Find Your Way Back to Center with Pilates
"And I said to my body. Softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this."
It’s the start of a new year and Pilates is a great way to help you get back in touch with your breath and your body!
One of the benefits of the Pilates method is that anyone can do it. Anywhere. All you need is a few minutes and a space on the floor. Start small. Consistency is key.
Here are some basic moves to get you started on the right track.
Centering, Concentration, and Breathing
Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time with his use of mindfulness in exercise. Each movement is designed to be performed with full awareness.
To get started, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. If you have trouble getting down to or up from the floor, use your bed.
Place your hands on your ribs. Take a moment to scan your body and notice the details. Feel the back of your head resting on the floor. Feel your shoulder blades and pelvis contacting the mat.
Feel each part of your feet pressed equally into the floor. Take time to notice if you are holding tension in your body. If so, let it go!
Take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your ribs expanding sideways (try not to let your belly rise on these). As you exhale, notice your ribs returning toward your midline.
Imagine the lungs wringing themselves of air, and a corset around your waist. With each exhale, the corset should get smaller--- navel pulling in to your spine.
Inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five, slowly! Do this ten times, while noticing how each different part of your body reacts to the breath and gently guiding your abs to contract with the exhale.
Control, Precision, and Flow
Come to a kneeling position with your hands on the floor (if you have trouble kneeling, stand, placing your hands on a wall). Focus on the length of your spine. Make sure your neck is long and your low back is not sagging. Keep your navel pulling in toward your spine by engaging your abdominal muscles.
Inhaling, reach one arm and the opposite leg away from your center. Exhaling, place them back on the floor (or wall). Make sure to keep the hips even and abs engaged the whole time! Alternate to the other side. Repeat 10 times. Let one movement flow into the next, and make sure to focus on the precision of the exercise.
Putting it all Together
Now come to standing. Use the same awareness from your previous exercises. Start at your feet.
Feel the feet spread out on the floor, weight evenly distributed front to back and leg to leg.
Notice your posture. Your knees should be unlocked. Gently pull in your navel and imagine your rib cage lifting up and away from the floor. We want to increase the space in your spine.
Feel the arms relaxed by your side, your chest open, and both the sides of your neck and the crown of your head lengthening, reaching for the sky.
Let your breath easily fall in and out of your lungs. Take a moment to appreciate the length and space you’ve given your body, the tension you have released, and the strong center you are creating—all just with breath and awareness!