It’s back to basics this April! Let’s talk about breath–one of the central principles of Pilates.
The primary type of breathing used in Pilates is costal breathing–the rib cage expands side to side and front to back allowing the abs to stay engaged. Think of lateral movement especially–side to side. And also think of puffing out the back of the ribs when sitting or standing. The benefits of this type of breathing are that you can increase your ribcage elasticity and stabilize the torso for motions that require mega-support from the abs. Exhalation could be passive or active, but remians controlled and smooth. However, breathing this way for too long can cause anxiety in some.
Research has shown that diaphragmatic breathing reduces stress and relaxes people. Diaphramatic breathing is allowing the diaphragm to drop and may give you the feeling of filling the belly with air, although the air does not travel down that far.
Your Pilates breath should be different than your all-day regular life breath. It’s not beneficial to walk around keeping the abs zipped up and breathing only into your ribcage. You train the muscles in Pilates to be there when you need them for stability…not so you are stuck like a statue the whole day. The torso should move freely.
It’s a good idea to take breaks in Pilates and allow 3 or 4 diaphragmatic breaths to calm the body and deepen your oxygen intake while in a pose that requires less balance and less stability for the spine–say, child’s pose or half-bend forward. This is also a great way to release/stretch the lower back.
Well, I promised you a video, and I made one! I haven’t figured out how to get it off my iPad yet–Youtube won’t load it. Technological fail! So my March Matness plan is a little hitched, but you’ll get your dose of Stephanie Pilates soon.
I wanted to share the latest and greatest additions/changes to my teaching schedule:
My Pilates Foundations class at TYR has moved to 6:15 on Tuesdays from 6:30. This class is great for beginners and seasoned students alike as we work hard, but move with slow, deep intention in order to delve into the principles of Pilates.
Classes are a little different at Pilates on Fifth for the next two months. I have the wonderful opportunity to teach Cardiolates Suspension, which is Pilates upside down and in the air! This class is Mondays at 7pm until mid-May.
My Friday reformer class will have a wonderful sub and I’ll be teaching Barres and Belles on Fridays at 7pm, instead until May 20th. Let’s Barre and Belle it before we hit the bars with our bells on.
I hope to see you there!
I have to confess this to you. I was a bad, bad Pilates teacher. I got busy…really busy…and besides a rep or two of demonstration in a few classes last week, I didn’t practice Pilates!
By Saturday I had a sore throat; on Tuesday, I coughed up a lung; and, on Wednesday I coughed up the other lung.
I DID get enough sleep, I DID take my vitamins, I DID eat vegetables, I DID drink water. I DID NOT workout.
So my friends:
Check back this weekend for a word about MARCH MATNESS–and my first video workout!
March is Women’s History Month. Pilates, although originated by a man, has been meticulously passed down and influenced by many wonderful women.
I’d like to honor perhaps the most famous of these women: Romana Kryzanowska, a ballet dancer in New York City who first came to “Uncle Joe” Pilates when Balanchine was trying to help her heal an ankle that was bothering her. Joe quickly saw her gift for teaching and healing bodies and named her as a “helper” not long after she had started going to the studio.
After Pilates’ death, Clara, Joe’s wife, was in her 80s and it was Romana who kept the studio alive.
She believes Pilates is a way of life:
“You apply Pilates in everyday life, like how you sit, how you walk.”
Romana still teaches today, certifying hundreds of young Pilates teachers and traveling around the world with her daughter and granddaughter who also teach. Click here for more info.
After teaching 7am classes twice a week for the last 6 months, I must weigh in on what it’s like to unite mind and body in a morning practice. The Yoga Room is offering a special 7am challenge, so now is the perfect time to start.
Before we get to the good stuff, you should know that science says you’ll have less of an appetite, more energy, more mental acuity, sleep better and be consistent in your practice by carving out exercise time in the morning*.
But, what I’ve noticed is that the morning is full of possibilities! You have a blank canvas to paint on. A nighttime yoga or Pilates practice carries the baggage of the day with it and much of the class will be spent undoing the tension from that day. In the a.m., you have a brand new, and hopefully rested, body to utilize which will take your practice even further.
In the end, when everyone else is gone, you are stuck with YOU (and your body). Spend time with YOU at the very start of your day. Why not give gratitude, challenge your body, and create space before you press on and work to please everyone else? To live your whole day in a body that’s connected to your mind, breath, and spirit is a wonderful thing. It brings about a mindfulness that changes the way you think, move, connect with others, and make decisions.
