Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to Have a Mindful Pilates Practice

By Kay Finn

We hear a lot about Mindfulness these days. What does this mean?

Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn (founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at UMASS Medical), is: Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpuse, in the present moment and non-judgementally." If you can approach Pilates (and Yoga and Barre and everything you do!) in a mindful way, you will get so much more out of the exercise experience.

There are six common principles in Pilates: Concentration, Control, Flowing Natural Movement, Breath, Precision and Centering.

  • Concentration requires the ability to be in the moment, to "be present" and to coordinate the mind to what the body is doing.
  • Pilates was originally called Contrology by Joseph PIlates. Here, the mind controls the body.
  • In Pilates the flow has a specific beginning and ending, the Breath is important to oxygenate the muscles, nourish and cleanse the body's systems throughout.
  • We practice Pilates exercises in a specific order and very deliberately and purposefully (with Precision). It is important to learn and understand the essence, or reason, for each exercise.
  • Lastly, all of our energy comes from our center, sometimes referred to as the "powerhouse." This center includes our abdominals, lower back, hips and gluteals.
It is easy to see how all of this used together makes for a mindful experience. Although it is challenging to be mindful, the result is incredibly satisfying!

Let's take you through a mock class:

Show up for your favorite class and put your outside life on hold for the length of the class. Scan your body and relax any muscles that you can. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale all the air out through pursed lips. Feel how this expands your rib cage and helps you concentrate on contracting your deep abdominal muscles. Listen to the teacher's cues and follow the pattern of movement. Try to use the correct muscles necessary to complete the movement. Be deliberate about this; if you are using compensatory muscles, modify or complete fewer repetitions. Think about how each exercise makes YOU feel. When class is over, see how different you feel compared to how you felt at the beginning of the class. If you show up for class planning to focus on your movement, pay attention to how you feel and what you can do (without judgement). You will be completing a mindful Pilates practice!

Kay Finn is Director of the Stott Pilates Studio at Lumina Mind Body Studios in Wayland, MA. Kay is a longtime fitness enthusiast who began her Pilates experience in 2004 by taking a Pilates mat class. After several years of taking mat and equipment classes, Kay began her formal training at Northeast Pilates in 2006 and completed her training for certification with Stott Pilates in 2008. She is fully certified on the Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair and Barrels through Stott Pilates. 
Kay has been teaching Pilates at Longfellow since 2007. She teaches group exercise classes, small group classes on the mixed equipment and private sessions with individuals on the equipment in the Pilates Studio.  In addition to teaching and spending time with her extended family, Kay enjoys biking, swimming, walking her dog and Yoga.