Starting your Pilates Journey – Part One
Don’t panic, no acrobatics required!
We often get calls from concerned individuals who are keen to start Pilates but think they need a degree from Cirque de soleil!
Relax knowing that anyone can start Pilates anytime and at any stage of life. Modern styles of Pilates focus more on functional movement that will benefit you in your everyday life and help you build a stronger body. In the first part of this series, we start with the absolute basics.
Like anything in life, you will get better results if you start with a strong foundation. In Pilates terms, this means practicing and mastering the following:
1. Finding your Neutral Spine
A neutral spine is when the natural curves of your spine are present. We now know it is the safest place to work out from as your natural curves act as a cushion to protect your spine.
In Pilates, we work from various positions but let’s start on a mat by lying on your back, knees bent, legs parallel and hip distance apart.
Place the heel of your hands on your hip bones with your fingers towards your pubic bone in a triangular shape. Now start to gently tilt your pelvis and push your lower back into the mat, then rock the other way to make a big arch.
Continue these movements five to ten times to mobilise your lower back.
You want to eventually settle at the point where your hands lay flat on your torso or where your hip bones and pubic bone rest on the same plane. At this point you may have a small natural arch under your lower back. This is considered your neutral spine.
2. Breath and Core Engagement
Proper breath, along with core engagement helps to fire off small stabilising muscles that support your spine. Developing these muscles, along with correct spinal alignment, may assist in alleviating lower back pain and allow individuals to start moving more freely than they ever thought possible.
The core is a complicated device, it does not consist of just one muscle. All of the associated muscles need to work in harmony to give us great core strength. Before we get into the nitty-gritty (in Part Two), first, we need to take a step back and learn how to engage our deep core muscles. Activating pelvic floor and engaging transverse abdominis (try saying that really fast a few times!).
The transverse abdominis (TA for short), in a nutshell, is the deep corset-like muscle that wraps the circumference of your torso. By switching on the pelvic floor, we can (hopefully) also start to feel this important muscle contract.
Let’s start by lying back on our mat, with knees bent and hip distance apart. Find your neutral spine and place the heel of your hands to your hip bones. Doing this will help your feel your TA (transverse abdominis) activating. Take your fingertips down and in a couple of centimeters.
Start to concentrate on your breath.
As you exhale, try to engage your pelvic floor (toilet muscles at the front) and let go as you inhale. Try not to fully contract your pelvic floor, take it to about 30%. You should start to feel tightening under your fingertips (this is your TA engaging), with each exhale and release on your inhale.
Do not let any other muscles take over or engage your glutes at this stage. Take around 20 breaths and then relax. Now repeat this, but as you exhale keep your pelvic floor and TA switched on.
Hello, have we still got your attention!?
Now that you have a basic understanding, you can follow along in this short video we made. It may just help it all make more sense as you follow along and do it with us.
Practice makes perfect, keep going until it becomes second nature.
Woohoo, congratulations on starting your Pilates journey with these easy foundation practices! Watch out for Part Two in this series when we will add more muscles and take your foundation practice to the next level.
Changing lives through Pilates & Fitness