April 28, 2009

Pilates exercises: Stick with our program, and you too could realize the promise of the discipline's founder, Joseph Pilates.

In 10 sessions of Pilates exercise, you'll feel the difference; in 20 sessions you'll see the difference and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body. Who can pass up a pledge like that?

6 secrets of the powerful Pilates method

Traditional strength training often involves working your muscle groups separately, but Joseph H. Pilates created a practice to treat the body as one integrated unit. These principles reflect the discipline's focus on movement quality rather than quantity.

  1. Breathing Breathe deeply to clear your mind, enhance focus and increase your power and momentum.
  2. Concentration Visualize the movement.
  3. Centering Imagine that all movements emanate from deep inside your core.
  4. Precision Note your alignment and focus on what every part of your body is doing.
  5. Control Seek to have power over your movements. Working with a ball is a special challenge since it sometimes seems to have a mind of its own.
  6. Movement flow/rhythm Find a comfortable pace so you can do each move with fluidity and grace.

Mind-body focus of Pilates exercise

Pilates exercises are often referred to as a mind-body workout, but it's not as if you need to close your eyes, chant or meditate. Instead, you'll simply take your focus away from counting reps to noticing how your body feels as you use your core muscles to bring length to your trunk and limbs.

[header = Pilates exercise: coordinate your movement & breathing during Pilates moves.]

Powerful Pilates Moves

When doing Pilates exercises, pay attention to your body and your breath.

When you do Pilates moves, you coordinate your movement and breathing. Concentrating hard on inhaling and exhaling pushes all other thoughts-deadlines, dinner commitments, in-law issues-to the back burner. As a result, you'll have a quieter mind and a stronger body.

Navel to spine tip for Pilates exercises

When doing Pilates moves, you'll often be told to "pull your navel to your spine," which some interpret as inhaling and sucking in their stomachs. In fact, that's just the opposite of what you should do.

On an exhale, contract abs and bring your belly button backward toward your spine. At the same time, relax your rib cage so it lowers toward hipbones. Your tailbone will begin to point down and your pelvis and hips will tilt slightly forward.

When you inhale, your abs should expand out to the sides and somewhat to the front, but you shouldn't lose the connection of your belly and lower back. There should be no feeling of collapse or weakening.

Meanwhile, be sure to keep your shoulder blades down and keep your head in line with your spine for all moves. This simple motion is the basis of good posture and a long, lean line in the torso.

Don't skip your cardio workout routines!

While it's an effective way to tone your body and increase your flexibility, Pilates exercise doesn't keep your heart pumping in your training zone, which is key for burning more calories and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Supplement your program with cardio workout routines at least three times a week.