Diaphragmatic breathing for deep core activation

relaxation pose

For lots of reasons, many of us don’t use our diaphragms as well as we could and it has a direct impact on our core & pelvic floor strength & ability to stabilise our bodies as we move. Some medical conditions will affect how a person breathes, but also breathing patterns can be impacted by posture, surgery, stress & anxiety (short, shallow breathing), social media nonsense (eg. ‘belly breathing’ which cannot be a thing because your lungs are not in your belly!) and lack of awareness.

If you want a stronger/more effective core you need to use your diaphragm when you inhale and exhale.

On the inhale the ribs need to get wider (in all directions but especially widthways) and the belly will be soft but not distended. On the exhale, as the ribs become narrower again, the deep-lying transversus abdominus & pelvic floor muscles also contract. Everything will be beautifully synchronised. 

BUT if the ribs don’t get wider on the inhale, the deep abdominal muscles are not activated on the exhale AND other muscles will have to be recruited to draw air into the lungs so we will create tightness in the neck, upper chest, shoulders, etc… In this instance, everything will not be beautifully synchronised. 

Finding your breath:

I made a short video from the start of our functional pilates class last week, looking at breathing and engaging the deep abdominal muscles – you can find it here if you are interested in knowing more & having a guided practice with me. 

Once you understand the mechanics of breathing, the best way to change how we breathe (if we need to) is to tune-in and notice how we’re breathing already.

Find a comfortable position and breathe. If you can’t really feel what’s going on, you could sit in front of a mirror to see what is happening. It’s hard not to try too hard! Make sure you relax, give yourself a bit of time to see if you can find a natural synchronised rhythm in your breathing. And keep checking-in at moments during your day until a diaphragmatic breathing pattern becomes more intuitive and second-nature to you.

Let me know if you have any questions or need any help with this.

Pilates in your everyday life (part four)

How do you spend your days? Do you tend to be in one position for prolonged periods of time? Have you noticed that this affects how your body feels?

When we stay in one position for some time it will have an impact on how our body feels but we might not always be aware of it. If we then repeat that same pattern every day, the impact is likely to become much more noticeable.

For example:

  • If you spend a few hours in the car driving to visit a friend, when you get out of the car you might notice some tightness in the hips, or stiffness in the low back, or maybe some tension in the neck and shoulders. As soon as you stand up and move about, most of those issues will ease-off and you will carry on as usual.
  • If you drive every day for work, you might start to experience more of the same issues more of the time, and you might find that they don’t ease-off quite so quickly/at all. Over time, some of the on-going tightness or tension might then begin to affect your posture, which in turn would cause more tightness or tension in the body.

By changing our posture throughout the day we can try to break the postural patterns we are creating and help to reduce repetitive strain, overuse injuries and fatigue. In part three I talked about ways to break up your day with some movement, and today we are looking specifically at changes you might need to consider for your working environment if you are largely desk-based.

Your working environment:

The goal is to set up your work space so that you can minimise any negative impact on your posture. Here are a few things you might like to consider:

  1. find a supportive chair to reduce muscle fatigue in your lower back – make sure that it is adjustable so that you can get the best fit for your body. Personally I don’t like traditional office chairs but I use a saddle stool on a wheeled base, which enables me to maintain a neutral alignment for my spine without any tension. Find what works for you.
  2. check that you have room under your desk to place your feet flat on the floor – use a footrest if necessary. Aim to have your knees slightly lower than your hips and your feet slightly forward of your knees.
  3. have your keyboard and screen directly in front of you rather than off to one side or at an angle. This allows your shoulders to be square and face the screen fully. Arms are best supported – forearms on the desk and upper arms comfortably by your sides.
  4. set yourself up so that everything you need to access most often is within easy reach to avoid repeated stretching and leaning to one side.
  5. look after your eyes by having your screen about arms length away from you with the top of your screen level with your eyes. Reduce glare from nearby windows by using blinds or curtains. Use appropriate lighting levels to further reduce eye strain.
  6. try to keep your wrists straight while typing, with hands and wrists hovering just above the keyboard. Choose a mouse that fits your hand and move it with your arm instead of bending your wrist into weird positions.
  7. this last one is still on my to-do list, and I know it would make a huge difference – learn to touch-type so that you can keep your head in a neutral position rather than always looking down at your keyboard (as I am doing right now!)

