The studio has an interesting collection of all ages and genders, with the oldest into their 80’s. All are positive thinking individuals who come ready to learn, progress, and in many cases heal. They bring their challenges with optimism and continue to challenge my years of expertise.
Pilates exercise is as much about breathing as it is about moving. Performing these 2 activities in unison: deep controlled breaths timed correctly with controlled body movement, is an art. Hence the term, “moving mediation.”
With correct breath, breathing into the belly while engaging the pelvic floor, takes time to learn. While inhaling, the diaphragm contracts. The ribs expand in the front, (sideways), as they contract in the back. On exhale the oppsoite happens: the ribs close in the front and open in the back. Basic Pilates mat exercises done with control, correct form and breathing takes lots of practice and patience to learn. It is impotant to continue practicing the basic Pilates mat exercises so you learn how to connect the body and mind. It is easy to be lured towards the Pilates equipment, like the Pilates Reformer. It is fun to use and it also assists the body in doing an exercise the correct way. But once the body is strong and toned, I find the floor exercises, ( both standing and laying down), are the true test.
Ballet dancers start every class at the barre beginning with piles, (bending the knees), and they do this exercise for as long as they are dancers. I can still clearly remember asking my ballet teacher at about 8 years old, “When are we going to learn more new exercises? Do we always have to do the same thing at the beginning of the class!?” Her answer was a little disturbing. We would be doing that same old plie forever, and yes, at the beginning of every class. How boring I thought. I endured so that I could continue my classes, always looking forward to the last half of each class, when we could come to the middle of the floor and dance! About 6 years later I experience how wonderful a plie could feel. Piles became moving meditation. Every part of my being seemed to connect. Every outside thought would evaporate as soon as my hand would touch the barre, my knees would bend and my breath would exhale. I remember the moment I suddenly realised, I loved piles!
Every Pilates class I like to start with laying on the mat and taking a few deep, correct breaths. The body goes through it’s check list: first, forget everything outside the studio. Next, engage the abs, imprint your whole spine starting with the base to the top of your neck. Shoulders are flat to the mat, down, wide and strong. I like to envision my body being gently stretched like an elastic band – long through the spine and up through the back of the neck with an equal pull the opposite direction, down through the legs and feet. Relaxed yet strong. This feeling empowers you. The challenge is to maintain that calm strengthen the entire workout.
Julie Akin is the founder and head Pilates instructor at Synergy – Staying Fit Pilates in the White Rock area.