My Top 5 Benefits

Any Pilates instructor or addict will tell you at least a few reasons why they love it. I think an act of God brought me to the path of being an instructor, because I feel so…normal. But you know what? I really fell in love with giving my body strength, endurance, and flexibility (among other things), and I knew I wanted to pass that along just as that gift was given to me by my instructor.

Your list will look different from my list. You’ll come to class for ten different reasons than I do. And that’s fabulous. Here’s a little teaser of why I love this so much:

  1. I felt strong. After about 15 sessions I knew my strength had greatly improved. I could haul huge loads of laundry upstairs without a struggle (I had a one year old and a two year old, my body was so tired back then).
  2. My diastisis recti had gone from a 4 finger width down to about 2 in that same amount of time. What black magic was this? Honestly.
  3. My flexibility improved. The first time you do leg circles, and then the 30th time you do them, will show you just what I mean. Plus, I could put my palms on the floor when I bent over. That had never ever happened before.
  4. My posture improved. I sat so poorly, likely because my abdominals and my back extensors weren’t very strong. Plus I carried (yes, used to! Past tense!) stress in my neck and shoulders, so everything was just yikes. One day not too long ago I was sitting at Verizon being helped by one of their customer service reps and he paused right in the middle of what he was doing to say, “Wow. You have really nice posture.” It is actually painful for me to slump or to let my shoulders fall forward now.
  5. This is my favorite, I must say: I can properly recruit muscles to do work for me. Any physical task has gotten noticeably easier. Yes it’s because I’m stronger, but it’s also because through constant practice and the intentional connection of the mind to the body, I can now use my abs to shovel the ridiculous amount of snow from my driveway. My back and shoulders weren’t sore after shoveling, my abs were. Of course all of my muscles worked in tandem to get the job done, but I could use my abs to do much of the grunt work needed to lift and throw that heavy mess. I can properly engage my back muscles or my lats or whatever in order to more efficiently move my body. And that’s kinda nerdy neat.

Why do you practice?

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What to expect.

Any time I went into the gym or to work out with a trainer, I never knew what to expect. What muscles would I work? If I went alone, would I give up on the weight room and simply resign myself to enough time on the treadmill to assuage my conscience? No, no. No more of that (if I don’t want to). If you decide to do Pilates, here’s what to expect.

Mat Class:

You’re gonna work your core, and hard. But your whole body will work with it, so you’ll feel good all over the next day. TheĀ  majority of this workout is on a cushioned mat (much thicker than a yoga mat), and most of it laying down and sitting. Sometimes we’ll have props like resistance bands, the ultra-fit circle, ankle weights, or the Pilates Arc. It depends on the day and the class. It’ll never be too terribly predictable, and we’ll always build on your strength and abilities so you do not get bored.

Reformer Class:

No, the Reformer is not some kind of torture device (well…). It is lovely. It is a cushioned carriage on a frame with a foot bar and straps for your hands or feet, and the resistance comes from a combination of springs. There are so many exercises to be done on it, and you truly will not get bored here. Again, much of your workout will be laying down or sitting until you reach more advanced levels. You’ll begin with a warm up and foot work each time. The footwork is foundational to helping you achieve strength, balance, and alignment in your lower limbs, and stability and proper alignment in your spine. It feels wonderful on your legs and feet, which take the brunt of our daily lives. We must give them love and attention, too!

Private Session:

In a private session we will work on varied equipment, and you will tell me what you want to work on (if you are that advanced), or how you’re feeling for the day will dictate your session. You’ll get one-on-one help building strength and flexibility, and addressing physical issues or injuries (though I am not a physical therapist, I’m more of a movement practitioner–I can move you safely). You can choose to work on the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Ladder Barrel, or the Mat, or a combination of these. It’s a real hoot!

Breathing:

Yes, breathing. I will quite literally be helping you learn how to breathe during each exercise. I’ll give you a basic guideline of how to breathe during exercises, but do not be put off if it’s messing you up, just breathe! Proper breathing during Pilates does come with practice, and a pretty intense amount of focus. You’ll learn that in Pilates you will breathe into your rib cage and back while maintaining core engagement (think pulling your belly button into your spine). Try it now, sit up straight in that chair you’re in (don’t lie to me, you’re totally sitting). Relax your shoulders, keep them down and back; pull your belly button in toward your spine to turn on your abs; now inhale deeply. See where it went? Straight to your ribs, didn’t it? The pattern of breath will help fuel energy into the proper part of the exercise and help you to complete it.

Alignment:

I will always be keeping an eye on your alignment and posture. I often cue with words first, but will probably offer you tactile guidance if you don’t respond to verbal cues. (But do tell me if it makes you feel uncomfortable, we’ll never accomplish anything if tactile cueing is so not your thing, we’ll work it out together). If you’re one of those people who carries stress in their necks, I’ll spend a lot of time in the first 10-20 sessions helping you learn to relax your jaw and your shoulders, and sending the energy into your core. If your ribs pop or you stand with a sway back, we’ll work on building strength in the proper muscles to help realign you into a neutral spine position, whether sitting or standing or laying down.

So there you have it! That’s a basic idea of what to expect all around, and some links to photos of the equipment we have at the studio.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a fitness regime created by Joseph Pilates that he called Contrology. He based it off of ancient Grecian and Roman styles of fitness. He truly believed the health of the spine determined the age of a person. Pilates focuses very much on the proper alignment of the whole body, beginning with the spine and its natural state (and yes, it is curved, not straight! If your spine is straight, come find me, or a physical therapist, and soon).

Everything we do as instructors is to help keep your spine in a safe state, to strengthen the muscular system of the body to hold you up properly, and so follows that your whole life of daily tasks and challenges will be done safely and effectively with strength and grace.

Wouldn’t it be nice to carry that basket of laundry upstairs without being out of breath or your back hurting, but instead have a little extra spring in your step? Or to load the baby and toddler into the back of the car without wrenching your back out? Or to lift weights and find better form and strength? Enter Pilates.

Something that is so lovely about Pilates is it builds upon the foundational work. You’ll start somewhere (there it is again) that teaches you proper movement, alignment, and recruitment of your muscles: Level 1. And when you’ve mastered the foundational work (chest lift, pelvic culrl, hundred prep), you’ll move onto exercises that build strength and coordination on top of those (criss cross, shoulder bridge, hundred): Level 2 and beyond. There’s never a dull moment in the Pilates studio. One day you’ll rock certain exercies, and others not so much, you may need on those days to focus on flexibility and gentle movement. Our bodies are different every day, let us give them the courtesy of not doing leg day if we do not need leg day, and let us give our whole body movement each time.