Do you ever pause for Pilates?

I’ve been reading an article in the Horse & Hound (March 2015) which was kindly passed to my by Debbie from my Monday daytime Pilates group who is a keen rider, horse owner and runs her own stables. Debbie also teaches people to ride and has seen amazing improvements in how her students ride and how much better their horses respond to them where she applies the simple principles of Pilates to their lessons.

I hadn’t realised that Pilates is becoming a well known mode of exercise in the world of riding. Pippa Funnell an event rider does 2 pilates session a week and Laura Tomlinson, an Olympic Dressage Medalist has been doing pilates twice a week for over 9 years to name the more well known riders.

What they have found Pilates has given them is the ability to use their bodies more efficiently and effectively and translate movement on their horses so that they get the best out of their horses when they ride.

The original principles of Pilates are Control, Centering, Concentration, Precision, Breath and Flow. Pilates looks at control from the centre so that you are stable in the middle of your body (from chest to hips, upper leg) through activating your deeper stabilising muscles that wrap around you like a corset before you start swinging out your arms and legs.

If you are like jelly in the middle of your body, there is little chance you will generate power and force through your movement when it comes to enhancing sporting performance.

Pilates helps you to learn symmetry. It is really quite an artistic way to move. We are trying to create flow without tension ie. stiffness through the joints. This can be done through focusing on deeper breathing and becoming more aware of where your body is in space.

Think of yourself sat on a horse, as the Horse & Hound discusses. If you are gripping your gluts or cheeks together, the horse will not feel comfortable and will probably put the brakes on. If you are gripping with thighs as well, it may take that as a sign of panic and bolt! If you grip your thighs too tight on one side, you may find yourself going round in circles. If your shoulder is down on the other side, the horse will feel uneven with weight over to one side more than the other and again will not perform as well.

Now apply all this to how you move without a horse! Say you are staying tense on one side of your body in your inner thigh, then you are effectively going to be walking around in circles as your leg will be trying to turn in each time you step causing you to be knock-knee’d. What if your shoulder is down on one side more than the other, so one side of your waist is becoming much shorter than the other. Your body will continue to function but tensions are going to start to occur as some muscles will have to work harder to try to hold your skeleton in alignment whilst it moves and here we start to see poor movement patterns occur!

Pilates through different movements will make you more aware of where your body is — so using knees as an example, you will become more aware of whether your knee looks out in front or out to the side or inwards when you are moving. Most of the time we need the knees to look forward when we move in order to be stable.

Perhaps we all should have a riding lesson every quarter so we can see how the horse reacts to our movement. I think it would be quite an eye-opener even for me.

What is great to see from the Horse & Hound article, is that Pilates is moving away now from being seen as a woman only mode of exercise. Finally men are seeing the light and joining Pilates groups including sportsmen who are seeing how Pilates, this type of mindful movement, can improve flexibility, mobility and ultimately strength and power.

I also read recently from a golfing magazine that my husband receives, how much Pilates has rescued a golfer from deteriorating form and now his swing is generating much more force and his handicap is back where it should be, so he swears by Pilates!

If you are finding that your body is getting stiffer, aching more, not being as flexible or as mobile as you need it to be for sport or just generally, get in touch. Pilates could well be the missing element in your daily activities that will get you back in action and on top form but as with anything, it takes patience, perseverance and time to see results, although I have had people in my classes feel the benefit straight after the first session because they were so stiff in certain areas of their body that they were experiencing no movement at all but after that first Pilates session they regained some of that missing movement during that week.

If you are interested in hosting a Pilates workshop in your workplace for your particular sport ie. Golf, Rugby, Football, Riding, Swimming, etc or a more generalised session for Pilates in the Office, Pilates for Backcare and Improving Mobility, please do get in touch as I would love to run some workshops during the year to help more people feel the benefits of doing Pilates.

So when you are rubbing that back or feeling those muscles tense up too much, just pause for a moment and make time for Pilates!