There are so many different vantage points that have influenced Pilates from what originated in 1888 in Germany by the founder Joseph Pilates. There isn’t one right answer as to how the form should be practiced while there are definitive principles, core competencies and movements that span various interpretations of the form. Reformer Pilates manly offer a revolutionary, fast paced, high intensity, body-toning workout in just 50 minutes.
The guiding principles from the founder transform a simple exercise regime into something exceptional and meaningful in a body reforming way. All of the principles are useful whether applied to Pilates or any other workout or sports activity.
Have you ever found yourself mentally distracted with a work deadline, personal issue, an idea or otherwise that when you approached your workout you were mentally not present? If so, you were cheating yourself. The connection of the mind to movement is a key component of taking health and wellness to another level.
Bringing a precise and focused concentration to movements allows development of body awareness. This development leads to an increased ability to access precise muscles and incorporate the muscles most relevant to optimum performance and health.
Performing a movement one time in optimum form will produce more dramatic effects than doing twenty reps mentally checked out and in poor form.
The human body has a truly amazing ability to adapt, default and recruit muscles as needed due to a phenomenon know as homeostasis. This incredible gift can be a curse when it comes to achieving fitness goals. It is all too easy to go through a workout and perform movement without strengthening and impacting the body in the way desired, as it is easy to default to large muscle groups that are already strong.
To build strong, lean and functional muscles, it is important to control movement and access the precise muscles that most effectively execute desired movements.
3. Precision and Coordination
The human body is integrated and interconnected from head to toe. This integration takes the connection between mind and body to another level. In the most general of explanation, messages must pass between our muscles to the nervous system and on to our brains so that movements can be executed and coordinated precisely to account for accurate movement with the right muscles firing, at the right time, and at the right pace.
In the simplest of terms, after any movements are performed in a certain way for a long enough period of time, our bodies create an imprint that allows us to remember how to move in that way, making them automatic.
4. Isolation and Integration
The human body moves efficiently and effectively when using muscles in harmony and in the way they were designed to move. The struggle is that daily living brings the body away from perfect alignment, even activities done with good intention can have this impact if not performed in proper form.
Let’s use the quads for an example. The quads are a very large muscle group that can become very powerful. When the quads become overdeveloped this leads to an imbalance were the body is likely to defer to this muscle even if another smaller muscle would be more effective to produce the same movement. Once this cycle starts, it can and often does continue to worsen as it becomes the muscle of preference by the body more and more to produce movement and therefore continues to become stronger while other muscles are being underutilized and become weaker.
With the Pilates sequence of exercise, there is focus on strengthening smaller muscles through isolation and toning while maintaining a strong core. It is the integration of small muscle isolation on a foundation of strength that leads to improved alignment and movement in daily living.
Centering in Pilates means bringing your awareness and focus to using your core to support all movements. The core of support involves several muscles all situated from the pubic bone to the bottom of the ribs. The core, often called the “powerhouse,” starts from the abdominals and radiates out to incorporate lower back muscles and the pelvic floor.
When moving from a strong core of support, the benefits reaped are injury prevention, proper posture, alleviation of low back pain, movement precision, and the appearance of a lean, flat belly.
6. Flowing Movement
I am sure most everyone can relate to feeling clumsy at one time or other, whether during learning how to ride a bike, or perhaps getting on the dance floor with a date, or any activity for that matter done for the first time. Somehow movements don’t seem to flow together just right because the coordination hasn’t fallen into place yet.
To take the principle of flowing movement and apply it try the following:
* Stay relaxed and focused
* Maintain even and deep breathing
* Hold your belly button in towards your spine
* Focus on lengthening and elongation of muscles as you move
Do you hold your breath when you exercise?
It is easy to forget to fully inhale and exhale when you are concentrating on movement and engaging specific muscles. An essential part of movement and having the energy to execute movement is proper breathing.
Finding your own personal breathing flow is key in Pilates. While generally inhaling to prepare and exhaling to execute movement is the rule of thumb finding your own body rhythm in your breath is superior. It is amazing the connection you can develop between your mind and body utilizing your breath.
Below is a sequence to use to connect to your breath.
* Find a straight back chair and bring yourself forward to sit on the edge of your seat.
* Bring your feet hip width apart.
* Pull your belly button in as though you are drawing it back to your spine.
* Place both hands on your back just beneath your ribs.
* Take a deep inhale and focus on bringing your breath to your hands, widening through your ribs.
* As you exhale, visualize your belly button pulling in deeper to your spine as you wring out every drop of air.
* Repeat this breathing technique 4-5 times, attempting to increase the capacity of air you are taking in as well as wringing out.
Movement develops and evolves over a lifetime for better or for worse.
The technical explanation of the “mind body” connection is that the brain sends messages to nerves that communicate to muscles how to move, these messages are known as neuromuscular pathways. If the pathway becomes distorted due to injury, postural distortion, etc. movement patterns are are created that recruit inefficient muscles allowing continued movement despite the imbalance.
To not get tied up in a technical discussion, the cliff note version is that it takes time to develop a pathway, and to change that pathway can be even more complex, depending on how long the pattern of compensation has been in place.
To create pathways to execute movements and any fitness or sport effectively, you must practice regularly, routinely. As Joseph Pilates put it, “through repetition, you acquire natural rhythm.”
Laura Violet Slenzak is a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Pilates Instructor with a private practice in Philadelphia, PA. Prior to bringing her sole focus to her own business she worked in the health care industry in medical sales and marketing where she was a key member of a team to sell a privately help company to a private equity fund while in her role as V. P. of Sales. Laura Violet holds a BA from Temple University, where she was Valedictorian of the College of Allied Health Professions. Her hobbies include marathon running, singing, erging, cooking, needle point and creative writing. To learn more about Laura Violet visit [http://www.bodyworkbylv.com] where you will also find her blog and MP3 class downloads.
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