In Rebecca’s words…Pilates is way more than just a ﬁx, It looks like nothing, but feels like something.
How I started Pilates
When I was 16 years old I was wrongly diagnosed and was very ill for 18 months, I was unable to go to school and ﬁnish my GCSEs. I was bed-bound, had a disabled badge and was taken out to do shopping in a wheelchair.
Before this I was very active, I danced every night after school for 3-4 hours and also dedicated most of my weekend to dancing. My dream was to become a professional dancer, dance on cruise ships and travel the world.
All this was taken away from me when I became ill, I lost a lot of weight and a lot of strength. I was so dedicated to dance and without sounding big headed, was always one of the top in the class. This made it diﬃcult for me to return to class when I got my health back as I wasn’t used to being the ‘worst’. Therefore the stubborn me gave up on my dream.
We started every day with 45-60 minutes of Pilates. We moaned every morning before class because we were tired and cold and the last thing we wanted to do was lie on a mat and do exercises that looked like nothing but actually required a lot of concentration and eﬀort, not forgetting to mention – strength! I gained so much strength from doing Pilates every morning, it helped me with my dancing but also in general life too. My core was stronger than it had ever been before, my mobility and ﬂexibility improved and I began to ﬁnd all those little muscles that had been forgotten about when I spent all day in bed.
When we had shows or exams we often didn’t have time to do our class every morning, that’s when I realised how important Pilates was to my training. My core didn’t feel as strong, my technique dropped and injury/aches and pains started to develop. The thing with Pilates is, you start with such small basic movements but if you do it correctly it is actually very diﬃcult. It looks like nothing, but feels like something. The more you practice Pilates you can adapt, modify and progress the exercises, before you know it you’re doing something you would have never been able to do a couple of weeks prior. Saying this, even if you’re at advanced level, it is never a bad idea to re visit the basics.
A small piece of history
Joseph Pilates is the man behind ‘Pilates’ – originally known as Contrology. During the First World War he helped those who were injured in the war to recover from their injuries. He rigged up hospital beds with springs and straps and created exercises using the resistance from the springs to improve the muscular strength, endurance and ﬂexibility of his patients. In 1926, Joseph moved to the US and opened a studio around the corner from the New York School of Ballet on 8th Avenue. It was in this studio that dancers ﬂocked to him for advice on conditioning exercises and techniques to overcome their injuries. A few of his advocates are Martha Graham, Rudolf Von Laban and George Balanchine, these are very well known names in the dance industry.
The 6 Pilates Principles
The traditional Pilates method encourages ‘lateral breathing, which involves inhaling into the lower back and lateral area of the ribcage. When breathing laterally the abdominals remain engaged which is an important factor in Pilates. Lateral breathing is also believed to reduce tension in the neck and shoulder region.
All Pilates exercises have a mental and cognitive element to them; concentrating on the movement, bodily position, active and inactive muscles. When the mental components of movement are applied correctly, eﬃcient and quality movement is created.
All Pilates exercises should be performed smoothly and with ﬂuidity and grace. Each exercise should be executed slowly and with control.
The one tip I would give to anyone is that Pilates isn’t just for someone with back problems or an injury.
Doctors and physios send people to Pilates to ﬁx their problems – which I agree with, but Pilates is way more than just a ﬁx! Add it into your workout routine once or twice a week and if you commit and do it properly I guarantee it will help you in everything that you do, whether it is just daily life or part of your exercise routine.
I have clients tell me all the time they can’t believe how much stronger they feel, how much it helps them in the gym and other classes and how much their posture has improved. Not to mention that they have less aches and pains.And this is why I chose to teach Pilates.