ABOUT THE BOOK
Pilates is a kind of exercise that works both the mind and the body. It improves strength without necessarily building bulk. It also targets the core (midsection) and other muscles that often get neglected by other activities. My introduction to Pilates happened at an early age.
For most of my life, I was considered tall for my age with long legs and big feet. My parents thought it would be a good idea to enroll their lanky toddler in ballet classes. I continued those classes (and other dance classes) for over 14 years.
In high school, I was a lean 5’8” ballet dancer and basketball player. I still had big feet, but they were complemented by long legs, long arms, and a long neck. What did I have to complain about? My midsection. I was relatively slim, but I had a pudgy middle. In high school, where appearances are everything, I wanted to do something about it.
Fortunately, around this time, my dance instructor introduced the class to the Pilates method. She said that Pilates is based off of the ballet moves many of us had been doing for most of our lives. She promised that the method would flatten our midsections and make us feel taller.
My dance instructor made good on her promise. After just 15–20 minutes of Pilates before we started dancing, I felt taller. Over time, I felt slimmer. I was hooked.
I’ve been doing Pilates ever since, and I love it. I’ve taken classes and I’ve done several Pilates DVDs. Of all the activities I participate in (everything from running to basketball to kickboxing to Zumba), Pilates is one that I always come back to because it is really so effective and important.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Pull the part of your stomach area that is below your belly button upwards and inwards--as if you are pulling it away from your belt line.Keep your rib cage relaxed and breathe normally.You should be able to feel the muscle contracting in your lower abdomen.
Another essential skill is being able to activate your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor muscles are at the base of your abdomen. They control your bladder and bowel functions. They also stabilize not only the pelvis but also the lower back. If you have lower back pain, are pregnant, or experience incontinence, learning how to control these pelvic floor muscles can really help.
How do you activate your pelvic floor?Start in neutral spine position.Contract the muscles you would use to urinate.Breathe as you normally would.
Once you can handle activating your TA and your pelvic muscles separately, try activating them together.
Ready for some advanced Pilates moves? Great! Here are six of the most common moves for experienced Pilates pupils.
Because sometimes it’s easier to see the moves being done rather than reading about them, many of the links in this section are to videos.
Advanced Pilates ExercisesThe Crab--The Crab requires complete control from your core, so it will give you a great ab workout. It builds on exercises like the “Roll Up” but is slightly more advanced.Start by sitting up straight. Bend your knees almost Indian style and cross your feet at the ankles.Bring your knees up to your shoulders and grab your feet with your hands.Drop your head and allow your spine to curve as your prepare to roll.Breathe in and roll back. Control the movement. Try not to let your limbs flail around.Once you roll to your shoulders, let go of your feet and switch your feet around. Grab your feet again as you prepare to roll up.Breathe out and roll forward. Inhale as your head touches the mat.Roll back to repeat the move.Double Leg Kick--This move works the back extensors and the hamstrings primarily, but it can be a total-body exercise as well.Start by lying face down with your head turned to one side and your feet together.