Understanding Pilates

Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner,
Eating a Christmas pie:
   He put in his thumb
   And pulled out a plum
And said, “What a good boy am I!”

 

Ah, if we were all only as proud as Little Jack Horner was when he pulled that plum out! It is often said that COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY. Of course, some comparison is healthy and important. You should take a look at what your peers and competition are doing to stay current. However, don’t let it eat away at you and give you feelings of doubt or negativity. We should be happy for others successes. If we are doing things right, we will have our OWN successes and at our OWN pace. Let others successes be the driving motivation to keep you working hard to compete. The minute you let it get you down, it will only distract you from your goals and what you have accomplished so far. So it’s like I commonly say to my clients during Pilates class “Keep your eyes on your own Reformer”. Never compare yourself to others…their path is different than yours. 

Exercise is usually thought of as a physical activity, but it can be just as much an emotional and mental journey -- one that should positive nurture and support your overall well-being. While society often portrays fitness as a means to change the way you look by reducing your size or actually changing the shape of your body, for me, those ideas aren't fuel for self-acceptance and positive self-image. This is why, in your journey to better both your physical and mental well-being, it's so important to learn how to stop comparing yourself to those around you.

Because, in the end, comparing your fitness journey to another person's doesn't accomplish anything for yourself, for the other person, or for anyone, really. And, personally, the more I work toward practicing positive thinking and self-acceptance in my own exercise practice, the more fun, free, and balanced the experience feels overall. Besides isn't that the point of doing Pilates anyway, to feel good about the whole thing?

We should redefine what exercise and movement mean to us.  Consider your own body, your own abilities, and your own speed when you think about how to guide your movement. 

Then use encouraging words that speak uniquely to you. And that applies not just to your body, but your whole self. You're doing this to support your well-being so you can be the best version of yourself and live your absolute best life. That's real strength. You go dig out your own plum and hold it up proundly!

 

One, Two, Buckle My shoe

One, Two, Buckle My shoe

Three, Four, Shut the door

Five, Six, Pick up sticks

Seven, Eight, Don’t be late

Nine, Ten, Do it over again!

There are two questions I tend to get asked by new Pilates clients…

1)  How many classes a week do I need to take to FEEL a difference?

2)  How long until I SEE a difference?

If you have looked up some basic information about Pilates you might have seen a quote by Joseph Pilates himself….

“In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you’ll see the difference. In 30 sessions, others will see the difference.”  

Joseph was emphatic about being consistent. Regular practice can do more than just tone and lean out one’s body. It begins in those initial Pilates workouts. 

First 10 sessions:You will develop a greater awareness of your body. Your posture begins to improve, which elongates your silhouette, your breath will become more focused and you might start to alleviate muscle soreness and back pain.  With continued practice, you will see increased muscle tone and definition, and will feel different in the way you move in everyday activities. 

Second 10 sessions:  You will definitely feel stronger and maybe even see some physical differences in your shape. However, if your goal is to lose weight, you need to take into consideration that diet is about 70-80% responsible for weight loss and physical physique. Meaning, no matter how much Pilates you do, if you aren’t mindful of your diet, weight loss might elude you.  That being said, if your diet is well-balanced, I would expect 3–4 sessions of dedicated practice weekly to follow Pilates’ rule of thumb about when you’ll see results. Give it a couple of weeks, and you’ll really start to feel consistently better (usually that “feel better” feeling occurs immediately after a session…after a few sessions, you’ll see those feel good moments will start to stick). If you do other activities, you might even start to see the effects of Pilates seep through there (better golf score, hitting the volleyball harder, running faster, deeper Yoga practice). And if you have special conditions or chronic aches and pains, you might reap the benefits of Pilates there first.

Third 10 sessions:How often you practice Pilates also contributes to how fast you see and feel a change in your body, as well as the intensity of your workouts. When you focus on form and breath, challenge yourself with each session, and integrate the six principles of Pilates each time you exercise, you’ll see changes faster than if you approach it with less intensity and take lots of breaks. What I hear most from Pilates clients is that if they take a break from Pilates classes, THAT is when they feel how much Pilates had been doing for them. The old pre-Pilates complaints of back pain, loss of balance, weakness all come back.  Whether or not someone sees physical differences in you, they will most certainly see a difference in your attitude and confidence in your body and the way it moves. 

Therefore, there is no need to “count” how many sessions you have done. The results are conclusive that no matter how many or how often, YOU will feel better, move better, and look better when you practice Pilates!

 

Hickory, dickory, dock!

Hickory, dickory, dock

The mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one;  the mouse ran down,

Hickory, dickory, dock!

 

Every day the clock controls my life. I wake up to the sound of the alarm, and then for the rest of the day, I am constantly checking the time to make sure I’m getting all my “stuff” done.  There are many days I struggle to get a workout in. That means I have to workout as efficiently as possible. If I have only a limited amount of time, I always choose moving through a Pilates routine. And I will tell you why…

At about the age of thirty, man and women begin to lose muscle tissue all over the body.  We need that muscle for balance and strength as it is the best way to prevent injury.  Aerobic exercise generally does not build muscle tissue.  To build it, we need to fatigue our muscles using weight and resistance. THAT is the goal in every Pilates class.  Because your Pilates instructor knows the "good news" – we can counteract the natural decline of muscle tissue with strength training, especially around the joints.

Here is a list of other benefits of strength training:

  • Provides relief from joint pain as effective as medication
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases energy and elevates our mood
  • Increases bone density
  • Improves how we look with lean and taut muscles

So, I will battle that daily clock, and the clock that is ticking since I passed 30 years old a long time ago!  It doesn’t take too much time for me to move through a complete Pilates routine.  I’m confident in the promise of Joseph Pilates who said, “When all your muscles are properly developed you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.” 