In your car:

Maybe you are not desk-based but spend considerable amounts of time driving each day?

You can apply the same approach to your car:

  1. check your seat position, tilt and height and adjust it again if someone else has been driving your car
  2. position your mirrors so that you are not straining to look at them
  3. consider what shoes you are wearing – heels will change the position of your foot and ankle in relation to the pedals
  4. keep your hands, wrists and arms relaxed

Alignment cues:

Making small changes to your posture will help to reduce neck & shoulder tension, ease back pain and support your body throughout the day. You might also like to think of the alignment cues we use in Pilates and apply these to your working day:

  • lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head
  • soften your shoulders
  • gently lengthen the back of your neck by dropping the chin slightly
  • maintain soft, relaxed breathing into your ribcage
  • plant your feet in the earth so that you are grounded (this applies whether you’re seated or standing)
  • find an even weight through your sit-bones when seated

I hope some of these suggestions help you to make some positive postural changes. Keep checking-in with your body as you go through your day until you naturally start adjusting your posture as required.

Let me know if you have any questions at all?

Pilates in your everyday life (part three)

For most of us, a large part of our day can be spent in a seated position. Think about all the time that you spend driving, at your desk, on the sofa, eating, having a coffee – it all adds up to a lot of hours on your bum!

If we lead this sedentary type of lifestyle, the chances are that we will experience some postural issues at some point. Over time you may start to notice an increase in neck or shoulder pain, tension headaches, low back pain or issues with your hips. Lots of these will occur because we tend to have a more relaxed (slouching?!) posture while sitting down but also because we are not using our core muscles to stabilise us, as we do when standing.

Stand up!

A simple way to change your posture and movement patterns, and introduce some elements of Pilates into your everyday life, is to stand more often. Over the next week why not try some of these ideas and see what differences you start to notice:

  • if you are at your desk for long periods during the day, get up and stretch (see below) or have a quick walk around your work-space every 15 minutes; if you’re really short on time, just stand up and sit down again every 15 minutes
  • look for more active ways to socialise with friends – eg.
    • grab a coffee-to-go and take it for a walk rather than sitting at a café
    • visit places which will involve some walking (eg. wander around a NT trust property rather than going to the cinema)
    • encourage friends to join a Pilates class/running club/dance class with you
  • if you’re travelling on public transport alternate between sitting and standing every 10 minutes – don’t try this while driving!
  • when you’re watching television, stand up / change position every 15 minutes (or when the adverts come on) – also try limiting TV time.
  • notice if you always sit on the same section of your sofa and/or in the same position (eg. legs crossed the same way every time) – if you do, making some changes to those habits will make a huge difference to how you feel in your body. It will feel weird to start with but only because your body has become accustomed to being in a certain position – mix it up a bit and your body will quickly adapt
  • finally, if there’s anything that you do which keeps you in one position for prolonged periods, try to change your posture at regular intervals – eg.
    • if you’re reading, keep changing your position and be aware of your head posture (as the head starts to move forward, the neck muscles will have a whole load of extra work to do, so think of stacking your head above your rib cage or using cushions behind your head for support)
    • craft activities often involve looking down at our hands; if you notice that this is an issue for you, take regular breaks to bring your head and neck back into a neutral position and add in some gentle stretches
    • gardening can often involve long periods spent in a bent-forward position – try kneeling down to avoid this and take regular breaks so that you can stand tall again

Standing rotations:

Click here for a short video with some ideas for rotational stretches for your upper back.

These are great to do when you have been sat down for any length of time. You don’t need to do them all – find one or two moves that feel useful and add those to your day whenever you can.

As you start to notice the amount of time you spend sitting down, you can also start to make some small changes which will have a positive impact on your body. Give it a try and let me know how you get on…

step away from your desk & go out to play!

If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here & here

Pilates in your everyday life (part 2)

Starting Pilates as a new activity can sometimes be frustrating because we tend to naturally want to push ourselves and feel that we are working hard, but the best results come when we work more gently.

