Pilates is great for staying fit. It is apa great way of aligning the mind,and body and spirit. It reduces pain in the body caused due to incorrect posture. It helps in treating issues related to the neck, herniated discs, hunchback, and scoliosis. The spine movement becomes easier as the fluidity improves. The core muscles or the powerhouse of the body get toned. Pilates relieves lower back pain and knee pain, a common problem among many due to erratic lifestyle. It improves overall flexibility of the body and gives a sculpted look by building more muscles. It also reduces anxiety, mental stress and treats depression. Dr Vaishnevi Yoga, an internationally acclaimed Yoga Guru, owner of Academy of Yoga and a certified Mat Pilates trainer discusses the benefits of Pilates, warm up exercises, diet and Pilates exercises for beginners and daily practitioners to develop feel good hormones in your body.
Pilates, a good tool for mind body coordination
Pilates is all about mind and body coordination with breathing being the most important factor. For example, during roll down instead of exhale, if you inhale you are not using the right muscles in core .Simultaneously, you are hurting your back. Focus on your breathing, if you are not breathing right during the practice, it is impossible to get the benefit of the exercises.
Pilates for healthy individuals
Healthy individuals can start easily by focusing on a few core arm exercises like double leg stretch, shoulder bridge with leg movement, and kneeling with sidekick. If there is a possibility to join Pilates Reformer classes, it is the best for beginners as few exercises are very difficult on mat and reformer helps in defining the alignment in the spine. The Wunda chair is great for many exercises for arms and lower body. Like the reformer, the Pilates chair or Wunda chair, invented by Joseph Pilates is a resistance exercise machine. The Pilates chair is basically a box with one side that can be pressed down against the resistance of springs, like a large pedal. Sometimes the pedal portion is divided into two parts that can be worked independently.
Practice warm up exercises before doing Pilates
Warm up exercises with breathing practice, roll down and walk up is essential for practicing Pilates, as it is a very demanding form of regimen which requires complete attention and focus. It tones many deep layers of muscles in the body which no other form of workout can do.
Eat light or provide Pilates on an empty stomach
It is always recommended to do Pilates workout on an empty stomach or after a light meal. So it is best to plan your day and eat light three hours prior to help you focus. Heavy meals will not enable complete focus of the mind. Planning your exercises before meal time is advised.
Your diet depends on your lifestyle, working hours and how many hours of sleep and rest you are getting. Avoid processed food and anything pre-cooked. A vegan diet is recommended. We are what we eat. Eat four hours before bed time. Vaishnevi creates a meals diary which she shares with all her clients to aid the overall development of mind and body.
A good trainer is essential
Eyes cannot see what the mind does not know. Always choose the right coach and program for you, after evaluating your health, lifestyle, working hours and diet. Only a professional can help you with that. If you have the right program with an expert coach, you would feel great and completely refreshed after the session. It brings the perfect alignment in the body.
Pilate tips for practitioners
For those who are already practicing Pilates can continue all the set of 34 exercises. Maintaining consistency is important. You might be busy but make sure you always have 20 to 40 minutes of practice, atleast thrice a week .
As far as intense workout is concerned our body loves surprises, so always go ahead and be creative with new moves. It is important to know which perfect muscles to work on. Any wrong moves can result in an injury.
A medium stretch band is great for mat pilates. Mat pilates is a great tool for core and lower back support workouts.
Following are the Pilates exercises
Always start with breathing and focus on the core muscles.
1)Warm up by rolling down against the wall (Spinal articulation)- 3 rounds.
2) Foot work and joint mobility- 3 counts
Pilates footwork is a squat-like movement. Instead of squatting standing up. However, footwork in Pilates is performed by lying down on a reformer machine. More specifically, this exercise is executed with your back flat on the carriage, feet on the foot bar (with the foot bar up) and head on the head rest. The action in footwork involves pressing away from the foot bar and extending the legs fully. Bending the legs and going into a squat is the next phase. This brings the carriage back to the starting position.
Footwork provides correct leg, foot and ankle alignment. It develops strength in the hips, legs, ankles and feet. It ncrease flexibility in the lower limbs. It creates balanced muscle development around the hips, knees and ankles. It retrains foot, ankle, knee and hip biomechanics for functional activities such as walking, running, dancing and sports. It prevents injury by balancing stress on the joints of the lower limbs and helps recover from injuries.
