I've been busy lately doing more research for my next article (stay tuned, really!) and this week it brought me to a Pilates class. I had never tried Pilates before and was very excited for the opportunity.
I was really surprised by how challenging the exercises were. Well, I should rewind a little. My teacher started out by teaching me to focus on my breathing and how each inhale and exhale affected my posture and muscles in my core. I don't easily recognize subtle things (in my own body), but after a few repetitions I was able to feel the differences with each breath. I have read a few recent articles in my Advance magazines (and on the website) about the seven tenets and five anchors of Pilates, which helped me better understand the experience.
My teacher then started having me try a few beginner exercises, some on a flat mat and others on spring-loaded equipment. I couldn't believe how hard it was! Again, since I consider myself to be quite the athlete (I am, of course, not serious), I was surprised by how difficult some of the simplest movements were. My teacher instructed me to focus on elongating my core and creating a smoother movement - two areas I don't consider to be my greatest strengths. I had to be very precise with each exercise in order to correctly use my deeper muscles instead of the more superficial ones.
It isn't easy for me to successfully try new exercises. I have to look in a mirror and try it many times before my brain and body finally make a connection, like a delayed light bulb turning on. My muscles say, "Oh! That's what you want me to do!" I can imagine how difficult it is for someone to try Pilates for the first time without knowing the anatomy and skeletal system like I do.
While I was trying some of these new challenges, I tried to think about ways I could incorporate Pilates or aspects of Pilates into treating my patients. I think one advantage of Pilates is the way it makes you aware of underutilized muscles, and helping our patients activate those deeper core muscles can help them better balance their muscle control. The other thing I really appreciated was how calm I felt after the one-hour class. Usually after exercise I am either completely exhausted or extremely hyper, but after Pilates I felt relaxed and... strong.
What do you think? Have you ever taken a Pilates class before? Do you use Pilates with your patients?