Pilates Mat – Crab

This Pilates video shows an advanced Fletcher Pilates mat exercise called Crab. In this piece you will experience a dynamic stretch of the back of the body and also challenge your balance with the use of your abdominals. However I have to stress that this piece is not suitable if you are practicing Pilates for beginners but great if you are already skilled in the Seal and Rolling like a ball. If you are someone with knee or neck problems, I would recommend you not to do this piece as well as it may aggravate your condition.

Tips when doing this Pilates Mat piece

1. USe your abdominals to create a C-curve from the head to your tailbone.

2. Maintain the shape of this C so that the rolling will be smooth.

3. Lift the pelvis higher when rolling back down to the ground while maintaining control.

4. As you roll forward and onto your head, lift the pelvis up and over the knees.

5. As you roll onto the knees and back to the ground, engage the muscles on the back of your thighs to protect the knees.

Pilates Mat preparation for the Crab

1. Rolling like a ball

2. Seal

3. Open Leg Rocker

Potential risk to this Pilates Mat piece

I think this Pilates mat exercise is a fun piece but I rarely teach it in a group class setting. I personally feel it can be risky to the neck or the knee when a person does it mindlessly. This is especially so when the head lands on the floor. A lot of people are very eager to roll forward and to the extent that they roll with speed and cannot control the amount of force they land on their head which may be too much for the vertebrae of the neck. This piece requires a lot of core control to keep one safe and graceful. It is not about just creating the shape to look good but to move with control. Enjoy this mat Pilates exercise and be careful if you are practising Pilates at home or learning Pilates online.



After watching this video, please comment on your experience of this Pilates mat exercise.

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Pilates Classes – Side Twist

Today I’m going to introduce you a piece which I like to teach in my Pilates classes, called the Side Twist. I like this Pilates mat exercise because there aren’t many exercises that involves spinal rotation in mat Pilates, hence this gives balance to a mat Pilates workout. In addition, it is a challenging exercise which includes a large number of muscles in the different parts of this movement.

Tips when doing the Side Twist in Pilates classes

1. Press the support arm into the Pilates mat to reach your weight back towards the legs.

2. Think about lifting and rotating the pelvis up then rotating the lowering the pelvis back down.

3. Rotate the ribcage more to reach the arms when up.

4. Keep the pelvis high up to allow for more rotation.

5. Keep the legs straight to allow stretch to the back and outside of the standing leg.

Why rotate in Pilates classes?

With the massive usage of computers at work, a normal working person could be facing one direction for hours. This means the spine does not get any other movement other than bending forward to look at the screen closely. Hence rotating from side to side gives the spine another direction of movement. In Pilates classes, most teachers emphasize on doing the exercises equally on both sides and so this will allow both sides to be equally flexible. A very effective way of increasing flexibility is when you are in a ‘closed loop’ when exercising, which allows you to be at your end-range of movement and this exercise allows that.

There are also another group of people who needs this; those who love sports such as golf or tennis. They may be fanatics who play more than once a week and these sports involve a lot of rotation or twisting. Since these sports are typically power driven, it is easy to get injured if you over-exert yourself without being flexible or good in rotating. It is more crucial to have a good range in rotation than a pair of strong arms when generating power on the ball hence I highly recommend this piece!

What if I don’t do the Side Twist in Pilates classes?

Well you can do other mat Pilates exercises that are similar such as the Saw, Spine Twist, Criss Cross and Corkscrew. However I personally feel there are a whole lot of Pilates exercises that involves twisting the body if you are not restricted to just the Pilates mat workout. There are many Pilates equipment such as the Pilates reformer, Pilates chair, Cadillac, Spine corrector or even the signature Towelwork and Floorwork from Fletcher Pilates. There is so much more out there so don’t miss them!

After watching this video, please comment on your experience of this piece in your Pilates classes.

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Pilates Highlights from 2011

Happy New Year! May all of you experience good health and may your Pilates journey bring you freedom and fulfillment. I always believe that in a new year we must look and move forward. I also treasure what has just passed and use the past learning experience to help me get better! Hence I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some Pilates highlights from last year and I have chosen an article from about.com, one site which I love to go to. Enjoy the read and this year I really look forward to sharing with you more and also to hear from you as I believe your comments can help change the lives of others who frequent this site!

