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Simple Ways To Improve Your Health

Pilates is a type of exercise that dates back to World War 1. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, who originally called his method Contrology. Initially, there were six principles: breathing, concentration, control, precision, centre & flow. Joseph handed this approach down to his pupils in apprenticeship-style training without formalisation or trade marking. Over the year, new Pilates schools have been established, each with its interpretation of Joseph’s original teachings.


Our instructors are trained with The Australian Physiotherapy & Pilates Institute (APPI) & Polestar Pilates. Each of these training providers was founded & is run by physiotherapists. Their principles combine the original ones & a modern understanding of anatomy, biomechanics, strength & conditioning & Physio/rehab skills.


For example, the APPI has five key elements to their teaching: breathing, centring, ribcage placement, shoulder blade placement & head & neck placement.


So what do these mean & why are they important?


Breathing:





Breathing is our first & final act of life. It is subconscious & automatic, so it is easy to see why we often forget how important it is & what impact it can have on our overall health.


Breathing in Pilates is essentially mobilising & strengthening your diaphragm. The diaphragm is like any other muscle in the body, & for optimum health, it needs to be able to fully lengthen (stretch) & shorten completely (load / produce force).

Having a strong & mobile diaphragm has multiple other benefits:

  • Increased lung capacity/volume.

  • Mobilises the whole spine from head to tailbone.

  • In turn, mobilises the pelvic floor muscles.

  • Helps move our organs which helps aid digestion.

  • Activate our vagus nerve, which regulates our nervous system to manage our stress levels.


The benefits of breathing are so vast I could write a book on it. One day I might! For now, the main thing to understand about breathing is the better you are at it, the better you will feel & move. It isn't the sexiest or most exciting exercise, but it will give you plenty of bang for its buck & the easiest principle to practice between your studio classes.


Centring:





This is the ability to be able to contract (activate) our deepest core muscles. This includes our diaphragm, pelvic floor, deep back, & deepest core muscles. These muscles are essential for our bladder & bowel control as well as our postural muscles. They support the body in various positions (sitting, standing, lying etc.) & when we move between positions (walking, standing up from sitting, up & down stairs etc.). Basically, they are always working in some capacity.


They are our marathon runners, always working, but at times more effort is required (i.e. running up a hill), & sometimes less effort is needed (i.e. running downhill). Yes, it is essential to activate these muscles but also be able to relax them.


The pelvic floor comprises several muscles, but to keep it simple, imagine a stripped hammock running between your legs from left to right. When the pelvic floor muscles are active, the stripes narrow & the hammock lifts. The stripes broaden when the muscles relax (lengthen), & the hammock sinks down.


The exercises we do in your Pilates classes help to both mobilise & strengthen your deep muscles. No one spends their life lying on a mat think about their core muscles, so these exercises are dynamic & increasingly more challenging as you get stronger.


Ribcage Placement:





Due to the position of the ribcage, it is important in its own right but also has a big influence on other areas of the body. Its main role in life is to protect the lungs, which are essential to staying alive. Through joints & muscle attachments, it also directly affects breathing, the spine (in particular the middle of the back), the shoulders, shoulder blades, collar bones & pelvis.


The more ease of movement the ribcage has:

  • The deeper & more efficiently we can breathe.

  • The more we mobilise & load our diaphragm muscle.

  • The more we mobilise our spine.

  • The more we mobilise our pelvic floor muscles.


In turn, moving our shoulders, neck & hips is easier. In essence, move the ribcage well, & your whole body will move well.




Shoulder Blade Placement:






The shoulder blades or scapulars also have multiple jobs to do. They provide a foundation for arm movement, so they need to be able to stabilise & be mobile enough to allow the arm to move.


If you raise your arm straight in front of you, the shoulder blade will move around the back of your ribs towards your armpit. As you lower the arm back down, the shoulder blade moves back around the ribs towards the spine. If your shoulder blade struggles to do this, other areas will compensate to produce the movement. This can contribute to developing neck & shoulder pain.


If you do experience neck & shoulder pain, especially if this is related to posture, then Pilates can be a great way to resolve these problems.


Head & Neck Placement:





Posture is a big motivating factor for people joining our classes, & when talking about posture, most people are referring to their head & neck position & rounded shoulders. Modern life often encourages us to round our upper back & shoulder and lift our heads to look forward. Think desk-based work, lots of driving & phones / Ipads.


While being able to sit or stand in a certain position is not a bad thing, if we spend a lot of time in that position, our joints and muscles can become tight, stiff & eventually painful.


Posture & movement is a balancing act between our muscles. When we are in certain positions for long periods or we repeat the same movement often, we can develop imbalances in our bodies. Pilates counteracts these types of postures & movements, helping to keep our bodies strong & flexible in a balanced way.











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