I can hear a collective spluttering out of your healthy new year smoothie as you open this message. Homework?! But I come to a class, I don’t need to do that as well!
I’m hoping I can show you a few ways you can make Pilates work for you outside of your classes and hopefully see benefits in other areas of your life too.
You know the feeling you get after your Pilates class? Being stretched out, better aligned and walking tall, and all seemingly effortlessly… This is something that could be achieved more regularly by continuing your practice through the week. Just two or three extra sessions at home can make a huge difference to your progress.
Nobody practices Pilates to be really good at Pilates (except instructors, but then we have to be obsessed!). It is usually done to benefit another area of your life. You might have a demanding job where you spend a long time in static postures and use pilates to stretch out and destress at the end of the day. You might be planning a skiing or sailing holiday and need to build up a strong foundation and endurance required for the trip. Or maybe you’re training for a new sporting challenge like a triathlon or the moonwalk and recognise the benefits of good posture on improving your performance. Whatever it is, you will find that the benefits of Pilates will go so much further if you incorporate the principles of what you do in class into your everyday activities.
Your practice at home doesn’t have to be an intensive session, the much used phrase ‘little and often’ can be very appropriate in building on and maintaining the benefits you get from your classes. And you don’t necessarily need a mat or even to lie down. Pilates can be done in standing, sitting or lying. It can also be done in secret! As well as being a series of exercises, Pilates is about how you move your body and also how you rest between activities.
Equipment such as magic circles or foam rollers can be a great incentive to do some work at home, taking exercises from your classes and doing them while you watch your favourite television show. Equipment can make a workout more fun, but again it’s not essential to your practice.
If you find you stiffen up between Pilates sessions, you could be doing two or three exercises daily focusing on your problem areas and you should find that you maintain your flexibility and are more comfortable between sessions. For example, we regularly incorporate roll downs into our classes because they are great exercises for spinal mobility, core activation and coordination, and waking up the nervous system. Also, while the first one can feel stiff, by the third it already feels looser. Try doing 3 in the morning for a couple of days. It will take you two minutes -see if you notice a difference during your day. If you struggle with getting the mobility through your back as you roll down, try the exercise against the wall and focus on peeling one vertebra at a time away from the wall, pause and work into any areas of stiffness or tightness as you need to.
So, how do you do Pilates in secret?! Notice your posture as you go through your day and focus on the watchpoints you work on in your class. If you keep your low back in neutral, gently work your shoulderblades back and down and lengthen lightly through the back of the neck you will be helping to keep good muscle balance, work your core muscles at a low level and encourage the muscles to stay switched on and work at the right moment. It is unlikely anyone will notice you making these subtle changes, but they may well remark on how well you look!
Please see your instructor if you have any questions regarding the exercises mentioned in this post. Your instructor can give you a handout of home exercises and can help give you ideas of exercises to do with the equipment you have at home.
Let us know how you get on with doing your Pilates at home!