Article from about.com:

I hope you will look back on 2011 as a good year. It was for me. And from my unique vantage point, I think Pilates had a good year too. So, before we dash into the New Year, I thought you might enjoy a little reflection on the past one. Here are 10  Pilates highlights from 2011:

We Made News -

Pippa Middleton Gives Pilates a Booty Boost.  After the Royal Wedding, when word came out that Pilates was at least partly responsible for Pippa looking so fabulous in her body-skimming gown, the web went Pilates crazy. There were stories about Pippa’s bum everywhere and we continue to see Pippa and Pilates stories roll out.
Read more about  Pilates at the Royal Wedding

Pilates Continued to Grow: In an August, 2011 report, the independent industry research publisher IBISWorld reported that Pilates is growing and expected to grow more. (quite right). Read: Statistics Show: Pilates Keeps on Growing.

We Had Opinions -

Your Favorite Pilates Exercise:  The most popular exercise on this Pilates website was: The Hundred. Runner up: Standing Legwork. Both results surprised me because I think Teaser is leading in our Readers Share Favorite Exercises postings.

Your Favorite Workout: The Classic Pilates Mat Sequence Of course!
Runner up: Beginner Pilates Exercises, which I take as a good sign.

The 2011 Pilates Readers’ Choice Awards: 2011 was the first year Pilates at About.com participated in the About.com Readers’ Choice Awards and we had a tremendous show of participation. Readers voted in 3 categories: Best Workout Clothes, Best Pilates Reformer, Best Pilates DVD.

We Embraced New Books -

Pilates Anatomy: Destined to become a major Pilates resource, Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippenger teamed up to reveal the anatomy and kinesiology of the classic Pilates exercises in this illustrated and technically detailed book .  Read my Review

The Pilates Path to Health: The Pilates community enthusiastically embraced this heart-felt exploration of how the effects of Pilates go way beyond exercise. Read  My Review

We Came Together -

Pilates Conferences: Pilates people are getting together to share expertise, learn, and be inspired. The PMA conference may be the largest of the conferences, but significant gatherings of Pilates enthusiasts happened all over the world. This is an encouraging trend. Read reports from the 2011 PMA conferenceLearn about other Pilates Conferences

Pilates in Social Media: The Pilates community on social media really exploded this year. We’re having a great time posting articles, photos, and information as well as generally supporting each other. Join me, Marguerite Ogle, and Pilates.About.com on Twitter, Facebook , Linkedin, Pilates Forum.

Pilates Elder Ron Fletcher Passes Away: On December, 6, 2011 we mourned the loss and celebrated the life of one of our greats:  Ron Fletcher.
Learn About Ron Fletcher and Fletcher Pilates

10 makes for a short list! What is on your 2011 Pilates highlights list? Please comment below.

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10 Benefits of Pilates

If you haven’t started doing Pilates,  it could be because you did not think it would benefit you greatly enough for you to overcome your time or money reason for not starting. Hence today I would like to share an article I came across talking about 10 benefits of Pilates. What I like about the benefits of Pilates this author share is they appeal to different types of people. However I also noticed most of the benefits are physical ones. I personally feel there is so much more to Pilates. There are mental and emotional/spiritual benefits as well and these are just as important. I think people who does Pilates over a long run become more focused in whatever they do. They also turn out to be people who pursue excellence and embrace quality rather than quantity. This probably has to do with the high level of precision at which we move and exercise when we practise Pilates. They are alert, present and more open to new things that come their way. Pilates also improves our spiritual being and energize us to take our daily tasks to new levels. Enjoy this article and share with us your personal benefits from practising Pilates.

Article:

Have you been going to other exercise classes and want to try something different? Do you suffer from a bad back and need to find an answer? Read this article to find out about the 10 benefits of Pilates.

Benefits of Pilates 1: Pilates Creates a Strong Core
By careful training and precise control over the smaller muscles in the lower abdominal region and lower back region Pilates is able to improve your core stability. This can result in better control of the small spinal joints during movement of the spine and better control of the pelvis and hip regions. This can have many beneficial effects including improving pelvic stability, lower back pain reduction, better control of the bladder and stronger pelvic floor muscles.

