The technique was founded by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. An exercise system which improves posture, restores muscle balance and increases your strength and flexibility. The result is a more streamlined body with good all over muscle tone. Simple and precise exercises are performed without forcing or straining the body, helping to relieve stress and tension and in many cases reducing back and joint pain. By focusing on breathing whilst exercising, you can work mind and body together to leave you feeling refreshed rather than exhausted. Individual attention is given to your particular needs: Exercises can be adapted so you can work within your physical capability and therefore reduce the risk of injury.
At home – stand in front of a mirror and watch the way you breathe. Notice what happens to your shoulders – do they rise up round the ears and chest lift? Does the lower part of your stomach expand? If so – this is not the best breathing technique.
In pilates and for everyday life, we breathe wide and full into your back and sides. This makes sense our lungs are situated underneath the ribcage. By expanding the ribcage, the volume of the cavity is increased and the cavity for oxygen intake is also increased. It encourages us to make maximum use of the lower part of our lungs. This type of breathing works the muscles between the ribs, facilitating their expansion and making the upper body more fluid and mobile. We call this thoracic or lateral breathing. The timing of this breath is important.
Breathe in, to prepare for movement
Breathe out, strong centre and spine
Breathe in to recover
To isolate and engage the deep stabilizing muscles of the pelvis and spine – transversus abdominus, pelvic floor and multifidus muscles. Good control and good alignment are crucial to safety and to correcting muscle imbalances. You must have your bones in the right place to get the right muscles working, in that way you build the muscles so that they will support the joint not to stress it.
Once you have the breathing and alignment and deep control through your centre, then you are ready for exercise. There are easy and then more advanced versions of pilates exercises. At first, the movement may seem very small but if you are using all the principals above, they should actually be more about mind/ body and control of the movement with breathe and not about how much movement you are actually doing. Ask your pilates teacher if you are finding the exercise too easy or too difficult so they can assess if you are ready to move on further or if you are not working the correct muscles. If you are in any pain with the exercises, stop instantly and take a rest position.
There are many Pilates exercises and they do follow a routine and the full versions are tough. If you go to a large group class, it is possible that you will never actually do the Pilates exercises properly. Pilates technique is about holding the core of the body and working from underneath, whilst adding strength and movement to it. If you can, always try to do a workshop or a Pilates one to one class prior to going to a big group class. Exercise names you may hear are:
The Pilates 100, Saw, Pilates one leg circle, Pilates double leg stretch, Pilates side bend, Pilates roll down, Pilates push up, Pilates rolling like a ball or Rolling Back, , Pilates Roll Up, The Pilates Roll Over, The Pilates one leg stretch, Pilates Spine Stretch, Pilates Rocker with Open Legs, Pilates Corkscrew, Pilates Swan Dive, Pilates One Leg Kick, Pilates Double Kick, Pilates Neck Pull, Pilates Scissors, Pilates Bicycle, Pilates Shoulder Bridge, Pilates Spine Twist, Pilates Jack Knife, Pilates Side Kick, Pilates Teaser, Pilates Hip Twist, Pilates Swimming, Pilates Leg Pull (prone), Pilates leg pull (supine), Pilates Side Kick (kneeling), Pilates Boomerang, Pilates Seal, Pilates Crab, Pilates Rocking, Pilates Control Balance.
If you sign up for my Pilates newsletter, I do usually include a Pilates exercise for you to practice each month. Do feel free to contact me to ask any relevant questions. I will be happy to help you.