Maybe you have been in a class and have found yourself rushing through progressions of exercises, believing that the ‘harder’ options are more beneficial? Or maybe you sometimes engage the muscles really strongly, without noticing that you have created tension somewhere else in the body?

Pilates works more effectively when we take time to build stable foundations. Focusing on the more basic versions of the exercises, paying attention to our breathing and being mindful of our alignment might not seem challenging enough, but they enable us to do the harder work later. This is particularly important if you have/have had chronic pain.

Coping with chronic pain:

If you have experienced pain in the past, it can be hard to come back to exercise without worrying that the pain may recur. It may lead to an avoidance of exercise altogether or it may result in you over-doing things when you’re having a good day, causing an increase in your pain symptoms.

In an ideal world we want to take a more consistent approach by setting some realistic, sustainable activity goals with sensible gradual increases over time.

If you are recovering from a previous injury or a pain condition, start by establishing your baseline for activity – ie. the amount you can do without causing any flare up of your symptoms. It might be a small amount to start with but it will form the foundation for your future progressions. Once you are moving without pain, you can gradually start to increase your activity levels, always staying within your pain-free volume and type of exercise.

Although chronic pain may still cause you flare-ups or setbacks from time-to-time, taking a more structured approach to exercise will help to off-set these issues and be of long-term benefit.

Ideas for daily Pilates practice:

Here are some ideas of how to bring Pilates into your everyday life as part of your daily baseline activity:

  • start with becoming more aware of your posture & alignment (see previous post)
  • practice engaging your core muscles in different positions – eg. when lying down on your side, your back or your front (you could try these before you get out of bed in the morning); or when standing (maybe waiting for the kettle to boil)
    • start by finding a neutral position for your pelvis
    • begin to notice how your body feels as you breathe in and out
    • on an exhale, add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – imagine that you are wearing a corset – whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
    • on an inhale, let the abdominal muscles gently relax again
    • repeat for a few breaths
  • add some gentle stretching to your daily routine, keeping within a comfortable range of motion – try this or this for some seated upper body stretches

I hope that gives you a few ideas about how to bring the benefits of Pilates into your everyday life. It was never intended as something you only do in class – the magic happens when you fully embrace Pilates as a daily practice…

New online class timetable

We have a shiny, new online class timetable which comes into effect from Monday 6th April!

pilates mat

It may evolve over the coming weeks (I have a couple of extra sessions up my sleeve!) but your new online sessions are currently scheduled as follows:

  • Mondays
    • Fitness Pilates 8pm
  • Tuesdays
    • Kettlebell Express 7am
  • Wednesdays
    • Metabolic Effect Bootcamp 7am
    • Fitness Pilates 7pm
  • Fridays
    • Kettlebell Express 7am
    • Hi-LI Fitness Circuit 9am
    • Fitness Pilates 10am

All classes are booked online.

When you book a class, you will also receive a link to access the live recording afterwards so that you can ‘attend’ at a later time if your prefer. Live recordings will be available for 7 days after the class.

kettlebell upright row

Payment can be made as a one-off booking or via a monthly class pass subscription which gives unlimited access to all sessions.

  • subscription details can be found here
  • classes can be booked here

I look forward to seeing you in the taylor-made fitness virtual studio very soon.

Let me know if you have any questions at all Jx

If you need to set yourself up for home exercise, read my guide about what you might need here

Principles of Pilates – breathing

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than forcing the body to create a larger movement. Pilates teaches us to bring subconscious control into habitual movement patterns so that we can move with more ease and efficiency.

Following the eight principles of Pilates helps us to get the most from our practice. Last time we looked at centering.

This time we’re going to look at breathing.

“To breathe correctly you must completely exhale & inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth” J Pilates

Breathing:

Breathing has 3 key functions:

  • to carry nutrients around the body, bringing energy to every part of the body
  • to carry waste products away from the body and back to the lungs where they can be exhaled
  • to increase stamina

A restricted breathing pattern can create issues such as muscle tightness, restricted joint movements, tiredness and headaches. A more relaxed breathing pattern can help to reverse these issues whilst also reducing stress and creating a sense of well-being.

mat-work pilates

In Pilates, we use breathing as a way of connecting with the deeper core muscles (made up of the transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifidus). When the breath is aligned with our movements, we can experience greater control at our centre with reduced tension in peripheral areas of the body.