Benefits of Pilates 2: Pilates improves relaxation
By slowing down movement to help improve core stability Pilates also has the effect of inducing a deeply relaxed state that can add to the euphoria attached to doing a well taught Pilates class. Classes are often small and no more than 5/6 people with a slow tempo and a relaxed atmosphere adding to the relaxation process during the class.

Benefits of Pilates 3: Improve your Posture with Pilates
It has been demonstrated and recommended for a long time by health care practitioners that Pilates benefits your overall feeling of well-being but also can help in most cases to improve your posture. Pilates is often recommended by our experts to help improve overall posture and reduce muscle imbalance. The type of Pilates that we recommend needs to be precise and guided by fully qualified practitioners who have valuable years of experience and understand or work very closely with therapists to understand the workings of the human body.

Benefits of Pilates 4: Improve your Athletic Performance with Pilates
At Perfect Balance Clinic our Physiotherapists and Rehab expert’s use some Pilates based exercises to allow them to optimise athletic performance and help speed up post event recovery allowing for a speedy return to sport and athletic performance. We work with Gold Medal winning athletes as an intrinsic part of their athletic programme to help reduce injury occurrence, under the guidance of their coaches and therapists.

Benefits of Pilates 5; Improve your co-ordination in a Pilates class
When you are taught Pilates in a controlled environment you soon develop a heightened awareness of your body. Whether that be your neck, shoulders or legs, they are all used to improve your body awareness thus heightening the feedback on a neurological level to your brain and allowing for development of a better co-ordinated individual. Pilates movements should be slow and almost dance like allowing for a deeper level of interpretation by your brain and nervous system. The movements are often repeated allowing for a rehearsal of the positions, which results in better integration into normal daily movements.

Benefits of Pilates 6: Better alignment with Pilates
We often see people who are referred to Pilates after having spinal surgery. You have to wonder if some surgery could be avoided by proper spinal alignment and training of the spinal stabilising muscles. We often never get to find out. We do therefore recommend that people try at least a short course of Pilates based exercise to allow them to regain some control over their spinal musculature and develop better alignment of their spines. Classic examples of people who could do with Pilates are those with one shoulder higher than the other, or they’ve been told they have one leg longer than the other.

Benefits of Pilates 7: Vastly Improved Concentration with Pilates
Because Pilates is very slow, precise and controlled it is important that you concentrate lots during the sessions. This we are told improves peoples levels of concentration as they almost reach a meditative state allowing them to not only excel in Pilates but also excel in their activities of daily living.

Benefits of Pilates 8: Better Stamina Levels with Pilates
Due to the long duration of the classes and the intensity that people often work at during them, it is inevitable that stamina improves as a result of this type of training. By stressing the different energy systems in the body unlike other forms of exercise Pilates is responsible for better utilisation of oxygen in your tissues and results in a more optimal performance based on better stamina levels. Most people find their first classes difficult and ache for a few days afterwards. This is normally a ‘good’ ache or so we have been told, which results from the start of the adaptation process to this form of exercise.

Benefits of Pilates 9: Improved breathing with Pilates
Due largely to the type of breathing that Pilates induces, it has been reported that people gain better control of their breathing after doing Pilates sessions on a regular basis. The movements in Pilates are sequenced to allow for better control of breathing and integration with bodily movements allowing for better control and an improved awareness of their breathing state.

Benefits of Pilates 10; Pilates never stops developing
Since its early conception by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century Pilates has evolved to encompass other forms of equipment and deliver a much more biomechanical and correct form of exercise. Pilates largely is focused on the above main principles and this has been taken on board with the newer more advanced varieties of Pilates. In its purest form Pilates was used for strengthening the mind and body, often this can be lost in classes as they are overcrowded and instructors are poorly qualified resulting in Pilates for the masses. Better results from Pilates can be gained from the smaller class sizes which encourage a more individualised approach and more intense work out. People do Pilates to get results.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6462459

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Pilates Class – Side Bend

This Pilates video shows a Pilates Mat exercise that I love to teach in a Pilates class. There are not many mat Pilates piece that works on our sides and this piece stretches as well as strengthens our sides. Compared to the other side exercises in mat Pilates such as the Side Kick and Side Kick Kneeling, the Side bend is a more difficult piece. This is especially in terms of stabilization to our trunk and the fact that only a feet and arm supports the body. However this is extremely effective!

