Have you ever tried Pilates before and thought "This is too easy for me" or "I don't feel like I'm getting a good enough workout"? Well, I can tell you now that you are not on your own with this thought. I've heard this quite a few times from those cautious of doing Pilates.
However I can also tell you, if you're finding Pilates too easy then it is most likely that you are doing it wrong!
We have all seen in the press that many athletes and celebrities do Pilates. Gareth Bale, Andy Murray, Darcy Bussell etc. Does that mean we are really fitter than them if we find Pilates too easy?
Before we go into the details of what we could be doing it wrong, let's just remind ourselves of what Pilates is.
I think Brook Siller's explanation in "The Pilates Body" is one of the clearest and simplest to understand "The Pilates method of body conditioning is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises". Notice I have highlighted the word "method". I believe this is what makes the different from becoming "just another exercise class".
What is the "method"? Well that would be the Pilates principles (a few of which I have spoken about in previous articles): Alignment, Breathing, Connections to name a few. Think of these as the foundations of the house.
Sometimes we take for granted that we know these (We can all breathe, squeeze our abs and sit up tall, right?) But a lot of time it really isn't that simple. From my years of teaching, I find we need to be patient to achieve these principles. Take breathing for example. A lot of time the emphasis on breathing is breathing in or out at the right times. But there is so much more to it than that, I have found teaching and getting participants to learn and understand diaphragmatic and lateral breathing, the results they achieve are far greater.
It is essential we follow this method if we want to have any chance of making our Pilates journey a success... especially if starting Pilates to assist with any pain, back pain etc.
Let me give a good example of this. Once I was visited by a young lady who was suffering back pain, which she believed she picked up in her Pilates class at the gym. During our consultation she told me that she was in the "Advanced Class" and believes "The Boomerang" exercise gave her back pain. From here I looked the main principles. Unfortunately she couldn't hold a neutral pelvis/spine, breath correctly or activate any deep abdominal muscles.
She informed me she felt the foundation moves where too basic and she wanted the advanced moves to make her feel like she had worked. The problem here is by doing the advanced moves without any of the principles she was just over compensating and usually if we are compensating, it leads to dysfunction, and the dysfunction usually leads to pain. In this case we went right back to foundations, which she found very challenging (when doing the principles correctly). She was quite amazed when she told me it was "the first time my abdominals have felt like they have worked properly without any pain". You will be pleased to know we progressed on quite quickly and she still comes to my small group Pilates classes... however there is no need for "The Boomerang in these classes"!
Siler, B. 2000. The Pilates Body, 1
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Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!