Before You Buy a Pilates Exercise Mat

I came across an article about Pilates Mat and I thought some of you may want an expert opinion, offered by about.com. I agree with the author that there are so many mats that you really need to think about your needs and preferences before you buy a mat. As the author mentioned, mats about half an inch thick are great! My personal opinion is you have to test the mat. Some Pilates mat look like they are really thick but when you press them with your fingers, they may just soften and sink in. Hence they are not as thick as they seem because it is highly our body weight will flatten the mat further. I have used so many mats in my years of practice and I highly recommend a Pilates mat produced by AIREX because:

1. The quality is tremendous and provides good support.

2. The Mat is light and can be maintained easily by washing/cleaning.

3. The Mat has a very long life span.

If you do not have a mat now, consider this mat seriously and click to buy now!

 

Article:

Most Pilates studios have Pilates mats, usually very nice ones, and unlike yoga, Pilates students are rarely expected to bring their own. Of course if you have your own mat, you may very well want to take it to the studio, but the real reason to get a Pilates is mat is for your home workout.

Pilates mats are available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors. Read through the following guide and think about what your needs and preferences really are, before you buy!

Pilates Mats vs Yoga Mats

Pilates and yoga mats are similar in that they are about the same size and used for exercises done on the floor. However, a Pilates mat needs to be thicker than most yoga mats. Because there are so many standing poses in yoga, mats used for yoga have to let the practitioner feel the floor. This is not so important with a Pilates mat. In fact, Pilates mats are thicker so that we are padded from the floor. Believe me, rolling exercises like Seal and Open Leg Rocker are no fun without padding! Also, yoga mats are sticky, designed to prevent slipping – an unlikely hazard with Pilates exercises.

The Size of the Mat

  • A good Pilates mat is at least a half inch thick. I see a lot of thinner mats marketed as Pilates mats, but they are really just yoga cross-over mats.
  • A Pilates mat should also be firm. A mat that is too soft will not support balance and alignment properly.
  • Make sure that the mat is long enough and wide enough. Typical roll up mat lengths are 72″ – 86″, though I have seen them as short as 56″. Widths vary from 21″ to 39″. There are also folding mats, similar to the kinds of mats found in studios, and those are usually significantly larger, 4′ by 8′ for example.

Roll Up Pilates Mats

The mats that roll up offer the benefits of being portable and easy to find at stores or online. These mats are usually made of dense foam or rubber. To my mind, the closed cell foam mats are the best. They tend to be thicker and firmer than regular foam mats.

Folding Pilates Mats

Folding Pilates mats are very desirable when you get the higher quality types. They are more expensive than the roll up mats, costing up to $300.00 or a bit more. These are closer to what you find in a studio. The higher quality folding mats are heavier and not quite as portable, though they usually do have carrying straps attached. If you want to outfit a home studio, this is the way to go.

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Pilates Training – Swimming

I always feel Swimming is a really good activity that involves the upper and lower limbs. This means your whole body is involved in exercise, you get a good work out and you become evenly toned. With the buoyancy provided by the water, there is minimal stress on the knees unlike running. Anyone who does Pilates training knows of another kind of swimming and this is what you see in the Pilates video below. Many Pilates beginners who start doing the Pilates mat swimming always says it is hard to coordinate hands and legs such that they alternate.

Pilates training does not just mean your physical body

I think one aspect of Pilates Training less spoken about is the fact that you also work your mental and emotional body. That is why you often see the words Mind or Spirit other than Body used to describe Pilates. When I talk to avid Pilates practitioners, I realise these are usually people who have a greater awareness of their physical bodies, are focused, energetic and are open.

Mind your Pilates Training

When you practise the Swimming, you have to alternate the arms and legs which may be difficult for some and easy for others. The good news is if you concentrate and focus on doing it right, you will get it. It is just a matter of practice and time. Coordination can be trained. You just have to go slow at the beginning with the movement.

