Without much warning or transition, summer is now upon us. Beach days, bikini bodies, short shorts, crop tops…the list goes on. It’s the time people decide to head to the gym so they can get “beach bod” ready…
To tell you the truth, I never really understood it. It takes more then a month to get into great shape. It takes many months prior to beach season of dedication, hard work and consistency. It doesn’t stop when summer rolls around, and it doesn’t stop when summer ends. Staying in shape needs to become a habit. It needs to become something your body actually craves.
The great thing about Pilates is it literally focuses on the one area every person wants to work on, especially in the summer….THE CORE! It’s the most essential ingredient for Pilates, and functional training in general. In Pilates, the core is like the “steering wheel” for every movement your breath is the fuel for firing up and deeply engaging your abs. Think of it like a well-oiled machine. When you strengthen your core muscles, you are keeping your body tuned up. Things just work better!
Many people find it difficult to feel their abdominal muscles contract, especially the deepest ones. A helpful tool to finding these muscles is to first picture them in your mind, and then feel them contract. Every Pilates movement begins from your abs. By picturing the anatomy of your core, you are one step closer to developing and toning your stomach like never before. I know it sounds crazy but don’t poo-poo it until you try it. A strong core offers limitless possibilities for performing activities you only dreamed of.
Summer can be a very motivating factor for getting yourself to the gym. It’s never too late to start improving yourself. The perfect time is NOW.
1) Sit on the floor on a mat with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Keep your legs together and wrap your hands behind your thighs. Imagine drawing your waistline in and up.
2) Begin to exhale as you roll your spine down into a deep C-curve while looking at your midsection and continuing to hold the back of your thighs. Imagine the center of your body taking the shape of a scooped out bowl.
3) Start inhaling as you keep your abdominals engaged while returning to the sitting position
Let me know how it goes….
Till next time my pilates friends!
As a Pilates instructor, I have learned a lot about myself through the way I breathe and how my clients breathe. It is the bridge between body and mind and a key principle of Pilates. Some people are motivated to take their breath work to the next level and find the reaping benefits of deep abdominal breathing, while others find it a waste of time.
I cannot emphasize enough how important deep abdominal breathing is!! Many of us breathe shallowly, barely filling the upper area of our chests with our inhalations. When you pay attention to the way you breathe, you can significantly affect this most important and underrated muscle of your body, along with your overall health.
Awareness of the way we breathe can create clarity within yourself. It will alleviate unnecessary muscular tension, quiet your mind, calm the body and make you relaxed. Doesn’t that sound great?
Give your lungs a “spring cleaning.” Practice your breathing exercises several times a day and notice the changes that occur. Joseph Pilates said, “Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly. Our very life depends on it.”
He isn’t wrong!
Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will explain the different breathing exercises for you to practice on your own! Till next time Pilates friends 🙂
I read an article yesterday by the founder of BASI (Body Arts and Science International) that succinctly explained everything I believe Pilates to be and why I am such an advocate for this form of exercise.
This blog post is dedicated to that article. Many people don’t understand the profound benefits Pilates has on the body or why such a range of people can do it. In this blog post, hopefully those answers will be explained.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Pilates develops many aspects of physical fitness: strength, flexibility, coordination, speed, agility and endurance. It heightens body awareness and enhances body control. it teaches correct muscle activation and corrects posture and alignment. It helps facilitate optimal function of the internal organs and improves balance and proprioception. Pilates also focus on breathing which offers a vehicle for concentration and focus. It promotes relaxation and the release of tension. Pilates keeps musculature and bone structure in an optimal state and can even help people develop more bone mass. Pilates also benefits pregnant women by providing a safe, effective, non-impact exercise activity. It serves as cross-training for athletic pursuits and daily activities. For those who want to look slimmer and more toned, Pilates provides evenly distributed body mass. And last but not least, Pilates provides a path to inner harmony through a finely tuned body.
Why are athletes and dancers drawn to trying Pilates?