The goal in Pilates is to breathe fully into the lower rib-cage without unnecessarily using accessory muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is one of the key principles of Pilates but can also one of the hardest to grasp to start with.

What is the best breathing pattern for Pilates?

  • keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to reduce tension in these areas
  • breathe into the lower part of the rib cage, allowing it to widen in all directions
  • allow the belly to relax, soften and expand on each inhale
  • feel the belly gently contract and lift as you exhale
  • allow your breath to flow – don’t hold your breath at any point

Some people advise that it is best to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, but I think it is best to do what feels right for you. However, if you are more comfortable breathing out through your mouth, try to do so with soft lips (not pursed) and make a sound as if you are sighing – think of the sound that waves make as they break on the beach.

When do I inhale/exhale?

When practising Pilates we want to exhale with the movement which requires the most effort. The basic rule is that you exhale as you move away from your starting position, and inhale as you come back to it. There will be some variations to this rule, but it is a good guiding principle to start with.

For example:

  • with a leg slide, exhale as the leg extends; inhale as it comes back to relaxation position
  • with knee rolling, exhale as the legs rotate to the side; inhale as they return to an upright position
  • with a side-lying leg lift, exhale as the leg lifts; inhale as it lowers

Don’t get too hung up on your breathing!

Although there are very sound reasons behind the style of breathing used in Pilates, don’t get too hung up on it. If you’re struggling, simply focus on keeping a relaxed, rhythmic breathing pattern so that your breath is flowing as you move. Gradually as you get more confident with the exercises, you will find the breathing becomes a more natural part of your practice.

If you’d like to know more about breathing, you can find my ‘focus on optimal breathing’ guide here

Hypermobile elbows & Pilates

Hypermobile elbows (& other joints of the body) are sometimes really visible in a Pilates class. I wanted to look into the topic in more depth than we can easily cover in a group setting, as information for those affected.

The human body is an incredible thing but sometimes we need to take back a little bit of control for ourselves. Just because we can ‘stretch’ (ie. over-extend) at a certain (or all) joints of the body, doesn’t mean it is helpful to do so. 

The most common examples of hypermobility I see in class are:

  • locked-out knees in a standing position – where the back of the knee is pushed as far backwards as possible – and
  • locked-out elbows in a quadruped (all-fours) position – where the upper arm becomes rotated and the inside of the elbow joint turns forward

Of course, if you are hypermobile (or tend towards it) you will often be hyper-mobile at many joints in the body, but these are the two that are most visible in class.

mat-work pilates

What is joint hypermobility?

Joint hypermobility is often hereditary and cannot be prevented, but it can definitely be managed. It is caused by a weakness in the soft tissues that support the joint, and specifically a difference in the collagen. If you are hypermobile, it may not cause you any problems or it may cause pain in the joint itself or in surrounding areas of the body.  

What happens when we hyper-extend? 

When we go to the end-range of movement in a joint, it gives us a feeling of stability, which is great. However, when the joint hyper-extends, it means that the stability isn’t coming from the supporting muscles but from the joint itself. Over time that is likely to create wear & tear on that structure and other compensations in surrounding areas of the body – eg. if you lock out your elbows, you are very likely to experience associated neck and shoulder pain issues; if you lock out your knees, you are very likely to experience hip and back pain issues. 

Just because you can hyper-extend, doesn’t mean you should!

What can we do about it?

The ideal is to learn to stop short of your end-range point (keeping the affected joint ‘soft’) so that the supporting muscles surrounding the joint can get stronger. To start with it will feel unstable, but your body will gradually adapt and build stability in the muscles, so keep giving it the opportunity to do so.

I will keep reminding you about this in class because even if you feel like I’m nagging, I believe that I would be negligent if I didn’t bring your attention to it. You might not be ready to hear the message yet, and that’s ok because it is your body, but I’m going to keep on mentioning it when I’m teaching, and hopefully that’s ok too.

In the case of hypermobility in your knees, ankles or hips you may also be better avoiding fast-paced or high-impact exercises where the joints will hyper-extend without you having the chance to control the range of movement, and where the added impact will place extra load through the (already compromised) joint structure.