3)A single leg circle helps in hip mobility. Six counts on both the legs.
Engage your core. Pull your abdominal muscles in, anchoring the pelvis and shoulders. Draw one knee in towards the chest and then extend it straight toward the ceiling. Inhale and cross the extended leg up and over the body. It angles up toward the opposite shoulder and over the outstretched leg. Exhale and lower the leg down towards the center line in a circling motion. Use control as you carry the open the leg out to the side and then sweep it around back to center at your starting position. Do five to eight circles in this direction, then reverse, starting your circle by exhaling and then reaching your extended leg out to the side and then circling back toward and over the body. Stretch, before switching legs, by climbing the hands up the outstretched leg to hold the ankle. Hold the position for three full breath cycles, gently pulling the leg closer and closer to you. Then repeat steps 1 to 4 on the opposite leg and finish with another stretch.
Along with the core, single leg circle strengthens the quadriceps and hamstrings. It also promotes a healthy hip joint. It’s a great opportunity to work on the abdominals while keeping the Pilates principles of centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow in mind. Like most Pilates moves, this exercise combines stretching and strengthening of major muscle groups on both sides of the body, promotes balance and improves overall function in your hips.
4) Hands behind the head and toes taps are great for lower abs strengthening. Six counts of two sets should be practiced.
5) Side bend -Mermaid and Twist
Extend your left arm straight up above your head. Keep your left shoulder down, away from your ear. Bring the inside of the arm as close to your ear as you can without hiking up the shoulder. Keep your left hip grounded as you lengthen your spine and the stretch moves up through the center of your body. Extend your spine so far up that you have nowhere left to go with the stretch but to take it over to the side.
Do not let your ribs pop forward as you curve to the side. Your support hand moves further away from your body to increase the stretch. You can also fold the supporting elbow down onto the floor. Keep your shoulders down and your scapula settled in your back, even at the farthest point of your reach. To initiate your return, send your left sit bone down toward the mat. Then use your abs to begin to bring your torso up. Now begin the reach to the other side. Your torso lengthens further still as the left arm arcs overhead and then down to grasp your left shin. Your right arm is extended as your left arm is lowered. Now your focus is on keeping the right sit bone grounded as the stretch extends up and over toward the left. Reach your right arm outward as far as you can without losing the integrity of your shoulder. Your shoulder is down and the scapula is settled in the back. Repeat two to three times and switch sides.
This exercise stretches your obliques, shoulders, and inner thighs. It opens your side body, lengthening the muscles between the ribs and pelvis. This can aid in being able to fully expand your chest in breathing. It prepares you for moves that call for twisting and bending.
6) Leg Pull Plank
Extend one leg from the hip so that your foot lifts off the mat a few inches. Your foot can point softly as it is released from the mat. As you extend your leg, your hip will lift slightly, but the challenge is to keep the rest of your body stable in plank position. This requires extra work from your abdominals, shoulders, and back. Return your foot to the mat and extend the other leg. Repeat the lift five to seven times on each side.
This exercise stretches the front of your body while it strengthens your back, hamstrings (the muscles in the back of thigh) and arms. In practicing this move, you are adding functional fitness you need for everyday tasks including sitting down with control rather than simply dropping into a chair.
7) Double leg stretch
Pull your abdominal muscles in to curve your upper body up off the floor as you exhale. Deepen the abs, bringing your forehead toward your knees. Grasp your shins or ankles. Your pelvis is neutral, with your lower back slightly off the ground. Reach your arms over your head and keep your legs long as you inhale. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your abs pulled in as you reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Extend as far as possible while keeping your abs pulled in and your lower back on the mat. Your upper body should stay lifted as you reach. Sweep your arms out to the sides as you exhale, reaching around to grasp your shins. Deepen your abs and pull your legs in to center. Do not drop your upper body curve. Repeat 6 to 10 times.
Benefits: Double leg stretch is a great ab workout. It radiates from the core powerhouse, demanding both strength and endurance from the abdominal muscles. It also helps improve your stability and coordination.
Enjoy a beautiful toned body you always wanted with Pilates!