So, you’re not really keen about stretching but your friend was raving about how great yoga class is. Maybe you read an inspiring article about how many benefits stretching has. And yoga now is so popular, virtual classes are popping everywhere and just at the click of your finger you’re in a classroom.
Press on with Your Pilates Practice. Don’t Be Discouraged.
You get inspired and motivated and sign up for a class, you sit your body on the mat and the minute you are asked to reach and stretch forward, you feel like a 2×4, you say to yourself, “what a lump”. You raise your eyes up, look around and you see the teacher and everyone in class already in these pretzels positioned, have you tried to bend a 2X4 into a pretzel shape? Exactly… You get so discouraged, you leave the class feeling worse than when you came in, you never go back and never try to stretch again.
Your Pilates Practice Will Succeed with Passion and Determination.
That discouraged, frustrated inflexible person was me. If you know my background as a professional dancer, you’ll be surprised but it’s true. I didn’t start my dance carrier limber was not always as flexible as you’ll think. But I had lots of passion and determination.
Pilates Practice Helped Me Explore My Potential
As a former professional dancer and still passionate mover and movement educator I was determined to explore deeper into the mysteries of the body mind and spirit immense potential.
Pilates Practice Informed by Being Both a Client and Therapist
In addition to my extensive self-exploration with my own body as a dancer for 25 years and the fascination in observing other people’s bodies as a movement educator (Pilates and Gyrotonics) I explore the art of Tai chi and the art and science of the powerful Soma Flow body healing from the perspective of both a client and therapist.
Pilates Practice Leads to Health, Longevity and Greater Mind Body Harmony
From the world of ancient eastern philosophies and western medicine I discovered the keys to achieving not just superior health and longevity but also creating harmonious relationship between your mind body and spirit. This helped me get back on the mat with more success.
I’m here to encourage you to take the time to connect more deeply with your body so you can experience lifelong vitality.
Here are 5 keys to gaining more flexibility through your Pilates practice:
1) Focus on what is functioning well during your Pilates practice.
The first key is to identify areas of your body that are easy to move. For example, if your neck is tight start by rolling your shoulders around. Or, when you feel tightness in your lower back practice a slow controlled twisting movement of the waist while laying on your back. Start moving around and exploring the body by laying on the ground, the ground lowers the pull of gravity on your body which releases the tension from your muscles.
Working your flexible areas not only inspires you to continue to stretch, but also adds circulation into the challenged areas in the same way that throwing a rock into a pond creates a ripple: The movement will echo through the bodily fluids, since everything is connected, like a web.
Did you know that for a female, it takes 56 muscles and 168 ligaments, just to slap someone in the face? I’m not encouraging you to go around slapping people in the face as an exercise program. I’m encouraging you to explore and focus on what is functioning in your body and accelerate from there.
2. Engage in positive self-talk during your Pilates practice.
Our thoughts and feelings influence the effectiveness of the stretches we do during Pilates practice. Entertain yourself with positive affirmation and imagery.
For example, instead of saying “I’m a lump, I have no interest in my body.” say, “My body and mind feel supple and flexible.”
Instead of saying, “My shoulders and neck are so tight.” imagine you are standing underneath a shower of warm water and say, “The water is flowing down my neck, shoulders, and back and washing my tension away”.
3. Say goodbye to your your ego during your Pilates practice.
When you go to yoga group classes don’t compare your abilities to others. The practice is yours and belongs to no one else. Put your mind inside your body. You might not touch your toes today like the person next to you but you’re still getting the benefit by doing. By the end of the class you will feel better and more accomplished.
The ego causes you to push harder but that usually tenses your muscles. Just say, “Where ever I am in my flexibility is enough right now. I’m relaxed I’m letting go.”
Drunk people suffer less injuries from a fall or car accident because they are so relaxed. Have you been in a situation when you see a car about to hit you? Your body tenses up and the muscles lock up causing more injuries. Your muscles need to be relaxed first before you get into the stretch.
4.Learn to breathe deeply during Pilates practice. Breath protects and breath lets go.
An inhale creates expansion and length which enable the body to reach further into a stretch. When you exhale it allows the body to relax and move gracefully into deeper release. For example, you’re sitting on the ground to stretch the back of your leg, hamstrings: Inhale through your nose for two counts. Feel your lungs expand to the side, back and front without tensing your neck and shoulders. The inhale elongates your body from the base of your spine to the top of your head and you are lifted up out of your hips. As you fold yourself forward exhale for four counts looking past your toes, not down to your knees. Keep your exhale longer then your inhale.
5. Hire a corrective exercise specialist to help you get the most out of your Pilates practice.
There two ways to accomplish your flexibility goals: The slow way or the fast way. Each person has different needs. An instructor can create the modification necessary in performing certain stretches in a healthy alignment and help you achieve your Pilates/flexibility goals faster.
When you have clarity in a Pilates program that is designed just for your unique needs, you will be more dedicated and persistent in continuing to perform your stretches.
Regular practice under the guidance of a qualified and experienced teacher ensures that the stretches become a more enriching and integral part of your life.
Don’t give up on your Pilates practice, persist!
The journey of stretching is a one of self-discovery. Look at tension not as your enemy but a message from the body, a potential for learning and having a better, more joyful life, in body mind spirit.
So, when you get back on the mat…
- Focus on What’s Working: Focus first on what is functioning in your body and moving with ease.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Be kind in how you talk to yourself while you move your body. I’ve seen it many times: When you worry and your thinking is rigid, your body will be rigid. On the other hand, a flexible body creates a pliable mind.
- Uncover a Meaningful Inner Identity: Disengage your ego from the tendency to look to outward appearances by uncovering a meaningful identity within.
- Breathe with Purpose: Inhale to create space and length in the body and exhale to allow your muscles to relax, release tension and open to greater flexibility.
- Enlist Expert Help: If you want to accomplish more in a short time, in a safe and encouraging environment higher a corrective exercise specialist.
Do not turn away from failures. You have the choice and ability to create a positive experience once again.
Pilates practice including stretching and yoga have a therapeutic effect on the body and mind, particularly relevant to today’s increasing pace of modern life. In today’s hectic world with many demands, stretching and yoga quiet the mind allowing us to slow down and live in the moment so we can cope with the stress we experience every day.
-Shoshi Hall, Pilates Master