Your life is about to change... YAY! You have most likely signed up to start Pilates but have very little clue what you are in for, despite the countless clues from friends or professionals of the scientifically-backed benefits of Pilates. You are about to increase your flexibility, strength, endurance, and improve your posture. To guide you through your expectations we have come up with some key points to know as a newbie Pilates-goer.
What to bring?
A good attitude ready to learn and move will go a long way. On a more serious note, check the studio on their policies - either way, a good pair of sticky socks will keep you and the equipment hygienic and help keep you more stable.
What to wear?
Wear comfortable, slim-fitting exercise gear that doesn’t have zips and extra bits on the attire.
How will you move through Pilates?
Move slowly and with control. Initially, you may move slower than you would like but with time as you learn the movement and become more stable, you will work through the Pilates work more swiftly.
What’s with all the breathing?
Pilates breathing is very intentional and you will be breathing within the diaphragm and ribcage with minimal movement in the abdominals as possible. This is called lateral breathing. The aim is to use the breath to expand the ribcage laterally (outwards, sideways) rather than vertically. If you place your hands on your rib cage you can get a better sense of breathing. As you inhale, imagine your rib cage gliding apart. As you exhale, visualize your rib cage coming back together.
What is a neutral pelvis and spine?
A neutral pelvis refers to the bony structures in our body and it’s exactly the same in every person’s body. It is the musculature around these bones that differ. Imbalances, genetics, and daily lifestyles make the pelvis more complex to identify. Certainly, the position of each person’s pelvis and spine is not the same, nor getting to this position.
A neutral pelvis is when the alignment of both ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) and the Pubic Bone (known as the Pubic Symphysis) are in line with each other in the coronal plane when erect. The coronal plane is the plane that divides you in half creating front and back, also known as anterior and posterior. In addition to this, the front hip bones (ASIS), and the back hip bones known as the PSIS (Posterior Superior Iliac Spine) are on the same transverse plane. The transverse plane divides the body from top to bottom.
The neutral position of the pelvis is a base point and reference used to compare and describe all other positions. It is interesting to recognize that when the spine is in neutral, so is the pelvis. But there are times when the pelvis is in neutral and the spine is not.
This position will help you move optimally.
How to protect your neck?
Assuming there are no neck-related injuries involved, at some point in your Pilates class you will lift your neck off the floor. This can cause strain and discomfort if there isn't enough strength or if done incorrectly. When lifting the neck off the ground interlace the fingers and place the thumbs down the neck to protect any discomfort. The chin is about a first distance apart from the chest as your eyes gaze down before lifting the head off the ground. The correct movement pattern will make all the difference!
If you need to take breaks or use a pillow to ensure that you are safe.
Where do the shoulders need to be?
The best way you find placement is to pull the shoulders up, down, forwards, and backways and then settle the shoulders in their neutral alignment. Often when starting Pilates the shoulders like to creep up and tense.
Whooow - Balance Work.
The best way to hold your balance is to draw up through the pelvic floor. If you are a female this feels like drawing up/holding in a wee. For a male, this feels like you are drawing up your testicles. As the muscles get stronger and the body becomes more familiar with your center of gravity so you will improve on your balance.
If you are unsure of anything or if you are working in pain it is best to address this with the trainer as it is happening. Your instructor wants the best for you. Be patient with yourself as you slowly learn the work and reap the benefits one class at a time.