Can Pilates Training affect your Emotional State?

Yes I say. There are people who are tight in the front of their chest that were attributed to some form of emotional trauma or state and Pilates training that helps to open a person’s front can help to release that emotional tightness and bring about more openness and freedom. The Swimming is one exercise that can help with that and I think physical exercises have the power to affect the emotional state.

Enjoy your Pilates training video and give your comments!

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How to do Pilates Mat – Hip Circles?

Most people will think since Pilates Mat is readily available, it must be a beginners work. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the mat Pilates exercises are not beginner exercises. We have come to the 2nd half of the Pilates mat exercises where there are more interesting pieces. The hip circles is just one example and commonly done just after the Teaser. This exercise focus a lot on the obliques (commonly known as sides of the waist) which most people do not exercise enough unless you do a lot of exercises that require you to twist. If you are ever thinking of a slimmer waist, this is one exercise you do not want to miss.

Pilates works your whole body

We do not really think just obliques alone to do the hip circles well. Our deep abdominal muscles (Transverse abdominis) and back muscles (Erector spinae) play an important role in keeping our body stabilized to doing this piece well. Without working these muscles, what we commonly see is a lower back that arch and tilts as we circle. This can cause lower back pain or aches which is unnecessary and not needed in this piece. At the same time, the shoulders are another area of concern. As our shoulders are in an end range of extension, we also need to pull our shoulder blades down slightly to limit our tendency to elevate it. Our inner thighs are also pulled together, knee extensors working to keep the legs fully straight and feet pointed. That is why we say Pilates works the whole body.

so it is important that Pilates beginners take a progressive approach

With so many things to focus on, it makes sense to break the hip circles down to simpler parts. I would encourage you to practise the simplified version of the Corkscrew, Saw, Single leg circles, Spine Twist and Teaser first before attempting the hip circles. With the simplified Corkscrew, you could concentrate on the lower half of the body (Master Teacher Ron Fletcher called it the lower hemisphere), while the upper half (upper hemisphere) is stable on the ground. With such approach you will find yourself improving your Pilates consistently.

Can we modify Pilates exercises?

Yes of course you can! I always feel that if you are having a lot of difficulty doing something, then it makes perfect sense to modify it. So in the hip circles, some modifications you may want to consider is performing this piece with slightly bent knees. However this does not mean you stop working hard on your obliques. You still want to do this piece as if your legs were fully straight. Another modification could be leaning further back to be on your elbows. Usually people with tight hamstrings will feel the need to take these modifications since it would be really difficult to keep the legs up. However having said that, if you really need to modify a lot, you may not be ready for this piece and better off practising the other similar pieces.

Have fun practising this Pilates mat piece and share your experiences!

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Therapy for the body and sole

When I first learnt Pilates, the feet was something Pilates Master Teacher, Ron Fletcher, talked about and he emphasized a lot of it. He had this 7 standing and centreing cues which forms the foundation and fundamental tool for my teaching. With this understanding, I start all my Pilates classes standing and have been doing so for more than 7 years. Nobody really taught us how to stand when we were young. The very most I hear is “Stand Straight” and that was from my mum! I understood a lot more of this when I started learning the Fletcher Towelwork and the Leg and Footwork on the Pilates equipments.

I chose to bring your attention to the article below when I came across it because I also noticed there aren’t too many Pilates books that give much attention to talking about the feet. At the same time most books go too much in depth that many of you might not be interested to read further so such articles are good to get you started. I wanted us to take a moment today to give more awareness to our feet in our Pilates training and start exercising them!

Article:

Therapy for the body and sole

By | 06/08/10

The thought of running around barefoot in the grass may conjure memories of childhood play, but people are leaving their stuffy gyms and running shoes in the dust to take fitness back to its roots, to move the body the way it was designed. Believe it or not, those fancy shoes may actually be hindering your performance, and your health. With warm weather here, now is the time for you to get in on this innovative, fun and surprisingly beneficial way to work up a sweat.

training tip: Because of our history, in order to safely run barefoot we must undo years of bad habits. Since most Americans grow up wearing shoes and are used to running and walking striking heel first, barefoot running should be eased into by alternating shoe and barefoot runs, and starting out on soft surfaces like grass and sand.

