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Relaxation…The Sixth Principle of Pilates

How Good Are You At This Principle?

Pilates is a form of exercise that connects the mind and the body. It teaches the body to move in a more efficient way. It is a method of movement designed to rebalance all of the muscles that become imbalanced during participation in sports or simply moving through regular life.

In order to truly reap the full benefit of a Pilates workout, one needs to understand the basic principles of Pilates. These principles are:

1. Breathing

2. Concentration

3. Control

4. Centering

5. Rhythm and Flow

6. Relaxation

Over the next few weeks my BLOGs are going to cover the 6 main principles of Pilates, but I want to start with what I believe is one of the most challenging principles to master…RELAXATION. This is a principle often overlooked or simply dismissed. We often relate relaxation to hanging out watching TV or going away on vacation. When in all actuality, you will receive more benefit from incorporating periods of relaxation in all things you do everyday. We need to learn to relax when we are working, playing, socializing and even exercising.

You may be scratching your head right now, trying to figure out how to relax when you are working in a stressful job or participating in that grueling Boot Camp class.

Well, let me see if I can shed a little bit of light on what Joseph Pilates might have meant when he made sure that Relaxation was on of the main principle of the Pilates Method.

To be healthy in mind and body, it is important to understand the balance between effort and relaxation. I oftentimes, cue clients to “not try hard, try easy”. Some of you may not know exactly what I mean when I say that. In a nutshell, I am trying to tell you to simply exert enough force to create or stabilize the movement…no more, no less. In Pilates, we strive to learn to use just the right amount of effort needed to complete the exercise correctly. Learning to release unnecessary tension in our bodies, helps us to find ease and flow in movement and in the rest of our lives.

Here are some key points to remember when you are trying to incorporate Relaxation in your Pilates practice:

1. Remember to breathe…using your Pilates breath during the exercises enables you to focus on the muscles you are trying to work while being able to relax all the other muscles.

2. Think about the muscles you are trying to work and relax all the others that are trying to help during the exercise. For example, when you are doing the Hundred, it is very easy to shrug the shoulders and stress the neck when you are “trying too hard”. Remember to relax the shoulders and channel that energy into the deep abdominals.

3. Create a quiet environment when you are practicing Pilates. If you create an environment free from distractions, it is easier to focus your energy on the appropriate muscles targeted for the exercise. When you practice in an environment full of sounds and distractions, over-used muscles (like the upper trap and rectus abdominis) seem to naturally contract when you should actually be trying to strengthen deeper stabilizing muscles.

4. Let go of the “weight of the world” when you walk into your workout. Give yourself one hour each day to truly focus on making yourself stronger mentally and physically. Holding onto the “weight of the world” during that hour makes it challenging to relax certain muscles and work others. Trust me, the world will be waiting outside that door for you to “pick it up again”. But when you pick it back up you will be “stronger” and more ready to “conquer” it!

Relaxation is a principle often over looked during the practice of Pilates. For some of us, it is the principle we struggle with the most. It is the principle many instructors rush through. But if you take the time to practice “Relaxation” and truly embrace it, you will see how it makes your Pilates practice stronger. And if practiced enough, you can see how this ability to relax during exercise can transfer over to teaching you how to relax during those stressful times in your life.

For more information on how ABS Pilates can help you regain control of your health and wellness, contact me today!

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.