The Pilates method focuses on targeting the smaller, deeper muscles of the body, through slow, controlled and centralized movements. It is these concepts that make Pilates one of the best and most comprehensive ways of improving body awareness and mind-body connection.
Posture – The whole body approach
Posture refers to the whole body: all regions of the spine (including the alignment of the back and position of the head), the placement of the shoulders and hips, the alignment of lower limbs in relation to the pelvis and upper limbs in relation to the shoulders. Yes, there is a lot to think about!
Each part of the body has an immediate or indirect connection to the next. When an area of the body is misaligned or has a restriction of movement, it has a knock on effect on other areas of the body. This causes other muscles and joints to compensate; not a good thing, especially when the outcome leads to pain.
Bringing awareness to body alignment and working on slower, consciously controlled movements involves a deep level of focus and concentration. It is these smaller and more controlled movements that work best in targeting and strengthening the inner muscles of the body.
This concentration on alignment and control are the very foundations of the Pilates method and are included in the original ‘Pilates Principals’. It is this mind – body connection that has helped Pilates become best known for its positive effects on the posture and injuries and why it is, in my opinion, an intelligent from of body conditioning.
Body awareness and proprioception
Good body awareness and proprioception are the first steps to gaining better centring and postural alignment. Without understanding your own body’s posture and placement, you will not be able to make the changes necessary to correct the faulty movement patterns, alignment imbalances or overused or misused muscle engagements.
Body awareness is having a sense of mind – body connection: the concentration needed to feel positions of the body, as well as understanding and feeling isolated and collaborated muscle engagements or body movements.
Proprioception is an internal sense of where your body is in space. This is a little more than just your spacial awareness. It allows you to know where your arms, fingers and feet are without looking, how close you are to your surroundings and how much force to hold objects with. It is one of the main sensory systems that helps to organise and ground the other sensory systems in the body in order to help maintain appropriate “sensory integration”.
This is how your tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular, auditory, visual and olfactory systems work together.
Practice Makes Perfect – Practice Make Permanent
If you have never done any form of exercise where you need to concentrate on form, positions or controlled movement, it can be tough to learn. We move, stand, sit so instinctively that it doesn’t require much thought. We adopt patterns of movement that feel comfortable and easy. Our neuromuscular system prefers ‘the path of least resistance’ too, meaning that over time our bodies become fairly lazy and inappropriate of insufficient movement patterns or muscle engagements start to develop.
Learning to listen to your body and switch on the mind-body senses, to be able to make positive changes requires patience, practise and persistence. It does not take long! Give Pilates a go and see how it can help you. Always be sure to choose a class that is the right level for you.
Opt to take a few beginner classes, even if you are physically fit and exercise a lot. The basic Pilates techniques are where the real work begins! So don’t be temped to skip it!