With the ongoing recession, crazy far-right 'birthers' and health care reform battles dominating the news, one could be forgiven for slouching a bit more than usual these days. While you can’t always control everything around you, there is something you can do right now to feel more empowered, stand taller and even elevate your mood—Pilates.
“Pilates is made for everyday life, it can help you feel better and more confident” says Sharyl M. Curry, owner of Park East Pilates, a private Pilates studio in New York City. “It helps you be aware of your posture, so you actually look and feel taller.”
How can Pilates do all this? By strengthening your body’s core—the focus of most Pilates’ movements are geared to your abs and lower back—you automatically improve your posture. “A weak stomach leads to slouching,” says Curry, “and bad posture tends to bring down your whole mood.”
Other benefits of regular Pilates workouts include opening the chest, elongating the muscles and creating a more flexible spine. If you’ve never tried Pilates before, Curry suggests getting started by trying the latest trend in Pilates—a private “lesson” utilizing classic Pilates equipment such as the Reformer and the Cadillac, which also provide a great primer when you take group Pilates classes at a gym.
“By getting the personal attention, you can see right away what your body’s strengths and weaknesses are, and it helps you learn the correct principles and choreography of Pilates,” says Curry.
If you can’t afford private Pilates classes, Curry suggests taking classes at an accredited studio that teaches the authentic Pilates method. “Ask the teacher about their training, where they studied and what the certification entailed,” says Curry. If you come across a teacher with a “mat certification” the instructor is probably not knowledgeable in the Pilates System. “It is like trying to form a sentence with a vocabulary that stretches only from A to K,” says Curry.
Ready to get started? Curry has these suggestions:
--Choosing an instructor: Pilates instructors must have accredited certification from an authentic Pilates certification program (most require 600 or more hours of training in the authentic method). To find an accredited teacher or studio in the U.S. or abroad check out www.classicalpilates.net. They offer a free worldwide directory.
--What about mat classes? Ideally, a beginner should have a few intro private sessions before embarking on mat classes. Luckily, many studios now offer introductory specials for beginners; often a studio will offer a package of a few private classes in conjunction with intro mat classes. If it’s beyond your budget, make sure your class instructor is certified in the authentic Pilates method (see above).
--Get started with the Roll-Up (right)*: This is an excellent Pilates exercise to do at home that requires no expensive equipment or instruction; only a mat to protect your back or a towel on the carpet. Lay face up with your legs fully extended and your arms resting at your side palms down. Raise your arms in an arc that ends behind your head. Next, roll forward onto your tailbone and reach toward your toes with your fingertips, so you form an elongated letter C. Exhale as you roll up, and hold the reaching position for two counts; then inhale and roll back into the starting position. This exercise works the entire body while strengthening the core and stretching the spine.
*Remember to stop any exercise that causes you pain or discomfort. If you feel pain in any exercise, you might have to modify the exercise or, skip it until you are stronger. As always, consult with your physician if you have any problems or are trying a new exercise.