All of our Pilates classes focus around 5 important, key elements. These elements help to underpin all the exercises we do, connecting your breathing, posture, mind and movement. Many people are now taking part in our online Pilates classes in their own time, or starting Pilates for the first time. We would normally always go through these important underlying steps with you on an individual basis, before you start Pilates. And remind you on a regular basis. So, we thought it would be useful to provide a reminder of these 5 Key Elements.
Key Element #1: Breathing
- Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent up (the rest position).
- Place a folded towel under your head if you feel that your chin is poking upwards.
- Place your hands across the lower half of your ribcage with the tips of your fingers slightly interlaced.
- Breathe in and allow your ribs to expand widthways.
- Let your fingertips draw apart from one another slightly.
- Breathe out and allow your ribcage to sink inwards and downwards.
- Your fingertips may interlace slightly as you empty your lungs.
- Watch that you do not lift your breastbone as you breathe in. Instead imagine the back of your ribcage spreading wide into the mat underneath you
You can repeat this in standing or sitting to truly understand your Pilates Breathing.
Key Element #2: Centering
Lie in the rest position. FINDING NEUTRAL SPINE POSITION.
Place your thumbs in your belly button, your fingertips on the pubic bone and flatten the heels of your hands onto the bony pelvic bones to form a diamond shape, AKA – the pelvic diamond. Tilt the pelvic diamond away from you to exaggerate the arch in your lower back. Tilt the pelvic diamond towards you to flatten your back. Repeat these gentle tilting movement a few more times. Now position the pelvic diamond in the middle of these two positions – this is your neutral spine position.
SETTING YOUR CENTRE WITH ABDOMINALS MUSCLES.
Feel your deep abdominal corset by placing your fingertips on your bony pelvic bones and then sliding your fingertips in and down 4cm. Now imagine your deep abdominal muscles forming a natural corset, criss-crossing the torso in layers. There are 10 notches in this corset, below the belly button, just like a belt. Breathe in to prepare, breathe out all the way and before the next breath in slowly and gently draw in the muscular corset from below the belly button onto the third notch. You should feel the muscles under your fingertips subtly draw away. Hold your centre and keep breathing normally. Less is better – the contraction is very gentle so don’t over do it.
SETTING YOUR CENTRE WITH PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES.
Gently draw your pelvic floor muscles in and up to hold your bladder from emptying. Now breathe normally and try to keep that engagement in your pelvic floor muscles. Now place your fingertips onto your deep abdominal muscles. You may also feel the muscles under your fingertips gently draw away – this is normal!
Key Element #3: The Rib Cage
Lie in the rest position, with your arms resting over your ribcage. Find your neutral spine position and set your centre. As you take a deep breathe in, feel the movement of your Ribcage expanding laterally and upwards. Breathe out and notice the movement of your ribcage back to its start position. Repeat this movement about 6 times.
Key Element #4: Shoulder Blades
Lie in the rest position.
SHOULDER BLADE RETRACTION AND PROTRACTION
Keeping your arms long, float them upward vertically to the ceiling. Imagine you are holding a helium balloon between your hands. Breathe in and reach upwards through your fingertips, allowing the helium balloon to lift your arms further upwards and glide your shoulder blades gently apart from one another. Breath out and gently draw your shoulder blades back towards one another without pinching them together. Repeat several more times and then lower your arms to the mat.
SHOULDER BLADE ELEVATION AND DEPRESSION
With your arms resting long beside your body, breathe in and glide your shoulder blades gently upwards, keeping your arms on the mat. Breathe out and gently glide your shoulder blades down away from your ears (this movement is produced by the lower trapezius muscle). Repeat several times.
Key Element #5: Head and Neck
If you have neck pain or headaches, always commence this exercise lying down to reduce the load through your neck.
Lie in the rest position. Place a small folded towel under your head if your feel that your chin is poking upwards. Place a shiny magazine on top of the towel to reduce friction. Feel the bony area on the back of your head resting on the magazine. Now lengthen this bony part of your head away from the base of your neck. Hold for a second or two and then relax. Repeat several times. Alternatively, imagine that someone is gently pulling the hair on the crown of your head to lengthen the back of your neck.
Less is better – the contraction is very gentle so don”t over do it. Place your hands on the muscles on the front of your neck. The muscles should remain soft.
The Rest Position
In the rest position your muscles are relaxed and your joints are in neutral alignment. You should try to incorporate the key points of the rest position into all postures throughout your day.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent up and you head supported on a small cushion or folded towel.
- Relax the weight of your head into the support.
- Lengthen the back of the neck by reaching the crown of the head towards the wall behind you.
- Gently draw your shoulder blades down towards your waist to relax the neck and shoulders.
- Soften the ribcage into the mat to connect the back of the ribcage on the mat.
- Place your feet and knees hip distance apart.
- Make sure that your weight rests on the six key points of the feet: the base of each big toes, each little toe and the centre of the heel on each foot.
- Imagine your pelvis is a bucket of water. Tip it backwards to spill some water out the back of the bucket and you will feel your back gently flatten onto the mat. Now tip it forwards to spill some water out of the front of the bucket and you will feel your lower back arch slightly. Find your ‘neutral spine’ position by resting the bucket halfway between these two movements. There should be a small space between your back and the mat, and your pubic and hip bones should form a small flat triangle.
- Maintaining the neutral spine position, INHALE wide into the sides and back of the ribcage and then EXHALE. At the end of your exhale, slowly draw up through the pelvic floor muscles to engage these and your deep abdominal muscles.
- Hold this gently contraction and keep breathing for up to ten breaths,
If you’d like to join us for some online Pilates classes, head on over to our Pilates Facebook community group.