For tips on how to become an early riser, check out Leo Babauta’s article in one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits.
I’m surprised when people offer up an excuse about their lack of flexibility or “core” strength when avoiding Pilates workouts.
Do you never bowl again because you can’t get a perfect 300?
I’m a huge fan of the yoga “practice” approach. You show up, you do your best and you thank yourself at the end. With persistence, things start to change including your body, your practice, and your belief in yourself.
It’s the same in Pilates; through practicing daily, the method will make you stronger. You can thank yourself each session, or you can wait for your body to thank you down the line.
So what if you can’t get your legs straight in teaser? That isn’t the point! The point is to find a spinal shape that works towards getting you stronger and more stable. And in the process, you’ve learned some lessons about your body: both challenges and strengths.
Pilates isn’t about creating perfect shapes; perfection implies no room for growth. Pilates is about growing in awareness, efficiency, and movement. You’ll never know what’s possible until you try.
Practice is the best of all instructors.
So, I’m obsessed with the Olympics. It would be a huge challenge and dream come true to train or even work out with athletes of that calibre. Though I’m no sports expert, here’s what I would work on with these inspired athletes to ensure that their training keeps them balanced and functional in life. Click on the links to see videos!
Variations on Swan: Rowing requires a slightly flexed spine and tons of abs, so I would make sure their thoracic spine gets some good extension as well.
Single Thigh Stretch on Reformer and Extensors on the Chair: These athletes train for hours sitting with their legs out in front of them. It’s important for them to stretch the hip flexors and continue to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.
Standing Cadillac work, Side Splits on Reformer: Being in the water creates a different pull on the body than when moving through real life with gravity. I would focus on functional movements to increase balance.
Back Rowing: I would take advantage of these athletes’ grace and choreographic strengths. This exercise also mobilizes the spine fluidly, hopefully releasing them from the sometimes rigid lines they must maintain when in the air or balancing.
Mermaid/Side Bends: Though I am sure they have strong obliques, I’ve been watching any and all gymnastic events and am surprised by the lack of true lateral flexion in the spine (side bending). These exercises isolate that direction and sculpt the waist.
I haven’t written in over a month, mainly because I’ve been busy teaching! I taught 13 hours this week alone! Summer does the trick–I’ve been subbing for worn out teachers as they take their vacation and building my hours at several Manhattan studios.
I will be back soon with my many revelations during this intense time of learning and growing as a teacher. Also forthcoming are articles on the different Pilates apparatuses and “Pilates and the Olympics.”
In the meanwhile, check out my classes. I have four regular classes a week and teach privately at three studios. You can take a private for as low as $50! Click here for the schedule.
It’s easy to think of women in lulu, drinking Starbucks and flapping their “Hundreds” hands whens someone says “Pilates.” But, Joe Pilates trained boxers, soldiers and dancers. No matter who you are, Pilates will benefit you in some way. Read the article on the subject I wrote for a friend’s eNewsletter here!
Melinda is an excellent health coach and fitness teacher in the city. I can’t recommend her enough! Visit her website for nutritional info, coaching, and holistic health.
Teachers might learn a lot from the acting world. The one thing I’ve found to be imperative in both my acting projects and teaching Pilates: Commitment.
I’ve been working really hard (I’m a workaholic)–reading, practicing, teaching, watching others practice, observing and taking class at all kinds of studios. Guess what: I still don’t know everything that’s out there to know in terms of Pilates.
1. The body is complicated.
2. New research on the subject is infinite and always changing.
3. There are so many different opinions and styles of the method.
Still, I know a lot more than the average person does about Pilates. And yet, my classes still seem to be hit or miss.
I recently taught a class of 28 people and was forced to speak loudly, move quickly and take over the room. I said cues like they were FACT and not only suggestion. Even adding drama on the last few reps seemed to engage people more fully. That same day I taught a class of 6 people that felt messy, clouded and, quite frankly, boring.
I’m learning that I don’t have to have ALL of the answers to be a good teacher. It’s my job firstly, to be safe, and secondly, to tell my students everything I do know so that they can get the best workout possible. Commit to what you do know and joyfully seek out answers for the rest. Speak like you have a class of 50–not 10, be present so you can be clear with your words, get excited and rock these people’s bodies. Commitment and excitement are key in creating solid classes. I can only go up from here!