As a Pilates teacher I’m often asked one of two questions when I tell people what I do for work; “What exactly is Pilates?” or, “Pilates… That’s good for your core, right?”
I am a full time Pilates teacher here on the beautiful island of Maui and a summer guest teacher on the enchanting island of Nantucket. I believe in laughter, and that laughing will connect you to your core better than any piece of equipment. When my clients laugh during our sessions, I often tell them to hold their “laugh belly” forever!
Pilates is a series of controlled movement exercises created to build flexibility, muscle strength, balance, and endurance. Emphasizing spinal and pelvic alignment, breath control, and developing a strong core or center, this method is often taught with the use of spring-guided apparatus. However, in order to understand the distinct advantages of Pilates as a practice one must truly understand what it means to strengthen or work your “core.”
Your “core” or “center” is a deeply rooted powerhouse that is ultimately the key to creating optimal physical strength, health, and movement throughout your entire body. This powerhouse consists of your lower abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, inner thighs, and upper hamstrings. These muscles tend to be weak in most people, especially postpartum mommies whose muscles have been stretched beyond belief with pregnancy and childbirth. Only by integrating with this center is your body free to move as one working unit. If you think of the ocean for example, it is so soft to the touch, but can build into a powerful force when gathered into one fluid motion when creating a wave. When properly aligned and integrated your body can create that same connection, fluidity, and force.
A good example is a simple exercise that activates that hard to find pelvic floor. Grab a yoga block or even a throw pillow. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place the block/pillow between your inner thighs and gently squeeze. Draw your belly into your back so much so that your lower back presses into the ground (this will curl your seat up). Release and repeat. When this becomes easy, press your heels into the floor continuing your curl into a lift off the ground.
Unlike other body conditioning routines that focus only on certain elements of your body’s fitness, Pilates as a practice takes a deeply corrective, and fundamental approach to your body’s overall health and fitness, which doesn’t end when you leave a session. Pilates is movement, thoughtfully guided to bring your whole body, an ever-evolving form, fluidly into its’ most integrated and effective state.
As a teacher, I focus on understanding how each person moves throughout their individualized day and how they may be adjusting or compensating to weakness or pain with repetitive, sustained, and/or improper body alignment. I remind clients often that the work they do with me is just 2 to 3 hours a week but that the greatest gift of Pilates will come as they take what they learn about their bodies in our sessions and integrate that connective movement into the other 165 hours of their weeks.
Ask yourself, how can YOU, in whatever YOUR life involves, keep your body working to its fullest healthy, strong, and pain free state?
If you have any questions or want to find out more you are welcome to check out my website and blog at www.alaynaleepilates.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 250-5803.
Mahalo and Aloha!
Image Credit: Alayna Lee Pilates