It all starts with your core!
While there are many different exercise practices and disciplines, there is one thing that gets overlooked or under-emphasized in most of them; core strength. Having come from a weight room background, I personally have been guilty of this in the past, until I discovered Pilates and started practicing it myself. The difference that it has made in my life in general, and the new-found confidence it has given me in my other athletic pursuits, is nothing short of amazing. There are many aspects that contribute to a strong core, and they are all inter-related. Pulling all these pieces of the puzzle together is what Pilates was conceived to accomplish.
The very deepest layer of your abdominal and core muscles are respiratory muscles and therefore contribute to a proper breath pattern. So learning to breathe properly will help you to engage and stabilize your core from the inside out. Breathing is the first of the Pilates principles, and the first thing new clients learn upon beginning a Pilates regimen.
The next thing that will be addressed is pelvic placement. The position of the pelvis in turn dictates where the lumbar spine or low back go. Learning to properly engage and stabilize the pelvic floor muscles along with the deep abdominals has been shown to reduce pain in the lumbar spine, as well as give a much better base of support during strenuous activities.
Rib Cage Placement
Next in line is the position of the rib cage. The rib cage attaches to the thoracic or upper portion of the spine. So, as with the pelvis, the rib cage determines the positioning of the thoracic spine. The ability to control this portion of the spine using the deep abs and obliques leads to better posture, more openness and mobility through the chest and shoulders, and again a reduction in back pain, as well as contributing to better stability during activity.
Scapular Movement And Stabilization
Continuing up the chain, the next area is the scapula or shoulder blades. The position of the scapula is a large factor in the overall position of the shoulder as a whole. Proper positioning and mobility here contribute to better alignment through the neck and upper part of the spine. A large part of neck pain and other issues stem from poor mechanics of the scapula and the rotator cuff muscles. As a society that has moved to a more sedentary lifestyle and workplace, poor scapular alignment has become an increasingly large problem for many of us. The good news? It can be corrected with regular Pilates sessions and better awareness of this area!
Head And Cervical Placement
The last link in the chain is you head and neck, or cervical spine. As you’ve probably realized by now, all of these things are connected, with one part of the body directly effecting the position of another. It’s important to realize that the head and neck can operate as part of the whole chain, or independently as the situation requires. In Pilates, we focus on training the proper muscles to work to both stabilize and mobilize the cervical spine, while at the same time making sure that these muscles aren’t being overworked due to faulty bio-mechanics in the thoracic spine.
What Does This Mean For You?
As I hope I’ve illustrated here, a better body begins from the inside out. Once you have the core stability and mind-body connection, you too will be amazed at the things that your body can achieve!