Although you can’t change your physiology, you can work on creating a stronger support system to protect your joints if hypermobility affects you. It may seem frustrating & like a backward step to begin with, but further down the line you will be so glad you made some changes and created a stronger body, especially if it avoids/delays your need for invasive surgery.

If you’d like to know more on this topic, Jeannie di Bon is a Movement Therapist who works extensively in this area. She directed me towards a blog post she wrote a few years ago: 

I think this is a really useful starting point, but Jeannie has plenty more great content on her blog which you can find via her website and she also covers the topic in her latest book

Do your feet cramp when you point your toes?

This is for you if you experience foot cramp when you lie in a prone position (face-down) or when you are in child’s pose. It can happen at any time, but will often be worse when you are doing any exercise that involves these positions.

child's pose

Both of these positions involve lengthening the dorsal surface of the foot (the part where your shoe laces sit) and if there is tension within the tendons running from the front of the ankle to the toes, you may experience cramping when they are held in a lengthened position. Typically if you experience this type of foot cramp, your toes will tend not to lie flat on the floor when standing or they will start to lift as soon as you begin to flex at the ankle. You may also notice that you have ‘hammer toe’ where the toes are bent as if gripping the floor.

How to reduce foot cramp:

In the short term, ie. during your class, a bolster under your ankles can be a really useful preventative measure as it stops the toes making contact with the floor, thereby avoiding the lengthening which is causing the cramp. Your bolster doesn’t need to be fancy – a rolled up bath towel or jumper will do the job just as well.

In the longer term, of course, it is preferable to resolve the issue. Your foot function will improve greatly by reducing restrictions, and improved foot function positively impacts knee and hip function so it is worth investing a little bit of time on a regular basis.

feet

Soft tissue release:

Here’s a short video (starring my right foot!) showing some release work that you can use at home but bear in mind that you will need to address your footwear too! I often find resistance to this one (I’m not sure why?) but clearly if our feet spend long periods of time squeezed into socks and shoes which do not allow sufficient space to move, no amount of release work is going to fully resolve the problem. We need to take a two-pronged approach with any body-work:

  1. resolve the issue using appropriate soft-tissue release and
  2. make changes to any external factors which are contributing to the issue

I’ll leave you to sort out your footwear (hint: you need a far wider toe-box than you might think) but in the meantime you can try this release work. I have tried to give you a few examples of makeshift massage tools that you might find at home but you could also invest in a gua sha tool if you want to get the best results.

(release work for the toe extensors to prevent foot cramp)

The key thing with release work is to give it time. Five minutes will make a difference but it is not going to undo years of wearing potentially restrictive footwear! Be patient, commit to doing it every day for a week and see what you notice…and then carry on doing it every day because your feet will love you for it.

In the video I mention the option of using spacers between the toes and here are two options that I have found helpful, although since switching to barefoot shoes I haven’t used either:

  • correct-toes – this is the main website but you will also find UK suppliers
  • silicone toe separators – for me these are more comfortable because I have very little, little toes which don’t sit so well in the whole-foot type spacers

Please let me know how you get on with this & let me know if you have any questions at all about foot cramp.

If I can help you directly with any soft tissue work, please drop me an email.

Jx

PS even though I don’t have any specific toe extensor issues, I noticed an astonishing difference in the foot I had worked on while filming this…so perhaps you should do it even if you don’t think you have any problems either?!

Pilates-flow sequence

This Pilates-flow sequence is a mat-based session focusing on smooth, flowing movements using core control for stability, combined with a relaxed breathing pattern. Slower is generally better so that you can concentrate on each part of every move rather than rushing ahead without control.

When we did this in class we practiced each move on its own before adding it into our flow sequence – you might like to break it down like that at home or if you are familiar with the moves, you may prefer to go straight into the sequence. All the moves are done in a supine (lying face-up) position. You may like to have a folded towel or a cushion to support the back of the head.

Begin by spending a few minutes grounding and settling into your breath, letting go of your day and connecting with how your body feels in that moment.

I’ve added different sequence options below – sequence 1 has the more basic moves, sequence 2 has a mixture of basic with some options and sequence 3 has all the optional extras.

