Style Observer

Realign Your Body With Pilates For 2019

Summer LOPEZ - PT, PMA-CPT, Director of Body Forte Physiotherapy and Pilates

Sunday, December 30, 2018

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Jolene (name changed to protect privacy) came to Pilates with a lifelong history of lower back pain and deep scepticism that an exercise class could help. She had tried it all — pain-killers, physiotherapy, a back brace worn for weeks, and was willing to contemplate surgery as a last resort. Her most recent physician had recommended a Pilates class before taking that step. She wanted a functional body — to be able to carry her own groceries, garden, dance, run if she wanted to. She felt trapped inside a body which hurt when she moved, realising she was able to do less and less as the years passed.

Pilates taught Jolene how to build a body which lasts a lifetime through principles of consciousness and centring. Her posture was poor, both standing and sitting at her desk job. With practice, she learned to recognise when she fell into old, dysfunctional habits. She understood that pain was telling her she was moving badly, and she learned how to correct posture and movement, instead of masking the problem with pain-killers.

Most of us use our bodies only in familiar ways — we rarely put our limbs and joints through their full range of motion. If a certain type of movement hurts, we stop doing it and over time, we lose more and more of our functionality. Jolene hated to rotate her torso, and therefore found reversing her car very difficult. Pilates teaches muscle control and precision of movement, based on a bedrock of core strength, and takes the body through its full range of motion in every class. Over time, Jolene regained her spine's natural flexibility and learned how to use her arms and legs without straining her back.

Pilates uses breathing to anchor consciousness and teach precision of movement. Control of the breath also calms the mind and promotes feelings of well-being, focusing the practitioner's attention on the muscles being engaged by any particular exercise. Jolene learned how her muscles, bones and joints connected and supported each other.

As we age, we tend to lose both flexibility and balance. Pilates emphasises flow and gracefulness, maintains flexibility and tests balance. It is a perfect regime after injury or surgery, as it is easily adapted to a range of abilities and physical constraints. Pilates is effective for older people, athletes at the peak of their game, young mothers after childbirth, anyone with an injury, anyone wanting to build a body that does what it is designed to do without pain.

When we connect with our moving body, when we understand how it works, we become more interested in the basics of health care — fresh air, enjoying nature, eating moderate amounts of locally grown food, especially plants, getting enough rest and quiet time, away from screens and other types of stimulation.

Too many of us ignore the needs of our bodies and minds — we run them into the ground, without the right fuel or exercise, and wonder why they fail us. In 2019, let's all make a resolution to look after our bodies at least as well as we take care of our cars.


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