New to Pilates? Keep reading to find out what the buzz is all about!
WHAT IS PILATES?
Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. He called his method Contrology which refers to the way the exercises encourage the use of the mind to control the muscles. These exercises focus on awareness of breath, alignment of the spine, and strength of the core postural muscles.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PILATES?
There are many benefits to Pilates that may include improved core strength; increased flexibility and strength; and improved posture, balance and stability; flatten belly and toned body; and increased well-being and state of mind.
IS PILATES JUST FOR WOMEN?
Did you know that Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates for men? When he first opened his New York studio, many of his clients were men who were boxers, wrestlers and other athletes of varying disciplines. Despite its slow, careful movements, Pilates isn’t just for women. Many men including professional athletes benefit from practicing Pilates. It is a challenging workout that emphasizes the importance of core stability, strength, balance and flexibility to prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Many men will be surprised at how sore they are after a Pilates session. Pilates is one of the most challenging and rewarding workouts given how it can transform your body.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Pilates is not suited for everyone. Before practicing Pilates, discuss your medical history and fitness goals with your physician so that you can make an informed decision about your health.
If you choose to practice Pilates, remember these tips for practicing safely.
First, breath is an important part of your Pilates practice. It involves inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Full inhalations and exhalations are important because they aid in movement control during difficult abdominal exercises. Avoid holding your breath at any point during your workout. As you inhale, breathe in slowly and allow the air to fill the upper part of your chest to your ribs to your lower back. Take care to inhale without allowing your chest or shoulders to rise. As you exhale, let go of the breath with control. You can also try to practice this breathing exercise off the mat when you have a moment while driving in traffic, working at your desk or taking the dog for a walk.
Many beginners unknowingly limit their breathing when they become tense in their upper body and face. Shoulder and facial tension can limit complete exhalations, preventing you from expelling carbon dioxide. You'll be less efficient and tire much faster. Holding your breath can also raise blood pressure and, as a result, you may feel lightheaded or even pass out.
Never hold your breath in any pose. Be aware of how you are breathing throughout your practice and use it as a guide. Are you holding your breath? Can you hear your breath as you breathe in and out completely? Are you inhaling and exhaling at the appropriate times? Relax your shoulders and face and try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Be sure to use full inhalations and exhalations to aid movement control as you move through challenging poses. Breathe out as you exert effort and breathe in when the pose is less challenging. If you feel your breath become jagged, that's your cue to back off and try a modification. Ask your instructor for a modification if you feel a pose is too strenuous. She should have multiple options that are safe and effective.
Second, neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when the body is in proper alignment. To find neutral spine, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms alongside your body. Inhale and as you exhale push every back bone into the mat. Inhale and as you exhale and arch your back allowing for enough room to place your hands under your back. Again, exhale and imprint every bone into the mat. Inhale and arch your back. You will find neutral spine somewhere between these poses. When you’re in neutral spine, there will be only enough space for a grape or two or three fingers in the hollow space (also known as the “grape space”) under your lower back. Try to maintain neutral spine throughout your practice.
Third, the powerhouse primarily consists of your core postural muscles including your abdominal and back muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor with your arms alongside your body. Inhale and allow your belly button to drop towards your spine. Then, pull in your abdominal muscles and breathe normally. Your powerhouse should always be pulled in and up, in this way, like you’re trying to pull on a tight pair of jeans.
Finally, move only in a range of motion that you can control. For example, if you find that it is difficult to make large circles during the One Leg Circle exercise, try drawing small circles the size of a dinner plate on the ceiling.
You should never feel strain or pain in any pose. If you feel an exercise is too strenuous, ask your Pilates instructor for a modification. She should have several options for safe and effective practice.
That’s it! Follow these tips for safe and effective Pilates practice. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to Flat Belly Pilates by commenting below or connecting on Twitter or Instagram.