Any routine you engage in has the possibility of unfolding and revealing deeper layers. Alternately, a routine has the possibility of becoming fixed, immobile, and stagnant. Wake up familiar Pilates or core exercises by cross-checking these 5 important concepts.
Start by adding these to the 100s. Do a set your normal way, right now, before you read on. If you don’t know the Pilates Hundreds exercise, try a simple sit up before reading these essentials. Then check out the 5 points below and try it a second time with new focus and awareness!
FIVE (OR SIX) ESSENTIAL PILATES CONCEPTS
(So, okay, it’s really 6 points. But “number zero” is what should be happening before the exercise even begins.)
0. IN-UP-AROUND. Before you begin, lightly connect to your deep core by focusing not only on pulling IN, but equally on lengthening UPWARD the spine from 2 inches below your navel and wrap AROUND your hips and waist, from front to back. IN-UP-AROUND. Prepare your deep pelvic core connection before you even begin an exercise. Hold your IN-UP-AROUND whether you are inhaling or exhaling and everything inbetween. *And here’s the key: true core work is a light and buoyant connection — not a hardening, hollowing, or bracing.
- INHALE with your lungs. Sounds silly, but seriously, if you are inhaling during a Pilates exercise and you are seeing your belly rise, that means you have let go of your abdominals and you are only doing work on the exhale. Since we add weight loads during the inhale cycle, such as in the double straight leg stretch, the abs must be ON during the inhale.
- EXHALE and lightly (yes, lightly but precisely) make sure you are still connected with the IN-UP-AROUND. You must think about this on every breath for the duration of the exercise. Watch for the tendency to go on auto-pilot.
- OPPOSITIONAL REACHING.. Your legs need to reach out of your pelvic core, and so does the spine…in opposite directions. Try it. It’s tough to maintain…I might make an argument (later) that this fundamental helps bring about all the others.
- PELVIC GPS. Get to know your pelvis in 3 planes…TILT (like cat/cow), CANOE (side to side), and LAZY SUSAN (shortening one side of the waist). Find the middle of all 3 planes for your 100s. And remember that the pelvis is not one locked unit! If you treat it like a locked structure, it will start to behave that way for you. Structures that lose mobility in your body lead to pain and inflammation.
- ARM CORE. The head of your upper arm bone is the ball of the joint…the socket connects with your back body at shoulder blade, on the outside upper edge. Wear your arms in their sockets and feel how this connects the shoulder blades organically with your rib cage…no pinching, squeezing, or drop-sliding necessary. Your 100s arm pumps will now be more connected and less flappy-slappy. (*Note: Watch your strategy for “finding your sockets” and make sure you didn’t do it by jutting forward with your lower ribs. If you need to do this, then create an incline for your head to rest on, like a pillow or blanket.)
The Recap: Prepare your light core connection…Breathe IN with your lungs, breathe OUT to (re)connect your pelvic core, IN-UP-AROUND…REACH in opposite directions emanating from your deep low belly with your legs and spine…KNOW where your pelvis is in space and that it has it’s own mobility…WEAR your arms in their sockets.
Remember: nothing in Pilates or core work should be about tightening, bracing, or pinching. All movements should have a flowing quality that is equally strong and supple.
How do these points change the quality of your Hundreds or your simple sit up? I would love to hear your impressions! Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.