Exercises to take with you on your summer vacation.
When I tell people I teach Pilates, the response is nearly always the same. “Oh wow. That’s really cool. Wait … What is Pilates exactly?” One common assumption is that Pilates is a stretching exercise for super-flexible women. “I can’t do Pilates. I am not flexible enough,” is a typical comment. Some people think Pilates is physical therapy, some think it uses torture devices, and someone recently asked me if Pilates was a form of dance.
Well, Pilates is not dance. It is not physical therapy. It is not torture. And flexibility is a goal but not a requirement. First and foremost, Pilates is a workout that was developed by a German boxer named Joseph Hubertus Pilates. Contrology, as it was originally called, is a form of body conditioning which encompasses over 500 exercises and is based on the principle that before working the peripheral parts of the body, like the arms and the legs, you must have a strong and stable center. The main goal of the workout is a healthy, well-aligned, decompressed spine; strong abdominal muscles; and a keen body awareness. Here are three more Pilates benefits you may not know about.
A longer shelf life: If you didn’t periodically take your car in for a tuneup, its reliability would diminish substantially and you may end up broken down on the Garden State Parkway. The same goes with your body — if you don’t maintain it regularly, it will fail you. Pilates exercises are a tuneup for the body. Pilates strengthens the smaller, deeper muscles and teaches us how to use our bodies correctly and efficiently so we can continue to bend to tie our shoes, lift our children, twist, extend and move freely without injury as we grow older.
Inner Strength: In Pilates we work from the inside out. In every exercise we are trying to access our transverse abdominis, which is our deepest abdominal layer. The transverse houses all of our intestines and internal organs. When we lift the powerhouse, we lift our organs up against gravity.
Increased Mental Focus and Multi-tasking ability: Pilates takes a lot of concentration and multi-tasking. You must coordinate the breath with movement, pay attention to your abdominals, shoulders, feet, neck, and all the little details. And then you are supposed to remember what exercise is coming next and what springs go with each exercise. All this effort, increases body awareness and the connection of the body and mind.
Four different takes on the Pilates Frog.
In Pilates we always work from the inside out. That means that before we work the peripheral parts of the body like the arms and legs, the inner core or Powerhouse needs to be strong and stable. When we can apply this principle to our daily activities, we can do Pilates all day long without even getting on a mat or a reformer. Here is how.
Behind the Wheel: When driving, always adjust your seat to a 90 degree angle so that your back stays straight. Firmly press your hands into the steering wheel and pull your abdominals in and up to lift your lower back bones. Reach the crown of your head to the sun roof and imagine your bellybutton getting higher than the steering wheel.
Waiting on line– Instead of impatiently shifting your weight from side to side, keep your weight centered on both legs. Lift through the arches of your feet so that your weight isn’t sinking into the floor. Reach the crown of your head to ceiling, lift your abdominals, and reach your sitz bones downward towards the floor.
Watching tv- Sitting on the sofa and watching tv does not have to be synonomous with couch potato. While watching your favorite show, sit towards the front edge of the couch and firmly place your feet into the floor. If your feet don’t touch the floor place them on an ottoman or stool. Pressing your hands firmly into the couch, Scoop your abdominals in and up to lengthen your spine and cinch your waist. Keeping your back lifted, lift your leg and reach your heel towards the tv screen. Repeat on the opposite side.
Carrying and Lifting- Whether you are carrying a heavy purse, an infant carrier or a toddler, balance your load by shifting your upper body weight to equal it on the other side. Visualize you are carrying an identical object on the opposite of your body side and try to keep both sides of the spine equally balanced. Switch sides often in order to prevent overdevelopement of muscles on one side.
Pushing a Stroller– When done with a little concentration and body awareness, pushing a baby stroller can be an amazing Powerhouse workout. Always lift your waist and chest and keep your shoulders back rather than leaning into the stroller. Lightly grip your stroller handles and imagine that your are pushing the stroller forward with
Sandi Vilacoba, owner of The Pilates Project in Fair Haven, NJ teaches 4 variations of the Pilates criss cross.