The Five Pilates Fitness Foundation

In all my years of experience one thing I see a lot of is new clients who haven’t really done a lot of Pilates homework, but have heard great things from friends who do it (and obviously look awesome!).  So, in this post I want to give you a solid introduction to Pilates by explaining some of the core principals – five, to be exact. This will help you understand what to think about and focus on while participating in a private Pilates session or class.  Sometimes in a class you need to have a check list going on to bring integrity and awareness to your movements. Not that you don’t have enough to think about with learning pilates – it can definitely feel like learning a second language. The language of “BODY”. Its posture, feel, right and left, deep deep muscular compression, and of course the movement itself! At a certain point, there comes a relaxation with this kind of focus that can relieve stress and get you 100% into the moment! That’s when you know you’ve got it and it feels great!

Here are the First Five Principals: Breathing, Spine Alignment, Core Engagement, Axial Elongation, and Time Under Tension.

 I could create volumes on Breathing correctly, but we are going to keep it simple to start.

Breathing deeply is not over rated! It can be difficult to unlearn patterns of shallow and incorrect breathing that can be the cause of neck and shoulder tension as well as fatigue. When we are babies our tummies rise and fall with the air going to all the right places. Life happens and we wake up one day without a clue where the natural breathing went! There are many factors that influence our poor breathing patterns. Sitting at a computer, weight gain, pregnancy, lack of exercise and stretching, poor posture, sadness, and stress to name a few.  Shallow breathing can force the body to recruit unnecessary shoulder muscles to help out instead of deep diaphragmatic muscular recruitment. The chest can also rise and fall as a default much like a pump handle contributing to shallow breathing as well.

Ideally in pilates fitness classes we want the inhalation to fill up the side lobes and back of the lungs and to not lift the shoulders while taking deep breaths. The diaphragm must move downward on the inhalation to allow for the air to fully fill up the lungs. The diaphragm will move up when we exhale hopefully In conjunction with compressing the deep abdominal musculature onto the pelvis.

To help bring your breathing back into proper alignment, try this:

  • Lay on the floor on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands flat on your ribcage with your fingers pointing towards each other.
  • Now apply a little pressure while taking your deep breath and try to get the side ribs to expand. When you exhale, apply a little more pressure creating a corset with your hands. This will allow you to feel how the ribs actually move downward towards your hips and slightly together. Your little muscles between the ribs called intercostals will be working as a team as well to help contain the ribs and direct the airflow out of the body.
  • The last cue with the exhalation is to pull the belly button to the spine like a vacuume without trying to push your back flat. I will go over lumbar spine position in my next post.
  • Keep in mind, the spine should remain in a neutral position.

The more you practice this form, the better form your breathing will take, and you’ll get more out of your Pilates, yoga, and any other exercise you do. In the next post I’ll share more information on the second foundation of Pilates- Spine Alignment.

Until then, keep RIGHT- keep TIGHT!

6102 Avenida Encinias, Suite E, Carlsbad, CA 92011