Strengthen & Stretch your sides in a Pilates Class!

The Side Bend gives you a great opportunity to target your Obliques (Side Abdominal muscles) and transverse abdominis (Deep Abdominal muscles) which are a favourite with people who love the idea of a slim waist! I agree that this is a good exercise to include in your Pilates workout or Pilates class if that is your goal. However there are more benefits than just that. The muscles of our shoulders and back that are responsible for abducting our shoulders and depressing & abducting our shoulder blades are all working here (This includes at least 5 different muscles). I always say if you do not have much time to exercise every day, practise Pilates for the simple reason: You work many body parts in an hour of Pilates class.

Few pieces with arm work in mat Pilates Class

I often get questions by my clients who does mat Pilates Class regularly if there were more arm work or why they were not getting much arm exercises. Well the first reason has got to be there is not many in the first place. Even there were pieces with arm work, they were all more advanced and may not be done all at the same time for a class with Pilates beginners. Many new students struggle coping with exercises which required them to have their hand on the floor. Probably most people do not have much upper body strength? I’m not sure if it is due to our culture in Singapore, but many struggle with exercises that involve a fair amount of arm strength. I often joked with my female clients that they did not have to do housework since they employed maids. So no sweeping, mopping, cleaning chore with the arms. Some of them agreed! On the other hand I feel it is because many people do not want bulky arms and they associate that with arm work. However having a competent arm and shoulder is necessary to enjoy the benefits of an exercise like the Side Bend. I personally feel having a balanced and toned body is important but not to the extend that we potentially hurt ourselves during fatigue.

Things to note for this piece in a Pilates Class

In a Pilates class, Think about creating an arc from the head to the foot on the floor by pressing the support hand and foot against the ground as this helps to stretch the side that is facing the ceiling. Be careful not to go into a hyper-extension of the elbow for the support arm. The lowering of the trunk is not a drop but a controlled lowering. Think of yourself as a piece of bread in a toaster slot, where your whole side is in line and not deviated from centre.

 

Enjoy this Pilates video and share with us your experience practising this piece!

 

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Pilates – Mat Or Machines?

Pilates Mat is so common that a lot of people think that is the only thing that exist for Pilates but most of you who have been following this site knows that Pilates machines are an alternative. I feel this article that I came across may be a good start to realising the Pilates mat is only a part of what Mr. Joseph Pilates created. I agree with the author that mat Pilates may not be the best for Pilates beginners. In fact there are better places to start especially if you happen to have tightness in your shoulders or neck. However in my opinion the ped-a-pul may not be a good solution from my personal experience of teaching it. I think the Towelwork or Floorwork created by Master Teacher Ron Fletcher, could be a great place to start instead. With the ped-a-pul, there is already spring resistance which most people with shoulder issues may not be able handle adequately. I feel rather than thinking Mat or Machine, we should access what our intentions and goals of practising Pilates are. In this post, I shall talk about what there is other than Pilates Mat, but not the Pilates machine yet.

Pilates Mat & Fletcher Floorwork

While many people with neck issues find it difficult to cope with curling forward on the Pilates mat, the Floorwork has many exercises that allows you to exercise seated or kneeling which takes the tension off the neck. It is great for people with back problems as the seated exercises can help to strengthen their backs. It also promotes a balance between strength and flexibility to give a good Pilates work out, yet not compensating on their problems. I think lying down for prolong period may not be an ideal situation for a well balanced exercise problems, hence I love to combine the Pilates Mat with the Fletcher Floorwork as such a Pilates class ensures you move in a mixture of supine, prone, side, seated and kneeling positions. The Floorwork is simple yet can be difficult if done correctly, and it is dynamic with graceful movements that can entice you to want to move.

Pilates Mat & Fletcher Towelwork

While the author talks about the ped-a-pull, I personally like the Towelwork. Firstly the towel is light so it gives you an opportunity to learn how to move your arms efficiently without any tension or compensation. If you have to struggle with the resistance of the ped-a-pull, it is difficult to learn the basics of shoulder girdle movement. With movements in a standing position, it gives you a good alternative to the Pilates mat and Fletcher Floorwork. However I’m not saying the ped-a-pull is not good, it is great at a later time for someone with shoulder and neck tension.

