Pilates and the mind-body connection

Pilates is a unique form of physical exercise in that it requires focus, attention and concentration to each individual movement. Awareness is drawn to each exercise, the muscles responsible and the movement pattern required.
Mental imagery forms a large component of the teaching skills utilised in Pilates and can dramatically change the way an exercise is executed. Alerting one’s mind to correct postures and movements as well as improper movements will help alter faulty patterns and replace them with ideal ones and, as a result, the pain and discomfort that arises from dysfunctional movement patterns will subside. The use of repetition and awareness means that Pilates can be seen as a form of self-help therapy; an active, physical way that one can recover from injury and prevent further dysfunction. This makes it an even more attractive option for rehabilitation and injury prevention for many people.

Pilates and “core stability”

The term “core stability has been thrown around somewhat loosely over the last few years and many people really lack clarity on what this “catch” phrase actually means.
To simplify the matter, it is easier to classify the muscles in the body as two different types of muscles, the “local” or postural muscles and the “global” or movement muscles. The postural muscles are found deeper in the body, closer to the “core” and have direct attachments to the spine. They have a more stabilising role and provide support for the spine. They can be likened to the foundations of a house and, as they surround the spine from different directions, they form a corset. The global muscles span many joints more superficially and are responsible for overall movement. When our deep, core muscles are not functioning effectively, to stabilise the spine, the global muscles take over and try to fulfil the role of stabilisers as well as mobilisers. This then leads to the global muscles overworking and becoming fatigued, causing pain and eventually dysfunction. Just like excessive brickwork on a house with poor foundations, the structural integrity of the house, and likewise the spine, will be compromised.
This is why it is of paramount importance to train the muscles of the body from the inside out, so the stabilisers can perform their job effectively and support the joints, allowing the mobilisers to mobilise and lead to more efficient movement. Balance, stability, posture and coordination will all improve and more importantly, there will be minimal damage to the joints.
Pilates exercises facilitate the use of both local and global muscles, allowing smooth coordinated movements to occur. A great workout minus the jarring and explosive, uncontrolled movements frequently seen in the gymnasium setting. It is vital that you are taught the correct method of recruiting the core muscles so that it becomes “automatic” and your spine is supported not only in the Pilates studio but all the time, in all your daily activities.