- Breathe. Why is your instructor so concerned about how and when you breathe during your session? Believe it or not, it's important and here's why. Pilates encourages Lateral breathing which emphasizes the lateral expansion of the rib cage while maintaining a consistent inward pull of the deep abdominal muscles during both inhalation and exhalation. A reason for using lateral breathing is to help maintain abdominal contraction while performing Pilates exercises during which keeping a stable core is important for successful performance and for protection of the body. Many exercises denote a specific breathing pattern. The breathing patterns help recruit specific muscles, keep you from holding your breath during a difficult exercise, and establish rhythm in session. Too much to think about? Then take away this: don't hold your breath and just breathe.
- Posture. Have you ever heard your Pilates Instructor tell you to “grow tall” during an exercise? That’s because we are ALWAYS working on your posture. Try this: sit or stand nice and tall. Now feel a reach through the crown of your head and lengthen through your neck. Externally rotate your shoulders and pull your shoulder blades down your back. If you are like most of us, this isn’t especially comfortable. Years of sitting at a desk or hunched over a phone are just a couple of contributing factors that wreaked havoc on our posture. But creating the habit now will strengthen the muscles over time creating that tall and poised look. Bonus: good postures makes you look thinner!
- Engaging your abs. I don’t know about you, but I “worked” my abs for years without much noticeable progress. Turns out, I didn’t know how to properly engage these muscles. Try this: Lie down on a flat surface with your legs extended long. Place your hand on your torso with your thumbs on your rib cage and your fingers reaching down toward your pubic bone. Take a big breath in, filling your lungs with air. Then exhale hard through your mouth, like you are fogging up a pair of glasses. Notice how your entire torso binds together. Your ribs knit together while your abdominals pull up and in. Congratulations! You have just activated your transverse abdominis, which is the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles and provides support and stability to your entire core. Remember this feeling during your next session. Even better if you think about it (and do it!) during your daily activities: driving your car, picking up groceries or sitting at your desk.
- Pelvic floor. If you’re a dude, you’re probably like, “what is that”? If you’re a woman, you likely know exactly what the pelvic floor is. The pelvic floor muscles are the foundation for the core of the body. They help both stabilize the pelvis and support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity, such as the bladder and uterus. You might hear your instructor cue you to engage your pelvic floor often. So how do you do that? Quite literally, you activate the same muscles that would stop the flow of urine but my favorite (and less icky) image is to draw the sits bones together and in.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. Last but certainly not least is something your mom probably said to you every time you complained that Suzie’s mom bought her a new mustang for her 16th birthday and all you got was Dad’s hand-me down Honda. Well I hate to say it, but she is right. Whether you are in a group class, semi-private session, or observing another private session, keep your focus on your practice and what your body can do. A little progress every day adds up to BIG results.
I'm a BASI Certified Pilates Instructor by day, somewhat competent housewife by night. I used to have hobbies but then CHILDRENS. I am married to the love of my life and somewhat charismatic Rustin Gradke. I have 4 kids that are wonderful sometimes but mostly they just eat a lot. I'm a lover of God and movement and the occasional bowl of queso.