TW.png

ABCD's

A, B, C, D, E, F, G....

....Next time won't you sing with me?!

When I was in training to become a Stott Pilates instructor, I made friends with an amazing girl named Tina.  She had been taking Pilates on the Reformer for a few years as a client 

and had decided to take the instructor training, so that she could exercise more efficiently and with more understanding.  I was so suprised! She wasn't spending all this time and money so that she could teach....she just wanted to be able to understand what it was that she was actually doing in her Pilates class. She wanted to know WHY we focus on breathing and WHY we stabilize the spine, and she even wanted to know all the names of all the muscles we were contracting and enlongating.  So, we quickly became study buddies and learned the ABC's of Pilates together.  I found it very inspirational to study with her. I developed a love for knowledge with her. It WAS fascinating to learn how to engage certain muscles, how to create a class that balanced out the body, and especially, how to work with those that had injuries or concerns with their health.  

Knowing the theory of Pilates helped me to recognize details and patterns for my own workout, in my own body.  I approached the classes I took from other instructors with so much more

appreciation for the control and the challenge that Pilates brings.  Even in a non-Pilates workout, I found myself applying the knowledge of core strength, breathing, stability in the joints, etc. In Pilates, your muscles are working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs or bands, with the ultimate goal of strengthening and isolating the right muscles. Our goal should be to take our time with the exercises, focus on the task at hand, and connect to our breath. We don't want to speed past the details and try to execute the maneuvers too quickly. 

I knew what I was learning as an instructor was valuable. I know how special it is to me, and I simply want everyone else to learn it and see the value in it too. Growing from client to student to teacher, I realize, of course, that not everyone picks up on the same aspects of anything, but I try as an instructor now to pass this information on to my clients.  I hope they retain the connection they learn in Pilates and apply it to their non-Pilates activities. I am forever grateful to all the instructors I have had the opportunity to learn from. They are my inspiration for continual learning and singing the praises of Pilates!

2abcd.png

POP Goes the Weasel

POP Goes the Weasel 

Or as we say in Pilates class, POP goes the imprinted spine… 

Okay, maybe we don’t say that, but we DO talk about keeping the natural space under our back in place or lengthening our lower back into an imprinted position. 

What IS IT with the neutral and imprint focus in Pilates? 

Why does your Pilates instructor keep talking about that? 

Here’s the deal: 

The optimal and most efficient way to work your body is with spine and pelvis in neutral. If your pelvis is neutral, it allows your spine to be neutral, therefore, it is holding the posture firmly in place. 

So, then, why aren’t we all working from a neutral spine? 

1) The challenge is that there are different positions that our pelvis “lives in” based on our life’s experience. For example, most women who have given birth to a child will have a tucked pelvis which can cause weaknesses and deny the spine the support of its natural curve. Or, the opposite; I did gymnastics when I was younger, so my lower lumbar spine is extremely curved; holding imprint is very difficult for this reason. 

2) Additionally 75% - 85% Americans have or will experience back pain and/or injury, which may alter the pelvic position as the body compensates for the weaknesses. 

3) And, lastly, many of us lack the abdominal strength to work our bodies in a neutral position. 

If you would like to develop that healthy spine and correct imbalances in your posture, start all Pilates moves with an imprinted spine. Gradually test your abdominal strength by holding neutral for a few reps. Be knowledgeable of your own body. Watch for a straining feeling in your lower back. Talk to your Pilates instructor about modifications to challenge as well as keep your spine safe. You can also ask him or her to give you an analysis on your posture. 

***If you've been instructed by a Doctor or Health Professional to maintain an imprinted spine, follow that direction always. 

· Neutral Pelvis is the alignment of the ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine – aka Hip Points) and the Pubic Bone in line with each other in the Coronal Plane, which allows for a neutral spine, a spine that honors the natural curvature of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.

· Imprinted Pelvis allows the ASIS (aka hip points) to be lower that your pelvic bone; it is the act of using the muscles to draw the lower spine down towards the floor, therefore imprinting the spine. So why is this question so important? The optimal and most efficient way to work your body – spine and pelvis is in neutral. If your pelvis is neutral it allows your spine to be neutral, in it’s natural form.

Neutral
Imprint

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick, Jack  jumped over the Candlestick.

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick

Jack  jumped over the Candlestick

 

Well, maybe in Pilates we don’t have to worry about being as quick as Captain Jack escaping authorities or about jumping over a fire, but we DO think a lot about how nimble we are.  When we are nimble, we are quick and light in action; we are quick-witted and alert. Pilates brings a mind/body connection that puts us in that frame of mind.

Joseph Pilates said “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.”

Pilates is where we learn to control each movement of our bodies. When we practice a short spine move on the reformer, we don’t let the tension of the springs fling us onto our shoulders. We focus on our exhale as we lengthen our imprint, squeeze our gluts, and inch our vertebrae open to lift up onto our scapula where we use our core to balance and lengthen down our spine. 

When I first came into Pilates, I was disappointed that I wasn’t sweating, that I wasn’t winded, and that possibly, I wasn’t even “really exercising”, but within the first few weeks, I began to understand the Pilates terminology, the idea of working from your center. I became more powerful and flexible than ever before.

The next time you are in a Pilates class follow the advice of Joseph Pilates. ConcentrateConcentrate on the breathing, concentrate on the contraction, concentrate on lengthening each muscle, concentrate on holding the joints in place, concentrate on each muscle individually. The more we are able to connect the mind to the body and do the exercise correctly, the less likely you are to feel as if you aren’t “exercising” like I did in the beginning. It is now impossible for me to make it through a Pilates class without sweating, without becoming winded, and, I definitely cannot say I didn’t “exercise”!