In this post we will be focusing on one of the 6 Pilates principles – Precision. Only if an exercise is performed precisely and mindfully will you benefit fully from it and strengthen and improve within your own practise.
With this in mind I thought I would share 5 thoughts with you to take with you into your next class for a more precise and therefore more satisfying Pilates experience!
1. Momentum is not your friend!
Momentum might help to make you feel like you can do a certain exercise but by using momentum you are only cheating yourself out of the process you have to go through to improve on an exercise. Momentum removes the challenge of persevering until you have achieved perfection. Many Pilates exercises have been designed with a deliberate pause in certain stages to prevent momentum from taking over the motion. The Pilates method was originally named Contrology which means “the study of control” emphasizing this very concept. Going slowly is very important. A slower pace will allow you to control the movement with more precision and will help to engage your stabilizing muscles more.
2. Watch your neck position!
One of my favourite sayings which I think is so suited to Pilates is “minimum effort, maximum grace“. By tensing your neck during any exercise you risk injury as well as inefficient energy expenditure. Pilates classes often include a series of abdominal exercises with the head off the floor unsupported, like the double leg stretch and the hundred. In these challenging exercises, two mistakes can creep in:
- The chin pokes forward and the eye line goes up towards the ceiling or
- The chin pushes right down into the chest making it difficult to breath through the exercise and creates serious neck tension.
Having your neck in the correct position is of the utmost importance. Imagine holding a tennis ball between the chin and chest without tensing and focusing your eye line forward in front of you. Always think of keeping a soft neck. If your upper abs are weak, the correct position will be challenging. Keep working at it — you will get stronger!
3. Shoulders away from your ears!
It’s tempting to involve your shoulders when exercises get tough or when you’re trying to stretch just that little bit extra but your shoulders should always be away from your ears. Hunched shoulders create unnecessary tension in the neck and upper body and wastes energy that can be focused on other areas. I like to tell my clients to make it look like its easy (even if its super challenging). Chances are, if it looks easy, its probably because you look relaxed while you’re doing it (even though you’re screaming inside). Know in your mind where your shoulder blades should be. Focus on the shoulder blades sliding down your back rather than gripping too hard onto your lats or armpits and you should have the right feeling. There should be no tension when sliding the shoulders down. As with the previous point about your neck – think soft shoulders.
4. No spacing out!
It’s been a long day or it’s going to be a long day. You take a break from your busy schedule to do one of the only things you do just for you – a Pilates class. But while you’re moving through the motions of the exercises, you’re thinking about the work you need to get done, the groceries that need to be bought or the kids that need to be fed. Whatever it is, you should not allow yourself to be distracted by the outside world when you’re dedicating an hour to yourself! It’s difficult to be precise in your movements when your mind is elsewhere. Pilates is a mind-body exercise, meaning you need to stay focused on your movement throughout class to help connect the brain to the movement. Be mindful of each breath you take, think about why you’re taking it and what its effect will be on the movement you are about to make. Precision is as much about the mind as it is about the body!
5. Take Pilates with you
Don’t make the mistake of only using the principle of precision on the mat. Be precise in your movements always. Take the connections, body awareness, and postural corrections you have learned in class out into the world with you. The lessons learned on the mat can help you in everyday life. If applied correctly, they can help you to avoid pain by keeping you aware of your posture as well as help you to walk and stand tall which in turn will leave you with a sense of confidence and the right attitude to face the day and all its challenges!
I challenge you to be mindful of these 5 guidelines on precision your next Pilates class as well as outside of the Pilates studio and see what a difference it can make to your overall experience!