Good question! the answer varies but most respondents selected two goals: to improve core strength and to tap into the benefits of mind-body connection and power. The great thing is that the core of The Pilates Method is based on these two principles. What most training regimens lack are these two key components and thankfully, Pilates is exceptionally effective in achieving these two goals.
How quickly will I notice the changes from doing Pilates?
I get it. We live in a society where we want to see results NOW. We want to see them as soon as we do something and if we don’t notice the results right away, then we don’t think it works. That’s just NOT true! Change takes time, commitment and discipline. If you dedicate yourself to regular Pilates sessions, three times a week for at least six weeks, some positive change is absolutely inevitable. If you take two lessons a week, you will still reap the benefits but they will take longer to appear. Doing a regime of Pilates only once a week is really scratching the surface. Do you see change when you only eat healthy once a week and pig out the other 6 days? No. So why should fitness be any different? Once a week will still produce changes, but it’s not going to happen fast. It will be a slower process, but worth it none the less if that is all you can commit to. It’s better then nothing! There are changes that happen can and do tend to happen immediately. These changes range from a more acute sense of body awareness, muscle activation, or alignment. However, change and adaptations of the neuromuscular system take time. For muscles to transform, and for transformation to be integrated into a person’s life, you need to be consistent. Consistent doesn’t mean doing Pilates for 6 weeks and expecting the changes to last forever. Being committed means sticking it out for the long haul–not just for days, weeks or months, but for years.
Here is a quoted story from Rael Iscowitz about a woman he worked with named Stella, age 76 who had severe scoliosis. This story is a perfect example of why I love Pilates.
“…Stella, who came to me at age 76 with severe scoliosis and an array of muscular and structural imbalances. The medical literature would say that changes could not be made to this woman’s alignment, posture, or even movement at this point in her life. In fact, it would probably say that without either surgery or facing during her preteen years, no significant changes in her physical alignment could have been achieved at any point in her life. But Stella worked with a commitment and dedication that I had seldom seen…Within the first few sessions, her awareness improved and she started recognizing the immense imbalances that had infiltrated her body. After 30 sessions she moved differently, her posture improved, her confidence was elevated–in fact, her whole life changed. She realized early on that these results were only the beginning; that remaining committed for the long haul–not for days, weeks or months, but for years–was imperative. And remain committed she did!
….Did she suddenly have a straight spine? Absolutely not! Such a change to the skeletal structure could not take place at her age. Yet her alignment, muscular control, and efficiency in movement did change. Her level of pain decreased dramatically and she began to enjoy her daily activities, especially her beloved gardening, relatively pain free.”
I have been getting a lot of requests from people on what they can use to assist them and challenge themselves while working out at home. Today I will share with you my top props that I highly suggest investing in. They are affordable, portable, assist and challenge. If you want to add some fun and variety to your pilates routine at home, then try out one or all of these fun, versatile pieces!
1) Magic Circle-
The magic circle provides moderate resistance for strength training and provides feedback by keeping the body in alignment. I like to use the magic circle to strengthen my legs and arms but there is so much more it can do! It’s great for challenging the abs and increasing spinal mobility.
It can be used to work just about anything and since it is so small you can take it with you when traveling! It is great for a home gym.
TheraBand exercise equipment provides positive and negative resistance. When used properly they help improve strength, range of motion and flexibility of the muscles. They can also help restore muscle and joint mobility. They are the most portable prop in Pilates with virtually unlimited uses.
The two-handed grip of the SmartBells allows a high level of control while adhering to your body. By having two spaces to place your hands, your body can work isometrically when physical challenges call for it. The extended flowing movements stretch and tone your whole body or targeted muscle groups.
This is my ultimate favorite portable pilates equipment. It is on the higher end, but worth the price! MOTR® combines the comfort of a foam roller with the challenge of three weight level resistances, giving you a challenging and incredibly diverse workout tool. Exercise categories include cardio, balance, functional training, mind-body, agility, strength training and more. All the components are stored inside the core of the roller itself! Small enough to carry over the shoulder, MOTR takes up very little space and can be set up/disassembled in a minute.