If you have taken one of my reformer or mat classes you have probably heard me say to ‘zip up your magnets’ or ‘engage quadrant 4’ but what does that really matter? It matters because your Pilates practice becomes even better the more you understand and can properly control your body.
Did you know Joseph Pilates actually called his practice “Contrology”? Pilates is a thinking exercise – you can’t just show up and go through the motions if you want to get results. So today – we are going to break down a few things, dig in a bit deeper and explain Pilates!
1. Engaging the magnets – By intentionally drawing the muscles of the legs together towards your midline with purpose and control, you are working those muscles. This allows us to utilize more of our body while we are doing a bicep exercise, for example. The more we can have total body control and engagement – the more powerful the movement becomes.
2. Stabilize the pelvis – this is particularly important for women and an area some have trouble with. If we don’t work to develop the muscles that hold our pelvis properly in place we set ourselves up for back issues, hip issues and more. I see many women who have an unstable pelvis. Much of what we do throughout our day or even in other exercises does not necessarily promote stabilization of those important pelvic muscles. In Pilates, if we are drawing leg circles we must use our pelvic stability muscles to hold the pelvis steady or it will rock and roll all over!
3. Tabletop legs – this is one that is often seen as being about the legs but tabletop legs is for the core. Yes – you do engage muscles in your legs, too, but you must use your lower abdominals to brace and support the weight of the lifted legs. When we allow our tabletop to sag or become sloppy – we cheat ourselves of the true work and compensate with other muscles.
4. shh breath – this is one that I have found and have a hard time understanding why – it is often not taught in Nashville. You can only imagine how happy I was recently at the PMA with 600 other ‘breathers’! Breath is one of the key elements of Pilates and we use the shh sound because if forces a contraction of our core and use of the right muscles. We can not ‘shh’ properly and take shallow breaths. To work effectively we want the diaphragm involved, the lungs to fill and release and the core to work to push the air up and out our bodies. Many of us take very shallow breaths throughout our days which is why the shh feels so unnatural at first. Our bodies want and need oxygen – so let’s let them have it!
Those are just a few of the important principles of Pilates, but if you can work to improve here – you will gain even more from your workouts! So let’s zip up our magnets in a strong tabletop formation, stabilize our pelvis, and shh our way through a set of hundreds 🙂