Pilates… What’s it all about?

Understanding the Pilates Principles

If we asked you about the foundation of Pilates, you would probably think of core and breath, but those are actually just two of the six principles of Pilates. As we get back into our fitness routines this the fall, it’s the perfect time to go back to basics and gain a better understanding of what Joseph Pilates intended with this great system of movement and breath.

Joseph Pilates believed that, above all, we need to learn to breathe correctly! Breath is essential for life, but it is also important for creating effective movement. Correct breathing oxygenates the blood and increases circulation. Understanding how to breathe properly allows you to use your lungs more completely, filling them all the way from the collarbones down to the lowest ribs and filling the whole rib cage front to back. The act of breathing also facilitates movement: movement flows with the breath, and the rhythm of breath also helps control the pace of movement. Proper breathing patterns and mind-body connection are fundamental to the study and practice of Pilates.

Joe Pilates said, “The brain trains the body, and the body trains the brain.” Concentration is the key element in connecting your mind and body. You must be present with your mind to work your body to its fullest potential. The body can learn parts of a movement but must connect with the brain to experience the whole of the movement. The amount of attention and concentration you bring to your practice of Pilates will determine how effective it will be.

Have you wondered why we ask you to do just 4 or 5 repetitions of an exercise, when you feel you could do 15 or 20? Pilates is based on muscle control and repeating an exercise only as many times as you can do it meticulously well. This allows our system to remember only proper, effective movement and helps prevent injuries from overtraining or incorrect form due to fatigue. The mind-body connection supports you in achieving control and creating the best movement possible. Pilates teaches our body to move as it was made to move: as an integrated, cooperative system.

Your center is the foundation for movement. All energy for a Pilates movement starts from your center and flows outward to your limbs. Pilates teaches you to work from the inside out, activating the deepest core muscles and basing your movement from there. Through each exercise Pilates teaches you to increase strength in the ‘core’ of the body: the muscles and connective tissue system in the area of the abdominals at the front, back, and sides of your midsection, extending from your lower ribs to just below your buttocks. You will learn to connect your deep core with movement and breath, making your movement stronger, more stable, and more connected.

The Pilates exercises are designed to put bones in the best position to work efficiently. Pilates teaches you to apply precision and control to your whole workout, using the mind-body connection to focus on correct execution. Your body learns by repetition: practice, when done safely, precisely and with control, does make perfect! Pilates helps prevent injuries by intelligently strengthening and conditioning the whole body in a balanced way. Pilates focuses on the smaller muscles just as much as the larger ones, so you won’t over-train your already stronger, more dominant muscles.

Flowing Movement
Flowing movement is not often a focus of other exercise programs, and Pilates is unique in that it teaches the body to move as we do in real life: with continuous, fluid motion. Pilates trains our more than 600 muscles to work intelligently and efficiently together with our connective tissues and the rhythm of breath. You will move more safely, more smoothly, and be less prone to injury. By practicing Pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body to move in a more efficient, cohesive manner.

Because the whole body works together as a system, the six principles inter-relate and overlap. It’s not possible to focus on just one while excluding the others, but we can learn about the different aspects that make Pilates the amazing system that it is!

Run – to Pilates!

Surprising ways Pilates can improve your running

by Dawn Lefebvre, BScN, BScK

You already know the benefits of Pilates, but did you know that it can help your running? There are obvious benefits, like stronger legs and better leg alignment from doing footwork on the reformer, but there are lots of hidden advantages as well!

In a cardiovascular activity like running, breathing is so important. The oxygen you take in with each breath is what helps the body’s muscles and cells function and generate the energy you need for endurance activities. The more effectively you breathe, the better your oxygen supply and performance will be.

The Pilates focus on breathing into the lungs three-dimensionally helps you utilize the whole lung, instead of just breathing shallowly into the chest. Pilates gives you the opportunity to practice optimal breathing so that you can take that with you on your runs. Exercises like the Hundred use percussive breathing to incrementally expand and release the lungs, stretching the fascia and muscles in the ribcage and torso and preparing you for the greater volumes of air being exchanged with more exertion.