Here are your 5 basic moves:

  1. alternate knee lifts (starting in relaxation position) > option to progress to alternate knee lifts coming into table top position by lifting and then lowering one foot at a time
  2. abdominal curls (starting in relaxation position) > option to add oblique twist
  3. knee rolling (starting in relaxation position with feet and knees close together) > option to bring top foot off the floor OR start in table top position with both feet off the floor
  4. alternate leg slide (starting in relaxation position) > option to add leg abduction (thigh moves out to side with no rotation)
  5. shoulder bridge (start with feet hip width or wider and close to your bottom) > option to change to single leg shoulder bridge
Pilates-flow sequence

How to create your sequence:

sequence 1: knee lift (single leg) – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist towards the leg – uncurl – lower leg – repeat on other side – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide  – shoulder bridge – start again

sequence 2: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – lower legs one at a time – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide with abduction – shoulder bridge – start again

sequence 3: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – knee rolling with legs in table top position – alternate leg extension with abduction – lower legs one at a time – single leg shoulder bridge x each side – start again

I haven’t specified number of repetitions so that you can add as many or as few as you want. You can of course also do as many or as few of the different moves as you want – if there’s one that you don’t like, miss it out because life is short!!

You can see me doing each of the three sequences here:

You can print this Pilates-flow sequence as a pdf here

Enjoy Jx

(PS let me know if you’re not sure what any of the moves are & as always, check with your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are suitable for your body right now)

The principles of Pilates – concentration

I am passionate about teaching mat-work Pilates because I believe that it underpins and provides a foundation for all our movement patterns. Of course we can can move without understanding the key principles of that Pilates is based on, but we are able to move more freely once we incorporate them into our everyday lives.

For me, Pilates isn’t about doing the Pilates exercises for the sake of doing them; Pilates is the gateway to developing a better insight into how our body moves, how everything in our body is connected and how our body connects to our environment.

The principles of Pilates

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Although each one may be simple to grasp, trying to combine all of them into each exercise can be tricky so I suggest that you focus on 1 or 2 to start with and gradually introduce aspects of the others as you progress. Over time, a simple movement can become more challenging simply by focusing on several of the key principles at once.

Why do we need to know the principles of Pilates?

When we understand & learn to apply the principles behind Pilates, we can get the best results from practising the exercises.

With Pilates, the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise with control is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

I’m going to cover each of the key principles in separate posts, so that you can pick them up whenever you’re ready. I think the best way to develop your practice of using the principles, is to not to try to master them all at once. Start with what you can do, be patient and remember that with some exercises it may be harder to master a particular principle. Just keep coming back and revisiting these posts as you need to.

Our first Pilates principle is concentration:

Concentration:

‘Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value’ J Pilates

With some forms of exercise the mind can switch off but in Pilates it will ideally remain focused to ensure that the body stays in alignment and that the breathing is controlled. This ‘mind/body’ connection not only enhances the physical execution of the exercises but also distracts a busy mind, thereby promoting relaxation and a feeling of well-being.

The first part of concentration is becoming aware that the position of every part of the body is important and that all movements and positions are interconnected. In order to walk, many different interactions take place in the joints and muscles of the body so that for example, the position of your foot influences the position of your knee, hip, spine, shoulder & head. In order to achieve optimal alignment throughout the body (and thus an efficient movement pattern) we need to first become aware of these interactions through concentrating on how we are holding ourselves and how we are moving.

Obviously it is hard to stay aware of every part of the body at once, but the more you practice the more you will be able to ‘tune in’ to what is happening in different places at the same time. Over time you will also get better at tuning-in when a specific area of the body is not in alignment or is holding unnecessary tension.

'wherever you are, be all there' Jim Elliot

Improved concentration not only leads to an improved physical performance but also offers wide-ranging mental benefits:

  • clarity of thought
  • increased mental energy
  • mental calmness in stressful situations
  • enhanced ability to tackle problems in a fresh way

Think of your Pilates practice as time for yourself, time to leave behind what you have come from and where you are going to. Focus on each exercise in turn and pay attention to how your body feels as you move.

In the next post I’ll be talking about ‘centering‘ but until then have fun bringing concentration to your posture and movement patterns.

(Here’s another article I wrote about a classic Pilates exercise – ‘The Hundred‘)