Come as you are. You don’t need to be “more” of anything to do Pilates successfully. But you do need to bring more than just workout clothes to your practice. You need to bring just one thing with you to Pilates, and it isn’t anything you can buy or sell.
To make connections.
Within your mind and your body.
If we awaken and stimulate this simple desire of mind and body collaboration, that I believe lives inside us all, the journey with a Pilates practice will be forever fulfilling.
The fact that Pilates is still questioned to be for the flexible or the already agile reinforces that Pilates is NOT what it seems by just looking at someone doing it or from your one off experience in a mat class at the gym. For decades, athletes, dancers, those in rehabilitation, and everyone in between wouldn’t swear by the method if it wasn’t so consistently challenging, yet customizable to suit everyone who seeks out the work.
It is only through the actual study of the method and a properly trained instructor that you can begin to understand the clarity of the principles and how they are intricately designed and woven into into the repertoire. In the BASI Pilates Teacher Training, student teachers are learning theory alongside their own personal journey with extensive repertoire; many questions of self doubt arise.
So here, I’ll debunk some common myths about Pilates and how we emphasize these realities in the BASI Pilates teacher training course. Specifically, the interplay of our mind to body and body to mind is the most important part.
1. I need to be more flexible to do Pilates: You don’t need to be “flexible” to do Pilates. You do Pilates to strengthen a larger range of motion.
2. I don’t look like I do Pilates: You don’t need to look any certain way, except deeper, to do Pilates.
3. I can’t do the exercises like in the book/video: You don’t ever achieve perfection of the exercises, rather a perfect process, and you become accepting of that.
1. (You don’t need to be “flexible” to do Pilates. You do Pilates to strengthen a larger range of motion.)
Pilates aims to balance concentric and eccentric contractions. The springs and pulleys around the apparatus provide us with feedback, resistance and assistance throughout. Your body is actively using muscle to accelerate and decelerate movement.
We work our muscles to their fullest length since they are stabilized from the surrounding joints in neutral or homeostasis. We don’t force our bodies to be someone else’s “neutral.” We learn anatomy and structure of the body and guide our muscles towards this alignment without compromising our joints. This allows us to have strength in our fullest length. A unique feeling since muscles are used to feeling strong when they are short. Since muscles are like clay and mild to how you work them. You actually get longer ROM in your muscles with more stability in the joints! In our BASI Pilates Teacher Training Course, we learn anatomy alongside planes of movement to help train our eyes to cue and cancel out unwanted movement. For example if you are doing a bicep curl, we focus on scapular stability to cancel out unwanted movement in the shoulders and neck. Basically the elbow bends in the sagittal plane and the shoulder girdle and neck stay calm and dynamically stable against this movement.
In the exercises demonstrated here, I am showing how you move as long as you can control your ROM. In version 1 of “open leg rocker” if your hamstring and back extension is lacking on the full expression of the exercise.
Then you work on the building blocks shown in version 2 & 3 to build the coordination rather than hyper flexing the spine to hold the ankles and missing the objectives of this classic exercise.
2. (You don’t need to look any certain way, except deeper, to do Pilates.)
Well you need to also look the way you are going and keep your eyes centered. But- Pilates is for EVERY body. Any seasoned professional in the Pilates industry will agree. The more advanced you become the harder the fundamental exercises become because you work deeper. The goal is to work your body efficiently through an hour session of high quality movements that work the spine in flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation while targeting all the muscle groups and layering in all of the Pilates principles…all the time.
Although it may sound like a lot, it actually keeps the brain to body connection in collaboration. In the exercise I am demonstrating here, version 1 of back support I may hit the full expression and that ability may be easier than in previous years. But I get so tight in my shoulders and have to constantly work to keep a strong range of shoulder extension necessary for this exercise. Without this range, it is not possible to lift the pelvis and access the hip extensors, the pressure would otherwise drop into the hamstrings and knees.
Version 2 is a building block to making this exercise more accessible while keeping the muscle focus and objectives we talk about in the BASI course. Notice also the challenge in utilizing the deep neck flexors to keep the neck from over extending in both version 1 and version 2.
3.(You don’t ever achieve perfection of the exercises, rather a perfect process, and you become in love with that.)
I remember being a young dancer and dancing amongst others who were much better than I was. What kept me inspired and admirable of them rather than jealous was thinking that my dancing feels so special to me and that’s mine and I wouldn’t trade it with anyone. Even at that young age. When you stop trying to look like someone else and realize that your work is your own, it is a great gift. All of the benefits are in the act of trying to achieve your body’s fullest expression of an exercise on a given day. Pilates is movement in and out of lines that create your shapes. There are no Pilates Olympics, you are not trying to create someone else’s shape. You are trying to establish efficient movement patterns through healthy pathways in the body.
As demonstrated in version 1 of Swan Dive Prep with a drop and catch, I am lifting as high as I can maintain support of my lumbar spine in my abdominals and hip extensors with thoracic extensors leading the movement. Layering on momentum for the drop and catching back into the high extension.
In version 2 and 3 I am demonstrating building the strength in my thoracic spine before I carry it through my lumbar spine.
If we skip the strength and body awareness captured in the essential building blocks to specific repertoire we risk injury and disrespect both the method and the process. So enter your Pilates lessons with a desire to plug and play your mind and body. Allow the mind to understand body concepts, geometry, and how to help initiate muscle activation and relaxation. Be so connected that you can quiet the mind and let the body lead the way. Remember that the brain, although an organ, is like a muscle in that it can change and evolve, and that like any truly strong strong muscle it can also relax.
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