Extension exercises like Swan help undo the rounded postures that daily life pulls us into, and assist in maintaining a neutral spine while running. This helps open the lungs, again helping to maximize oxygenation. Think about what it feels like to run hunched over – could you fill your lungs? Try it right now by rounding your shoulders forward and collapsing your chest, and try to take deep breaths. Then straighten up and try again, noticing how much better you can fill the lungs. Running is hard enough without having to gasp for air because of your posture!

Tight muscles, especially in the back line, are other common challenges that runners face. The quadratus lumborum (QL, the big muscles along the spine in the lower back), hamstring, and calf are often chronically tight. Many Pilates exercises provide dynamic stretching for the legs and back, giving you a chance to stretch without doing a “stretch.” Spine stretches and Saw lengthen the whole back line, from your back down through your legs. Rollups add more core work to a similar stretch, with the whole body working to lengthen the spine as you roll up and down.

See if you can observe these concepts in your running and Pilates workouts, and notice the difference they make. We would love to hear about it! You can also apply this to other activities like walking. Good running starts with good walking, so make sure to check out our Hip & Knee Workshop and Walking Classes this summer!

Train your Fascia!

by Dawn Lefebvre, BScN, BScK

As a follow-up to my previous Fascia article, I wanted to focus more on the training of fascia. Release work gets a lot of attention, and it is an essential part of taking care of your fascia as it rehydrates the tissues and treats tension and adhesions between fascia and muscle; common release techniques include massage, foam rollers, and ball rolling. But… fascia is so much more than that! Even though we get the most obvious benefit from doing release work and we can often feel the results instantly, there are other aspects that deserve just as much attention and are just as important to our movement.

With injury or chronic underuse (do you sit a lot?!?), fascia’s normally well-ordered structure gets disorganized. Imagine scaffolding that has clear organization, each level building on the others with all the supports working together. Think of the strength of that structure, and then compare it to another where the supports are haphazard, bent and twisted. I know which one I would want to stand on! Training your fascia helps realign the fibres and build new, healthy tissue, improving the infrastructure of your body.

Fascia is an elastic connective tissue, and its recoil properties are so important to healthy, efficient movement. If you’re not including recoil movements in your activities, your fascia probably needs work! In Pilates we use jumping or bouncing movements to target the fascia (think of jumping swan or jumpboard work on the reformer, or recoil pushups on the wall).

If you’re wondering what healthy fascia does in movement, imagine jumping. Do you jump with stiff legs, or do you bend your legs and roll fluidly through your feet, transmitting the force upward through your body? Now focus on your landing. Do you crash down onto your feet, with the whole force of your body landing at once? Think of what it would be like to land on your toes and roll smoothly down through your feet, letting your knees bend, dissipating the force through your whole body. Imagine jumping like a cat instead of an elephant!

Smooth, fluid movement depends on healthy fascia, so get training! Everyone can benefit from healthier fascia, and because tissues lose their elasticity over time, training it becomes even more important as we age. Learn more at our Fascia Class starting April 13!

March Workshops

We have some great workshops coming up this month!

Calling all Gardeners: Gardening Workshop (Next Week!)
Use Pilates to keep you healthy and injury-free this spring!
Even though many of you have already started gardening this year, this is still a great workshop to help you understand why you’re getting those aches and pains! From sore shoulders and necks to low back pain, we can help you understand how to use your Pilates to protect you as you garden this spring and summer!

Dates | Thurs, March 12 (6-7:30pm) or Sat, March 14 (12:30-2pm)
Price | $55

Hanging out with the Shoulder Workshop
Are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?
Come and learn about why you experience tightness, tension or restriction through your shoulder girdle. This workshop will cover basic anatomy and mechanics of the shoulder, a discussion of how and why various injuries occur, and important exercises to do at home to improve shoulder health.

Dates | Thurs, March 26 (6-7:30pm) or Sat, March 28 (12:30-2pm)
Price | $55

January Classes & Workshops

If you’re looking for a way to jump back into fitness for the new year,
we’ve got what you need!

Beginner Mat Classes: (offered at our Satellite locations)
Sidney (Mary Winspear Centre) | Fridays 10am | $140 (8 classes)
Downtown Victoria (Ballet Victoria) | Tuesdays 5:30pm and Thursdays 12pm | $160 (10 classes)

Core Classes: Series of 4 classes | $75
Mondays 7pm or Wednesdays 10am
Starting this week (Jan 12 & 14)!

