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An introduction to mat Pilates

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It can be done by anyone with any level of fitness, there are various adaptations and levels to make the exercises either easier or more difficult, and safe for all.

There are various different schools of Pilates with different methods of teaching, however the core principals generally align well.

What are the key elements?

The five key elements are factors to learn to enable you to maintain an effective ‘Pilates rest position’, as you begin practicing Pilates. Learning these five elements now will allow the correct engagement of key muscle groups throughout your practicing.

1. Breathing

Pilates aims to correct the pattern of breathing. This enhances oxygen transport to the working muscles and removes waste products produced from exercise. Lateral breathing is adopted—meaning we aim for deeper breaths by expanding the ribcage outwards.

2. Centring

The main goal of Pilates is to engage the transverse abdominal muscle – the deepest core muscle. To do this effectively a neutral spine position should be achieved.

To find this position place your fingers and thumbs in a diamond shape around your belly button. Imagine you have a marble in the middle, tip your hips and pelvis forward to move the marble to your fingers and then back towards your thumbs. Your neutral spine can be found by balancing the ‘marble’ in the middle of the diamond.

To engage your transverse abdominal muscles, imagine you have a belt on and you want to gently tuck your tummy muscles in to tighten the belt one notch further.

3. Ribcage placement

In the rest position your rib cage should be aligned with your pelvis. You should be able to feel the back of your rib cage resting on the mat.

4. Shoulder blade placement

Glide your shoulder blades up towards your ears then down towards your waist, repeat this a few times. You should then think about sinking your shoulder blades down towards the ‘back pockets of your trousers’. This will help your upper back muscles to engage which are particularly important for maintaining good posture.

5. Head and neck alignment

Either have your head flat on your mat, or place a small folded towel under your head. If you choose to use a towel, make sure your head is still in alignment with the rest of your body and is not propped up too high.

Keep the back of your neck long to keep the deep stabilising muscles engaged. Imagine you have a peach resting between your chin and your chest, you should aim to keep that same space during all the exercises.

Cheryl Culliford-Whyte

Cheryl Culliford-Whyte Content Contributor, Warwick Sport

Cheryl has interests in all kinds of fitness, keeping healthy and looking after your wellbeing. She enjoys hiking, lifting and healthy baking.


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