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…