Friday, 27 July 2012

How to prepare for a Pilates holiday

Whether you’re a Pilates pro, or have never set feet on an exercise mat before, anyone can enjoy a Pilates holiday and there’s really very little you need to do before you go. The beauty of Pilates is that it’s accessible to all levels. A bit like yoga, each move can be modified to suit the level of each individual, and a good teacher will be able to support beginners as well as challenge regulars, all within the same class.

Nonetheless, if you have a bit of time on your hands in the weeks or days leading up to your holiday, why not do a bit of preparation, to make sure you really get the most out of your break.

1. Practice lateral breathing: 
Correct breathing is the foundation of Pilates. Each movement coordinates with inhalations and exhalations, and breathing works to oxygenate your blood and gets your circulation going. But, especially if you’re new to Pilates, or haven’t practiced for a while, it can take a few classes to get used to the techniques.

Several breathing techniques can be employed during a workout but lateral breathing is one of the most fundamental. Start by pulling in your abs and taking long, deep, slow breaths. Think of filling your rib-cage from top to bottom, back to front, with every inhalation; and then empty your rib-cage completely with each exhalation - all the time, keeping your abdominal muscles pulled in to protect your spine.

2. Brush up on terminology: 
A good teacher will use a variety of technical and not technical language, so that class is accessible to all levels of students. It will help your class to flow more easily, however, if you have a basic understanding of some of the most common Pilates terms. Skim a few of these to give yourself a head-start.

Abdominals: Stomach muscles
Abductor muscles: Muscles that take a body part farther away from your midline
Core strength: Trunk muscles that give us stability - mainly the back and stomach muscles
Counter stretch: Stretching the opposite way to before eg. A back-bend after a forward-bend
Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathing deeply into your stomach, using your diaphragm
Extend: To stretch out a limb
Fitness ball: Large ball used as a prop in some Pilates exercises
Midline: An invisible line running vertically through the centre of your body
Modification: An adaptation to a pose that either challenges you or makes a posture easier
Neutral spine: The most natural position of the spine, with well-aligned body parts
Sit bones: The bony part of your bum that you feel when sitting on a hard floor

3. Be balanced: 
Balance can be tricky at first but it certainly improves with practice. Particularly if you know your balance is poor, build up slowly before your Pilates holiday, to help improve confidence and allow you to do more while you’re away. Start by standing on one leg for a few minutes each day – you could do this when you brush your teeth or do the washing up, for example. Always make sure that you practice evenly on both legs, to avoid unequal strengthening of one side of your body.

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