7 Essential Pilates Tips

By: VICKI VARA, Owner of the v.method and certified mat and reformer Pilates instructor

1. How to say it. Pilates is a three syllable word, not a group of people who operate
 airplanes. It is actually someoneʼs last name – Joseph Pilates. The exercise method 
was invented to help wounded soldiers rehabilitate after war. Joseph Pilates 
transformed hospital bed springs into rehabilitation tools that helped increase the 
soldiersʼ strength and flexibility, while focusing on the spine – the beginning of the 

2. What neutral spine really is. Most Pilates instructors will remind you to move through 
class maintaining a neutral spine, but only the properly trained ones can help you find 
it. To find your neutral spine, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the 
floor. Place your palms on your hip bones with your fingertips touching at the base of 
your pelvis. Begin rocking your pelvis by arching your spine up and then flattening it
 out. You should notice your palms and fingertips changing position. Stop when your
 palms and fingertips line up, notice the arch of your spine. This is your neutral.

3. It’s all about the core. Once you find your neutral spine, you should perform each 
exercise and maintain alignment. The only way to achieve this is by contracting your 
abdominals. Pilates focuses on the transversus abdominis, which is the deep abdominal
 muscle. This is the primary muscle of your core and attaches at your spine. By 
drawing your navel in toward your spine you will not only keep your neutral spine,
 but you will also be effectively working your core.

4. Focus on the length. See how far your can reach your limbs through the movements once your spine is in alignment and your core is properly 
contracted. Try to stretch your legs and arms farther by contracting every muscle 
you can with
 each exercise. The higher amount of muscles contracted, the greater the results.

5. Just Breathe. Breathing deeply into the rib cage allows you to circulate the air
 sitting in the bottom of your lungs. As you exhale, imagine all of those toxins being 
released from your body, including stress. Remember as you inhale open your lungs 
and expand your rib cage to the sides of your body. As you exhale, draw the rib cage 
back by using the muscles of the core to get the deepest exhalation possible.

6. Vary your instructors. There are a multitude certifications available, so each Pilates 
teacher brings a specific style and methodology to their class. Barbara Kane, who has been practicing Pilates for 30 years and is a certified mat Pilates instructor, advises to to seek out instructors who are trained from a Pilates
 specific professional organization. These comprehensive trainings ensure that you will
 be receiving a well-balanced, technically safe, and positive class.

7. Remember to enjoy yourself.  Much like yoga, Pilates is a personal journey. Katherine Leonard, owner of Black Bear Health Club in New Jersey, encourages participants to be realistic about their progress. She reminds us that the first time you try some of the movements, you
 may feel silly and awkward, and you may become frustrated because you can’t do the
 roll-up or the teaser.

“When you find yourself getting frustrated, remember that it will take some time for your mind and body to get used to the new moves and ‘language’ of Pilates,” says Leonard. “Try and do what you can, the best you can, and just be patient because the benefits are immeasurable.”

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One Comment on “7 Essential Pilates Tips”

  1. Jeanene Karch
    October 7, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    i really like to sculp my abdominal muscles through lots of crunches and weight training. love to have those 6 packs. ,”‘”*

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