Going au naturel
While running barefoot might seem like all fun and games, it has helped eliminate knee, foot and Achilles pain where running shoes cannot. Researchers have found that those who run in shoes land on the heel of their foot, causing an impact of up to two to three times the runner’s body weight. Multiply that impact with each step you take on a long run and it’s no wonder avid runners are often plagued by repetitive stress injuries. Those who run barefoot, however, tend to land on the ball of their foot, which generates almost no collision force at all. Because of this change in strike, people can run barefoot on some of the hardest surfaces and not feel any pain or discomfort while many shoe runners experience constant knee or foot pain.


Not a runner? You can still reap the benefits of barefoot fitness:
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Yoga
Standing poses that need to be held for an extended period of time (such as tree and dancer), are a great way to challenge your feet and gain overall health.

Pilates
The reformer, or trapeze table, works your feet through their full range of motion against resistance. Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates exercise, recognized the importance of foot health and even developed two pieces of equipment just for your piggies—the Toe Tensometer and the Foot Corrector.

Targeted exercises
Build balance, strength and control with the following two exercises. No fancy equipment required… just you and a towel.

1.
Sit with your legs out straight and loop a towel around the arches of both feet. Hold the towel in both hands, gently pulling it toward you and stretching the arches of the foot. Provide a little bit of resistance using the towel and slowly, steadily point your toes. Repeat.
2. Lay a towel flat on the floor and place your toes at the edge. Repeatedly scrunch your toes, pulling the towel towards you, until you reach the end of the towel. Smooth it back out and repeat.

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Pilates

When some people hear the word Pilates, they think it is a gentle exercise and only practised by women. I think this may be true if you are practising the more basic mat Pilates exercises but there are also intermediate and advanced exercises too. However too often, people may not have practised far/long enough to have reached that stage. I think a lot of people just give up when learning becomes difficult, especially when Pilates demands them to be really precise and exercise at a level that is much higher than what they usually do. I personally choose to look at Higher level leading to greater results, and this comes with concentration, focus and determination.

Pilates can be really challenging

We are starting to see some Pilates videos that are more challenging than when I first started posting videos of the Pilates Mat repertoire. I used to be hesitant in introducing challenging pieces to Pilates beginners. I know for sure that a lot of people jump to practising the more challenging ones first and this can have adverse effect on learning if one just gives up easily. Challenging exercises should not be impossible to do and can be done with grace. This is when you are adequately prepared for that. I believe a lot of you have been practising the Pilates video that I posted each week and are in a progressive learning mode so I have confidence these challenging videos will help you.

but Pilates can help you improve exponentially!

I think a common difficulty that most people face when first learning Pilates is having to be aware of so many things at one time. And given that precision is so important, you can find the going really tough at the beginning. But once you get past that stage, improvements are usually exponential. They can be so great that you feel like you should have started when you were a child. When I first started Pilates Mat, I lost 2.5 inches around my waist and 8kg in 6 months. I was of normal body weight so I considered that result amazing.

Read, Watch and Practise Pilates and you would have a new body

I strongly believe if you were to read some Pilates articles or Pilates book, you will have a better understanding of why you do it. Watching Pilates videos gives you a sense of familiarity and gives you a strong visual image of it when you actually do it. Practising Pilates with all the understanding and familiarity allows you to have a really good Pilates work out and enables you to do all the pieces better and with more confidence. On first look, the JackKnife is difficult and looks impossible to do. However if you have been reading this blog and watching the videos, you would be on the right track to doing it well. Just take note that if you have any back or neck issues, you may not want to attempt this piece as it can be demanding on your body.

Enjoy this Pilates video and comment on your experiences here!

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