Pilates is a system of physical and mental conditioning invented by Joseph Pilates. He developed his method with his wife Clara in the early 20th Century. His method was originally called 'Contrology' and encompassed a whole life philosophy. Today Pilates has evolved into many different styles with different emphases. The fundamental principles and benefits of the original method can however be recognised across all forms. Pilates is an excellent way to improve posture and physical awareness, enhance strength, flexibility and coordination. It can reduce stress, improve focus and concentration and lead to an improved sense of overall well-being.
Above all breathe! Breathing is key to life itself. With an inhale, we deliver oxygen to the tissues of our body - every cell in our body requires oxygen to live. With an exhale we remove carbon dioxide, a by-product of cell metabolism, from our body. In Pilates the most important 'rule' is to watch you are not holding your breath - its surprisingly hard not to at times when we are concentrating though! Often breathing patterns are used to increase the efficiency of the movement or to engage specific muscle groups. A general 'rule' helpful to many is to exhale on exertion, this is because our deepest layer of abdominal muscles - the Tranverse Abdominus - fires on exhalation, increasing support for the spine during the movement.
How you move matters. In Pilates we are seeking to be aware of our whole body as we approach any given exercise. This degree of focus takes mental stamina, but definitely makes for a more conscious, informed and mindful practice. Checking in with our alignment and positioning, our muscles and the way we are engaging them, our breathing and sensing how each movement feels in your body helps us to exercise safely, efficiently and effectively.
Control is the goal! Striving to move with control teaches our muscles to respond precisely to our mind, developing our fine motor skills and resulting in movement which is more aware, effective and energy efficient. Conscious, controlled movement helps muscle groups to work and develop in balance - strengthening weak muscles, elongating tight muscles and releasing tension in overworked muscles (waking up smaller 'local' muscles and avoiding bigger 'global' muscles taking over). This results in greater freedom of movement, better alignment, coordination and balance. Control is key to why Pilates is one of the safest forms of exercise and can help us to avoid injuries through overextension or overuse of joints and muscles.
Our core is key! Understanding, engaging and moving from our centre is fundamental to the correct, effective and safe practise of Pilates. Joseph Pilates termed the core the 'Powerhouse' and considered it the physical centre from which all movements should proceed. It consists of the abdomen, lower back and pelvis. Correct engagement and strengthening of these muscles support and decompress the spine which in turn improves posture, organ function and energy levels. Moving from our centre helps our movement to become more efficient and effortless.
Coordination encompasses and requires all of the above principles to be achieved. It is also key to achieving Flow. Challenging our coordination is the ultimate body-mind connection and brilliant for our neuroplasticity!
Flow comes with practise. It is a quality of movement to strive for requiring a deep understanding of movement and incorporating precise muscle activation and timing. In a different sense captured by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, "Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what they are doing by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and success in the process of the activity."
A BIT ABOUT US...
Anna received her early training in classical ballet, branching into contemporary and choreography. She undertook full-time dance training at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia graduating with a Bachelor of Dance in 2010 and also holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Choreography (Distinction). Having practised Pilates alongside her dance training for many years she finds it to be an excellent support in developing and enhancing core strength, specificity and tone, as well as being brilliant in both injury prevention and rehabilitation. In 2015 she took steps to further her knowledge and undertook training with Brigid McCarthy Pilates Studio to qualify as a Pilates Matwork teacher. For the past three and a half years, whilst completing her Masters, Anna has been living in London, teaching a wide and exciting variety of group classes and private clients. She is passionate about Pilates and sharing it’s multiple benefits with others and is now excited to be teaching in the beautiful city of Edinburgh.