5 common mistakes in Pilates classes

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The 5 common mistakes I see in a Pilates classes when people are new is how they try to perform the movement super fast using momentum with no control and by holding their breath.  Well I am afraid that Joseph Pilates called his method “contrology” for a reason.

That’s right, it’s all about maintaining control through your movements. In today’s workout warrior culture, we often think that it has to be harder, faster, heavier, stronger and we think it is the better. With Pilates that couldn’t be further from the aim! You need to maintain control to make sure the correct muscles are being used, and that you’re really building a strong base. There is no RUSH!

Before starting any exercises, I make sure people activate their entire body. You need to check your alignment before each movement. Your feet are very important and need to be activated, to me there are the foundation of your body and you would not build a house on bad foundation. Each body part needs to be engaged to start any Pilates exercises. It is a mind body experience. You need to think about what you are doing otherwise you are not connection your body together and won’t perform an exercise to its best ability.

Incorrect Pelvic Placement is a big one, and one your teacher should teach you in your very first lesson. In Pilates, we have two main pelvic placements, Neutral and Imprint. Neutral is when you have the natural curve in your lumbar spine and I want you to keep it when you are lying down too. It is called neutral position. If you draw a triangle from your hipbones and pubic bone, that triangle should stay parallel to the ceiling and the floor at all time. Place your fingers on your hipbones to make sure you are not moving you hips when you are performing an exercise. Your lower back is not pressed in to the mat, and this should feel stable and natural, and should not cause strain in your lower back. We maintain neutral when our feet are on the floor for beginners, and as we progress we should work towards maintaining neutral for all movements. However, that requires strong abdominal muscles (especially when your feet are off the floor) which brings us to Imprinting when you have a back problem and need stability and feedback with the floor.  Imprint is when there is a slight tuck of the pelvis, so you feel your lower back connecting slightly to the floor. This gives you a bit more stability in your movements (highly recommended with back injuries) so your body is rocking all over the place as you try to do the moves.

You have a natural curve in your lumbar spine and I want you to keep it when you are lying down too. It is called neutral position. If you draw a triangle from your hipbones and pubic bone, that triangle should stay parallel to the ceiling and the floor at all time. Place your fingers on your hipbones to make sure you are not moving you hips when you are performing an exercise.

Trying too hard is another mistake to be avoided. Sometimes you really can see that someone is trying way too hard not recruiting the right muscles and creating tension in their weak area. Overdoing the muscular effort cheats, us out of working deeper stabilizing muscles. In that case less effort allows the right muscles to work and other muscles to soften and release tension.

Any muscular tension, knotting, gripping, or cramping is a good sign you are trying too hard in one particular area. The key is to let go, regroup, and reconnect with your core and purpose of the movement, and then proceed more mindfully.

If you think about core exercises, the transverse abdominis, diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor, basically your deeper core muscles, should engage at the same time but If you are just pulling your abs, you are more likely to be using superficial core muscles like your rectus muscles (six pack muscles) but not your deeper abdominal muscles. It’s tougher to feel the deep core muscles as they are closer to the spine but this is what I am constantly looking for in a class.

Giving up after the first class!

Like anything else in life, you need to give Pilates a go more than once to express an opinion on it. Pilates classes vary hugely depending on your instructor (it is very important to make sure I know what training they have) It is all new in UK but has been around a long time in the States. Are they sticking to Pure Pilates? Have they trained with teachers who trained with Joseph himself?  How long have they done it? The type of class – a mat Pilates class an equipment class such as reformer or chair Pilates class can vary greatly!

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