Oftentimes, when we’re new to the world of Mind/Body Fitness, we may question ourselves or our instructors on why we don’t “feel the burn”.
Pilates (and yoga) is the type of workout where you really have to focus on the muscular task at hand to truly benefit from the movement. A good example of this is a basic side lying leg lift. To simply lift your leg doesn't really elicit a huge feel factor; but, if you FIRST engage your waistline (obliques), focus on lengthening your entire leg and torso and then lift your leg while engaging the opposite leg for stability, you’re going to get an entirely different burn. I promise, you won’t be able to do too many.
Today I’m giving you three tips to make the most of your workout, increase the intensity and get the results, and feel, you want.
Breath is everything in exercise - especially Pilates and yoga.
You want to really breathe into your diaphragm and ribs when you inhale to fill your whole lung capacity up and lengthen your spine. When exhaling, remember to contract your deep core (transverse abdominus, obliques, pelvic floor and more), to strengthen your core and pelvic floor and to brace yourself to prepare for movement.
These muscles are often hard to find, especially for a novice, so if you don’t feel like anything is happening, you're still in the building muscle phase. You will feel these muscles contract with ongoing practice.
Regularly practicing breath work also has another major benefit; STRESS RELIEF!
Enjoy the peaceful zen-ed out feeling you get after a good yoga or Pilates class? Of course you do - breath work is what gets you to that point, because it activates your Parasympathetic Nervous System.
When practicing Pilates, try to link your breath to you breath count; like this, as you inhale count to four slowly then exhaling to the count of four. This will help bring you into the present moment to focus on making that mind/body connection, which is really the essence of Pilates.
2. SLOW DOWN
Pilates is meant to be done slowly for many reasons, but the most important being - if you really want to up the ante and intensity, slow everything right down and you'll see how truly challenging the movements can be. This will decrease the chances of your body using momentum (something you want to avoid in exercise) and increase the strength in your slow twitch muscle fibers and improve muscle endurance.
Going back to that breath count of four. This is an excellent way to remind you to slow down. Next time you’re in class, try holding at the peak of an exercise (pose) for an extra breath or two to really challenge yourself.
3. MAKE THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION
You may have heard an instructor say, “DON'T MUSCLE THROUGH” an exercise. This refers to just going through the motions without putting any thought into what muscles and joints you need to contract and move.
If you’re doing this then you’re probably allowing your big and superficial muscle groups to take over in an exercise. In turn, you may not be accessing the deeper muscles closer to the spine which are not only harder to find and turn on (activate) but those muscles oftentimes are the ones we’re looking for in Pilates. Try closing your eyes, linking the breath to the movement and visualizing what your instructor is asking of you.
I hope these tips help you get more out of your practice so that you fall more and more in love with our beloved functional mind/body fitness! Sign Up for a Class Today
Yours in Health,
Marta, Fitness Manager
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