Pilates Mat is great. So is the Towelwork & Floorwork!

When it comes to the non machine Pilates work, I think doing these 3 can give MASSIVE benefits to our bodies and I highly advocate and encourage you to do them. I think in a 2 hours Pilates work out, you could do these 3 and have a complete work out for the body. I’m excited by what these 3 together will bring to you and will continue to tell you more about it and introduce you to these amazing exercise routine. For now, practise your Pilates mat well with the mat Pilates videos I have shown you and have a new body!

Article:

Are you confused about the difference between mat Pilates and Pilates on all those fancy machines? Are you wondering which one you should try first? I know it can be confusing when you first start Pilates and it seems the majority of people think mat Pilates is the best for beginners. It’s true Joseph Pilates conceived of the matwork first, but he designed the equipment when he realized not many people could do it correctly.

The springs of the equipment are designed to hold you up and help you access your deep muscles. The reformer is great because it helps people release those often overworked and tight quads and hip flexors and instead access the psoas and hamstrings. I find a lot of people aren’t getting the benefits of Pilates because they’re doing mat classes without any props and therefore end up using their muscles that are already strong which doesn’t facilitate change.

The majority of us have tight upper trapezius muscles and our shoulders are tensed up to our ears causing lots of neck and upper back pain. It’s very difficult to relax this large muscle and move from another place when you have no idea what that feels like. That’s where a piece of equipment called the ped-a-pole comes in handy. You place your hands in the handles, hold your arms out to the side and your shoulders can then melt down your back. Once your upper traps are relaxed you can then practice moving your arms without this muscle. Your neck and shoulders are now free and will love it. You can then focus on other things like the breath and lifting the ribs, decompressing the spine etc… instead of being in agony over burning traps.

So if you feel like you’re not getting any benefits from your Pilates mat classes, why not try the equipment? There are lots of studios that offer group reformer, chair and tower classes. I recommend taking a few privates first so you can really understand how to work with the equipment and not against it. Pilates is an amazing way to connect to and change your body.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5016053

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Pilates Mat – Leg Pull Front/Prone

This Pilates Mat exercise is one that I commonly teach. I teach this a lot because there are so many benefits to the body with this. One big benefit of practising this piece is you develop a stronger core. I once came across a research that says that a strong core is one that can stay in the full plank position for 3 minutes. And if you have attempted that, you will realise it is no easy feat, ESPECIALLY if you do it properly.

Pilates Mat can really strengthen your core muscles

This statement is so so true, especially in my own opinion. When I first started practising Pilates Mat work, I often found it challenging to do any mat exercise. I wonder if it was because every exercise was difficult? Then I realised that it wasn’t that every exercise was difficult, just so my core/abdominals were weak. When we use our core/abdominals effectively, we can be really efficient and find an exercise easier. I think when we talk about core muscles, we usually think lots of crunches will help. In actual fact, that helps with our rectus abdominis (6 packs) but not the deep abdominals, Transverse Abdominis (TA). The TA is what is really useful to us and strengthens our posture and back.

This Pilates mat exercise really strengthens our TA

The Leg Pull Front gives us a chance to really work our TA, only if we use it consciously. I would encourage you to review our breathing video which was posted in April. Click Here for breathing video! When you practise this breathing in Leg Pull Front, you end up really working those deep abdominal muscles. However I have seen too many people doing this Pilates mat exercise without engaging the TA and they really struggle to even stay up. But if you really use the TA, you can be up for so long that it may just surprise you!

but Pilates Mat does not only work our TA, there are other benefits

The arms are also involved a lot. And what keeps the arms stable are our shoulder blades that glides down (More specifically internally rotate) during the movement. The Achilles tendon are also given a stretch here while giving us a chance to also work on our balance when 1 leg is lifted off. Oh and when 1 leg lifts off, because the pelvis stays at the same height without moving, the back of the thigh (hamstrings) and butt (gluts) also get a chance to work! Pilates Mat really works many body parts but yet as one unit. Hence I believe if you start practising it, you will experience significant changes to your bodies and life!

Enjoy this Pilates Mat video and give your comments on your experience!

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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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