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The 6 principles of Pilates: Breath

And Breathe! How often do you hold your breath when you are concentrating? How often do you take only shallow breath if you are feeling tense and stressed? Well, I can tell you…it’s probably more often than you think.
In your Pilates session, taking full breaths in and out is all part of the exercises. In the beginning, it can feel difficult to focus on your breathing, as the breath happens automatically and it is not something we tend to pay much attention to. The most important thing is that you don’t hold your breath, as your body needs oxygen for the muscles to work optimally and when we hold our breath, the body starts to tense up.
By inhaling and exhaling fully, you are also keeping the tissues and joints around your ribcage flexible as well as keeping your nervous system calm. (and we all need a bit of that, don’t we?)
Take a full breath in through your nose and feel your ribage expand. Then slowly exhale fully through your mouth as if you are blowing through a straw, and relax your shoulders at the same time.
I bet you feel a little bit calmer already?  Your welcome!

Anne-Marie xx

 

The 6 Principles of Pilates: Centering

In Pilates, all movements are initiated from the centre of the body.
Have you heard about using your ‘core’? This is also sometimes called using your ‘centre’ or ‘powerhouse’. It all means the same thing: using the deeper muscles around your waist, so your spine is supported and held in good alignment.
So even before any movement occurs in any Pilates exercise, you want to activate your centre so you can maintain good control and protect your spine while moving. Because of this, you effectively work the muscles around your midriff throughout any Pilates session and this is why people typically gain a flatter stomach when doing Pilates.
To really feel in your own body what centering means, it is worth learning the fundamentals correctly and I did a short video on this, that you can watch it here:

Just while you are sitting here reading this blog, try this: Sit up nice and tall and think of narrowing the waist as if you are pulling your front hip bones towards one another while gently drawing your belly button up and in. Obviously your hip bones won’t move but you can use it as a mental image, and practise this until you can really feel your lower abdominals working. The more you practise, the more you will feel it, I promise!
Happy Centering!
Anne-Marie xx

The 6 Principles of Pilates: Flow

In Pilates, you will always aim for smooth movements at a controlled pace. The breath helps to create the rhythm of the movements, which gives a natural flow to the movement and calms the mind. When you have mastered some of the exercises, we might string some of them together in sequences and transition smoothly from one exercise to the other.
You can also think of the flow within each exercise. For example if you think of the Chest-lift (sometimes called curl up, like a half sit-up): you intiate with your breath, then engage your abdominals, find length through the spine and engage your lats (draw your shoulder blades down) and then lift your head and chest. So lots of muscle activation happening with only milliseconds between each one, it becomes one continuous flowing movement.
So next time you are doing your Pilates, think of every part of every movement you do during your session as being important. When you finish the last rep of an exercise, think about where your body needs to be in preparation for the next one, and make the change of position part of your Pilates session.
This will help you build stamina, as you are working continually without rest. Movement without a tea-break 😀

Anne-Marie xx

The 6 Principles of Pilates: Control and Precision

I am continuing to talk about the 6 Principles of Pilates, and today the turn has come to Control and Precision. These two seem so very interlinked to me, that they are sharing today’s post. Enjoy the read!

Control:

Did you know that Joseph Pilates called his exercise method “Contrology”?

In Pilates, all movements are intentional and deliberate. The mind is controlling the muscles, and your muscles are controlling the movement. This is one of the reasons that Pilates is a relatively safe way of exercising, as you use muscle control rather than bouncing or flinging the limbs while you are moving. One of the great benefits of using the studio equipment, is that it actually requires you to maintain control to make the springs move smoothly…..we all know that sound when the reformer carriage bangs shut 😁

Next time you are doing Pilates, try to focus on where in your body each movement is coming from and which muscles you are using to do it, so each movement is executed mindfully with you in control.

Precision:

It is always quality over quantity in Pilates, and better to perform fewer repetitons with good technique rather than doing too many reps and losing your form. It is also precision as well as maintaining good form that will help you achieve the best results from Pilates. It has been said before that “it is the little details that will change your body”, and that really is so true.

Sometimes it is a small rotation of the leg that will make the difference between shaping up your outer hips instead of building bulky thigh muscles. Sometimes it is a slight backwards tilt of your pelvis that will make the difference between stretching your hip-flexors instead of compressing your lower back.

It is always worth giving some attention to the finer detail, as that is often where the real work is and also where many of the “aha-moments” happen.

Anne-Marie xx

 

The 6 principles of Pilates: Concentration

Concentration: In Pilates, you are looking to get the best from each repetition of every exercise you do, and that can only happen if you give your full focus and attention to your body. So this is really where the Mind-Body connection starts. Concentrating your whole mind on what your body is doing (and also what it is not doing), is the first step to developing true Body Awareness. And just as you are thinking about the parts of your body that are moving, you also want to be aware of the parts of the body that are still. For example: being aware of your shoulders tensing up while doing leg-work or knowing whether your legs are aligned when doing arm work.

The more you practise Concentration as part of your Pilates work out, the more natural it will become, and you will in turn gain greater benefits from your session. It is easier said than done of course, and it can be difficult to focus if you have had a busy day or have a lot of “stuff” on your mind. But next time you find yourself mentally planning your evening meal or composing a work email while doing Footwork on The Reformer, try to bring your focus back to the body.

It can be helpful to run a little “body-scan” while you are moving and take a moment to check in on different parts of the body, and notice what they are doing (or not doing).

By concentrating fully on your body and sending your focus inward, you are not only gaining a greater physical benefit but you are also giving your mind a rest. A much needed rest from all this other stuff called Life.  And this is what gives you that post-Pilates feeling of lightness.

And you so deserve that!

Anne-Marie xx