MELT Method Event: Two-Part Workshop | Price TBA
Saturday, January 24 (Part I) and Saturday, February 7 (Part II) 12 – 1:30pm

FITCamp Classes: ongoing registration
Jumpstart your fitness for 2015 with these high energy outdoor circuit classes! They incorporate cardio, strength, core work and stretching in a fun and dynamic environment. We can tailor the classes to your level of fitness and experience, so everyone is welcome! Drop-in to try it out, or register any time during the session.
Schedule | Tuesdays 9-10:30am / Wednesdays 5:30-7pm / Saturdays 9-10:30am

Click on a heading or contact us for more information or to register for any of these classes and get your new year started right!

Classes by Donation Oct 16 & 18

PrintInterested in trying Pilates but not sure how to start? Next week is your chance! We’re offering mat and equipment classes by donation in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month!
Thursday, Oct 16 | Mat 6pm / Equipment 7pm
Saturday, Oct 18 | Mat 11am / Equipment 12pm
Space is limited, so contact our office soon to sign up! All proceeds will go to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Mat classes coming to downtown Victoria!

Ballet Victoria Satellite Classes timesOur newest satellite classes are starting mid-October in downtown Victoria!

Join us after work or during your lunch hour to fit in a mat class!

Mat classes combine high energy core work with restorative stretching and breathing exercises to leave you stronger, leaner, and standing taller!

Check out our Satellite Classes page or contact us for more information or to register!

Everyday Pilates: Taking your classes into the rest of your life

by Dawn Lefebvre, BScN, BScKin

Do you ever feel that when you walk out of the studio, you lose all of the work you put in here? It can be difficult to translate everything you learn at the studio into your daily life. Even if you’re completely focused and put as much energy into your workouts as you can, you still need to spend time integrating what you learn here into the rest of your life. Pilates will train your body to automatically move better, but the more intention and focus you can bring to all of your movements, the safer you’ll be and the faster you’ll improve!

Even though most of the Pilates exercises don’t have you doing exact replicas of your daily activities, there are lots of parallels between Pilates and things you do outside the studio. Think of bending over to pick something up, and what it would be like to move functionally through your spine to get up and down. Or if every time you were sitting, you focused on having the same posture we work towards in seated work at the studio. Can you stay up on your sit bones, or do you tend to slouch back? Where does your head usually sit – is it in line with your spine, or hanging forward?

The next time you’re working on your computer or driving your car, try sitting up as tall as you can, keeping the back of your neck lengthened – see how much taller and more centered you feel!

Other aspects of Pilates, like core engagement and breathing, should be part of everything we do! If you’re carrying heavy suitcases, think of how much stronger and more supported your movement would be if you engaged your core and remembered to keep breathing the whole way from your car to your house!

Think of how you get out of bed in the morning. Do you heave yourself out, sheering at the neck as you drag your head along with you? What would it be like to protect your neck the way you would in a curl up, and get up to sitting safely? Your head weighs A LOT, and being able to support it well can make a huge difference in your neck and spine health.

Many things that we do seem so basic, but even a simple movement like getting up from laying down uses almost all of our muscles, changes the positions of multiple joints, and takes our spine through rotation and flexion. Not so simple when you break it down! When you add in jumping, throwing, or wielding a golf club, you can see how much more focus you need to have to keep your body moving safely through our daily activities.

Whether you’re sitting, gardening, or playing a complex sport, Pilates can assist you in moving better and more safely. The core support that Pilates builds is the basis for all movement, and is a great head start to keeping your body healthy and performing its best. Even if you just work on awareness of your spine’s position in all of your activities and supporting it using the breath and core, that’s a great start!

Watch for our new workshop on Everyday Pilates, coming this Fall! 

New Beginner Mat Class

Sidney Mat #2Interested in trying out Pilates? This is a great way to get started! Join us for our new class offered in Sidney at the Mary Winspear Centre on Fridays at 10am!

Mat classes combine high energy core work with restorative stretching and breathing exercises to leave you stronger, leaner, and standing taller!

Check out our Satellite Classes page or contact us for more information or to register!