Is Pilates for Wimps?

Joseph Pilates said, "It's what you can't see that matters most."

How frustratingly true. Pilates is a conundrum to many people because the way that you engage your core (what you can't see) as you exercise is as important as the choreography itself (what you can see).

When people leave a class commenting that they don't "get" Pilates or they don't think it's hard, it's pretty clear to me that they cheated during the whole damn class. Of course this wasn't the intention, but nevertheless it happened, and now Pilates has a bad name as exercise for sissys or something that is just too hard to "get."

This is what happened: those people performed the choreography of the exercises without attending to the nuances of their breathing, alignment, and core stability. Unfortunately, those nuances are what makes Pilates a truly unique, effective, and very challenging form of exercise.

It takes a little bit of patience and perseverance to understand and implement the basic principles of Pilates, but it is well worth it, as it is only in doing so that you will reap the full, intended benefits. The nuances of Pilates can be explained in what the STOTT method terms the 5 basic principles. These principles are:
  1. Breathing: The purpose of breathing is to relax the body and engage the transversus abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle.
  2. Pelvic Placement: When performing exercises, the pelvis should be in either a neutral or an imprinted position. The pelvis should always be stabilized.
  3. Rib Cage Placement: Care should be taken to ensure that the ribs remain closed when lying down and don't deviate forward over the hips when sitting or standing.
  4. Scapular Movement & Stabilization: The scapular muscles should be engaged and stable when the arms are moving, the spine is flexing or extending, or the spine is neutral.
  5. Head & Cervical Placement: The cervical spine should follow the natural curve of the spine.
At first, this is a lot to keep in mind, but with a little bit of coaching and practice, these basic principles become so ingrained that they are automatic. They will transform not only the way that you practice Pilates, but the way that you practice strength training, yoga, spinning, or any other form of exercise that you decide to take on.

In fact, you will find that the principles carry over into your daily life as well. Before you know it, you will be rearranging your rear view mirror so that you have the correct cervical placement as you drive. You will be closing your ribs and stabilizing your shoulder girdle while waiting at the checkout at the grocery store. You will even be mindful of your ribs and pelvis as you carry your child. These changes will benefit your body, your posture, and your overall feeling of well being.

Shouldn't exercise carry itself outside of the gym? Now it can.

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