PILATES – AN INTRODUCTION
Pilates aims to achieve the Optimum Posture
What is Optimum Posture?
Imagine a plumb line running down the side of the body. It should run through the following points: the ear lobe, the neck, the tip of the shoulder, the centre of the rib cage, the lumbar vertebrae, slightly behind the hip joint, slightly in front of the centre of the knee joint and slightly in front of the ankle bone. That is perfect posture. When standing in the optimum posture your weight should be evenly distributed between your feet, and your feet hip width apart (looking down your knee should be directly above the middle of your foot), the pelvis is in neutral*, the shoulder blades and shoulders are down and relaxed, and the chin is parallel to the floor lengthening the neck.
Before starting any exercises unless told otherwise please:
Stabilise the body – feet lined up with the knees, knees lined up with the hips. Pelvis in *neutral i.e. not tucked forward or back, shoulders and shoulder blades back and down, chin down so the neck is lengthened.
Pelvic Floor – pull up the pelvic floor muscles.
Abdominals – pull in your navel towards your spine about a 30% contraction.
What and Where is the Pelvic Floor and Why pull it up ?
The pelvis floor muscles form a sheet of muscle between the pubic bone, the tail bone and the bottom of the pelvis. This sheet of muscle supports the contents of the pelvis and abdomen and one of its roles is to maintain continence. Pulling up this muscle aids in the pulling in of the abdominals (transverse abdominis). The pelvic floor will not remain contracted all the time. However, it is important that these muscles are regularly exercised after childbirth and as one gets older to maintain continence. We will cover these exercises in class.
Why pull in the Abdominals (Transverse Abdominis) and What and Where are they ?
The transverse abdominis is a sheet of muscle attached to the breast bone, pubic bone, top of the pelvis, the lumbar vertebrae and the last six ribs. By pulling in the naval to spine, we are recruiting these deep stabilising muscles of the pelvis, abdomen and back and these form a girdle of strength i.e. core. During exercise we only need to engage this muscle by approximately 20% to 30%.
What is a Neutral Spine ? *
A neutral spine is the basis of good posture. The hips are not tilted back or forward but somewhere comfortably in between. When blessed with ideal posture the forces of gravity are evenly distributed throughout the body and cause minimal wear and tear on the joints and the natural balance and length of the muscles are maintained. Muscles work in harmony with one another to create balanced movement. When posture is at its’ optimum, vital organs remain in their correct position and function as they should.
As you become more comfortable with the fundamental exercises we will learn breathing patterns which will increase oxygenation of the blood, relax muscle tension and reduce stress.
How to Breathe?
Yes! Many of us don’t breathe correctly. Place your hands with the fingers loosely interconnected on your rib cage and take a deep breathe in. If you are breathing correctly i.e. diaphragmatically, the rib cage will expand laterally (sideways) as the lungs fill with air and the diaphragm comes down to accommodate the increase in lung size. Now breathe out: the lungs will deflate, the diaphragm will move up and the ribs will close down. If you find that all that happens is your chest goes up and down you are not taking in enough oxygen into your bloodstream, and your tissues and vital organs are not receiving the correct amount of oxygen and nutrients. Breathing correctly will make a big difference to how you feel and how your body functions.
N.B. All of this information will be covered in your classes – over and over again. So please don’t worry about remembering it all. This will come with time, one of the most important functions of any exercise is that you enjoy it!
To see the History of Joseph Pilates click here
To see Some Exercises based on Pilates’ Original Teaching click here
To see my other website dedicated to Pilates click Pilates Shropshire.com