole. Coordination is achieved by correct execution and understanding of the movements. This creates good foundations for progressions.
Here are three mat exercises to get you started. Please check with your health professional before attempting these and we recommend attending professional classes.
Position: Lie on your back with your legs extended. The lower the legs go the more challenging it is for the abdominals. Maintain neutral pelvis with arms reaching forward and pressing hard into the back of arms. Open wide through the collar bone and curl up until shoulder blades are just off the floor.
Movement: Exhale to curl up. Inhale and pump arms with control five times. Exhale and do five arm pumps. Continue for ten breathes.
Note: Empty the lungs on each exhalation.
Open Leg Rocker
Position: Sit and balance on the sit bones, with legs extended long and open to shoulder width apart. Arms should be straight and lengthened holding onto ankles.
Movement: Inhale to roll back to shoulder blades, exhale to roll up to sit position.
Note: Ensure you are using your abdominals and lumbar spine to initiate the roll back, maintaining shoulder stability throughout. Legs and arms stay straight. Movement is controlled by abdominals not momentum.
Position: Lying supine (on the back) with arms long on the floor, activate the back of your arms and open wide through the collar bone and shoulder blades. Keep your legs long and vertical up to the ceiling.
Movement: Exhale to lift the legs up and over the face, peeling one verterbrae at a time off the floor. Inhale to hold, exhale to articulate spine and lower back down to the floor.
Note: Roll onto the shoulder blades, not the neck. Use abdominals to control the movement rather than momentum, and maintain a long neck and stable shoulders throughout.
“In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you will see the difference. In 30 sessions, you will have a whole new body” Joseph Pilates.
You can find Phoebe at One Hot Pilates in South Yarra.
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