New Beginnings : My Pilates and Yoga Journey
It’s been a minute since I’ve written a post! I took much needed time off to myself to get grounded as my life has completely changed. It’s been around 1 year since my divorce, since I’ve moved out on my own. I spent the past year with no real expectations for myself other than learning to be comfortable on my own two feet. Through the process I’ve become more relaxed and less uptight. I live on my own terms. I follow my heart and try new things that interest me. Along the way I found my passion for pilates and yoga.
I actually started pilates towards the end of my marriage, a little over a year ago, and slowly fell in love with it. It’s something I always wanted to try but never got around to. I lifted weights for around a decade, bodybuilding style but without the competing. I used to love the “bikini competitor” look, and was told I would never look “bulky”. I was told that it’s good to “lift heavy”. As the years went by, my body started to feel like crap. My muscles were always sore and inflammed and I did start to feel “bulky”. In my opinion, bulky is a relative term. What I consider buiky is not what someone else might consider bulky. For me personally, I really started to miss the long, lean figure I had during my dancer days. I also started to get bored with the gym. After my divorce, I did try to reignite the desire for the gym that I once had. I hired a personal trainer and moved very close to the gym that I enjoy the most, but at the end of the day I just wasn’t excited about it anymore. But pilates...that excites me! Pilates uncovers all of my weaknesses, improves my posture, and gives me balance! The great thing about it is the more I practice, the more difficult it gets. I don’t think I could ever get bored with it!
I started out simply taking one private lesson per week. I eventually joined Classpass which allowed me to try various studios around the island. Before my breast augmentation in August 2018, I was doing a combination of gym workouts and pilates. I took a brief pause on exercising to recover from my surgery. Once I recovered I didn’t go back to the gym, and started going to pilates more regularly. I knew there was no turning back! I absolutely love what it’s done for me so far. The gym left me feeling like my muscles were short and compact. I never felt good, instead I was constantly sore and recovering. After each pilates session I walk out feeling 5 inches taller. I feel strong and toned but not inflammed. Now I feel absolutely amazing every day, the best I’ve felt in years!
More recently I’ve been dabbling in yoga and am growing a second passion there. I’ll save that for another post! In conclusion, my interests have changed and I really feel this love for working out again that I haven’t felt in a long time. However, I have yet to research the fundamentals and history of pilates and yoga like I did for bodybuilding during the beginning of my journey with weight lifting. I have decided I want to start doing this now. I really want to learn all of the fundamentals of pilates and yoga. I see so much potential to grow and evolve. I feel I am at the beginning of a journey that has no end!
I am starting this morning with the Pilates for Beginners series from pilatesology.com with Instructor, Alisa Wyatt. Below are just my notes and review from my practice of Day 1. I figure this will be a long post, but am in a learning phase and want to take notes as much as possible. This helps me to learn and retain as much information as I can. I hope this information will be helpful to you as well!
Pilates For Beginners (Day 1)
Link to program : https://pilatesology.com/programs/pilates-for-beginners/
Video 1: Tips for Home Practice
The first video covers the different types of mats. Alisa stresses that the mat you choose needs to be soft enough to support your spine so that it feels comfortable, protected and supported. Since my floor at home is carpeted my yoga mat is just fine for me, however, the instructor mentioned that if you are on a hard floor a yoga mat will not be thick enough. Types of mats include a yoga mat, foam mat (thicker), and professional mat. She also shows a pilates pillow that you can use if you need more neck support.
She goes on to talk about the back and the neck. The stomach should be engaged enough to create a long spine on the floor. She demonstrates this both in table top and with legs straight up The spine should be long enough to where you cannot get your fingers underneath. Prevent arching the back or sticking the belly out, as this causes straign on the back. During exercises where you are curling up and taking your neck off the mat, if you feel straign, lower the head back down and perform the movement without lifting the head. She demonstrates this with the 100’s exercise. Lift up when it feels good, lower when you feel strain. Eventually you will build enough strength to perform the movement without strain. Focus on keeping neck long during movements where you lift hips off the mat. Never turn your neck to the side while performing your exercises.
Video 2: Pilates Fundamentals
In video 2, Alisa covers all of the pilates fundamentals, providing a great foundation for your practice!
Breathing: During normal breathing, the stomach lifts and falls. For pilates breathing, focus on breathing into the low back and into the sides of the chest, in rythm to whichever exercise you are performing. This is a deeper breath which opens more chambers in the lungs, providing a more expanded lung capacity and more powerful breathing. Breathing out all of the air in your lungs will also help increase lung capacity when breathing in. If you find yourself gasping for air, it’s an indicator that you should slow down.
Powerhouse: The powerhouse muscles support your hips and spine and includes the abs, lower back, glutes, and inner thighs. Strenghtening the powerhouse supports the limbs and helps your body stay grounded during any type of movement.
Scooping the abdominals, C Curve, and imprinting the spine: These all sort of go hand in hand. The idea is to tilt your pelvis toward your nose while drawing in the lower abs, creating a scoop on the abdominals and a C Curve of the spine. The spine will lay longer and flatter on the floor when relaxed after repeating this movement while laying down. You should be moving through one vertebrae at a time, articulating the spine.
Frame or box: Frame is between the two shoulders and two hips, connecting to form a rectangular box. The goal is to keep this box aligned in most pilates exercises.
Video 3: Pilates Assessment
This video had different tests of strength, flexibility, and control that Alisa said you can come back to at any time in order to test your progress and see how you’re feeling. I’ve had a similar assessment if not exactly the same one when I’ve taken private lessons at a pilates studio.
Roll down: she gives three variations on the roll down starting from easiest to hardest. Oddly, the 2nd roll down was harder for me than the 3rd. I’m not sure if this is because I was “warmed up” for the 3rd roll down?
Plank: Most will probably already know this one. This exercise tests both strength and control! This plank is timed for 30 seconds.
Rag doll pose (not sure if that’s what it’s called in pilates, but I think this is what it’s called in yoga): This one tests flexibility. This was perfomed with a curved spine with a goal of placing the hands flat on the floor.
One legged stand with free leg at 90 degree angle: I am not sure what the actual name of this exercise is but it tests balance and control. There is also a more advanced version she shows which in yoga is called warrior 3.