Whether your attend a regular group class or practice at home with a DVD, whether you are a client or a teacher we all develop bad habits over time. This article is going to highlight the ones I see the most – see you if recognise any in your own practice…
Looking to others
In most classes there is a mixture of abilities amongst the members and as such when exercises step away from the basics I usually give optional modifications to the movement so that members can tailor the work to their specific requirements.
Please don’t feel like you must achieve the most difficult option and definitely don’t follow your neighbor, from a Pilates perspective “powering through” usually means the recruitment of bigger stronger muscles meaning the movement lacks efficiency and postural/core strength. Take it slowly and remember the aim of the exercise, if you’re not sure what that is, ask.
Concentration ebbs and flows
I always say we should be perfectionists when we are in a Pilates class. Don’t aim for number of repetitions or range of movement, remember the principles of the exercise and focus on achieving those to the best of YOUR ability. We usually aim for 6-10 repetition of any one movement because we simply cannot concentrate for longer than that once we’ve considered the breath, pelvic position, posture, range of movement and where we are (and are not) meant to be feeling it. Lots to think about right? So if 6 is too many, stop after 3, take a breath and restart. Again don’t power through, re-find your focus, reset your body and go again.
Usually slower is harder, it requires more control, longer engagement of the required muscles and the ability to breath through movement. Slowing down is a skill that’s worth mastering when you begin Pilates.
When you have studied Pilates for a period of time and are familiar with how to engage and switch off muscles, more dynamic movement comes into the practice.
It’s the question I hear the most in beginner classes – “how do I breathe?” I get it, it can be confusing when there is so much to think about but in reality if it confuses you, forget it! The breath cycles become important as you progress to more tricky exercises and I will always tell you when a breath cycle is particularly helpful but the rest of the time just breathe and don’t hold your breath.
Remember the WHOLE exercise.
Most injuries occur on the way out of an exercise as the body lets go too soon. Remember to complete the movement and be mindful until you are safely back at your start point.
For some exercises the importance is actually placed in the end position– e.g. seated roll up – getting a nice seated extension of the spine at the end is a major part of the movement, without it only 50% of the exercise is executed.
I could go on… We all do it, I’m as guilty of it as the next person and I think one of the most important outcomes of Pilates classes is the ability to move mindfully. Thinking about body placement, engaging proprioception and learning to understand the bodies anatomy are all aspects of Pilates that will serve you well in day to day life when gaining strength, improving posture and ultimately avoiding injury.