Breathe In Breathe Out

HEALTH | FITNESS
2017
January/February

Tush. Tummy. Inner thighs. Tush. Tummy. Inner Thighs. Exhale … 3, 2, 1. Inhale … 3, 2, 1. Every Monday and Wednesday at STUDIO B in Tyler, these are the words that gently flow like a constant rhythm from Kelly Hudson’s mouth, as she instructs her Pilates mat class students through their 55-minute session toward building stronger bodies.

Most people are familiar with Pilates in some shape or form, whether it’s having seen the “strange looking” contraptions used in Reformer classes or whether it's having heard of the Hundred, a common Pilates mat exercise that engages the entire body for 100 beats. But most people, however, probably haven’t gone ahead and tried a Pilate’s workout. Instead, understandably, they opt to stick with what they already know works in terms of results and what they are comfortable doing. 

But, it’s the New Year, so why not try something different and new to you?!

Now is a great time in East Texas to try a variety of fitness methods that have gained popularity over the years. Why? Because we have several locations and trainers at those locales available to us, and ones who specialize in Pilates, Barre, Yoga, TRX and other forms of conditioning training. What’s more, many of these studios offer personal training sessions, where you can learn the fundamentals first. Then once you’re more comfortable and have adapted to the exercises and routines, you can move into their regularly scheduled classes.

Joseph Pilates is the founder of Pilates. “He originally called the fitness method, Contrology,  defined as the science of control, because one of the fundamental rules in doing Pilates is to control the body’s every movement,” explained Certified Pilates Practitioner, Ellie Herman. In the book “Pilates for Dummies,” she explained, that Mr. Pilates developed more than 500 exercises as part of Contrology, or his pilates method. The mat exercises came first, then he built specific equipment to enhance results of his exercises and provide a way to allow clients to achieve the exercises on their own, without him having to spot them. Over the years, as his students learned Contrology, they began teaching his methods, and people began referring to the workout as “Pilates,” Herman noted in the book.

In Pilates mat work, a series of exercises are organized based on levels, with one level building onto the next. You never truly abandon the fundamentals. In fact, one exercise in a beginning level can be used in a higher level as a way to modify the workout should the need arise. In basic terms, however, Pilates “works to strengthen the center, lengthen the spine, build muscle tone, and increase body awareness and flexibility,” Herman summarized. Sarah Burton, Pilates instructor and owner of STUDIO B in Tyler, provided a layman’s understanding of what “Contrology” is supposed to do and how it works. She said to consider the function of a rubber band. In the exercise, two opposing forces reach out from a strong center, which defines the Pilates mat work. “Think of that band when it stretches,” Burton visualized. If we only hold onto one end and attempt to stretch it without holding onto the other end, we fail. However, when both endpoints are stretched, we create a stable and strong center. On the mat, we create this two-way stretch with our own body weight and gravity. And although some exercises appear easy to the naked eye, when done with precision, flow and control, they are no joke she explained.

What’s really no joke are the reasons why clients seek to achieve results through Pilates. Burton noted that her client, Katy Kummerfeld, began Pilates as a way to get her abdominals back into shape after the birth of her daughters. Other clients, she says, are trying to recover from or work around an injury, while others are seeking to simply supplement their cardio with the stretching and total body muscle strengthening that Pilates offers. Burton shares that clients who have tried pilates have left testimony saying they have better balance going up the stairs; gain a clearer mind; achieve a stronger core; practice better breathing habits; gain more control over their limbs; obtain increased joint mobility and muscular flexibility; feel decreased spine stiffness and pain, in turn providing them with the ability to play with grandchildren on the floor; and the chance to recover from an injury safely after a doctor’s clearance, returning to their sport stronger than ever; just to name a few!

Whatever your need or reason, Pilates can work for anyone. But as Burton explained, while the mat workout is something you can jump into, you might want to ease into it first with a few private sessions so that the body can become properly acquainted with how it responds to the exercise. From there, the teacher can assess whether the client should go right into the class or needs further attention. “Because each body is so different, a good teacher can give you tips on how to be successful in class, such as suggesting modifications and adjustment specifically for you,” Burton explained. “A good teacher will ask, ‘Where do we have the best feedback for the body?’ So, that is usually where we will start with a new inexperienced client. Sometimes folks can just jump in and others need a little more one-on-one attention on the mat or apparatus.”

So when will you start to see or feel results?! 

Burton said that Mr. Pilates was quoted as saying: “In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.” While that sounds wonderful, sometimes it’s difficult knowing where to start or what class to do first. Some may even question whether they should begin their Pilates experience with the reformers or the mat class. Burton explained that the latter is essential to it all. Eventually, when you get into the swing of it, all you’ll need to devote to each workout is less than half an hour! 

“Even though Pilates was designed to be taught in a system with equipment and the mat, the mat work is the key to it all. That’s the beauty! You have the key to your own wellbeing and health. So, consider the ability to learn the work from a qualified teacher and then doing the mat three other times a week on your own,  and no equipment is needed. It’ll only take you twenty minutes every other day,” Burton shared.

 For anyone reading this article that is still unsure whether or not Pilates is a good fit because they aren’t flexible or don’t have a “Pilates” body, there is good news! “Everyone who can move has a Pilates body. Pilates is for every body like each individual … because everyone needs it! Now, will you look like the chick or guy in the manual or on the poster? Maybe not. Maybe your body doesn’t need to move like that due to an injury or ailment. That’s why you work with a teacher to be guided and led through the work in a way that’s right for you, finding your lesson plan in the syllabus that Joe created. It took me years to understand this concept. And boy, was it freeing,” Burton exclaimed!

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