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  • fayburchell

“Which part gets left behind?”

One of my clients really made me chuckle with this question recently. It was actually very astute and a lovely way of putting what I consider to be one of the most challenging things about Pilates - isolating a movement in a certain part/s of the body and not letting the rest join in.

So much of Pilates focuses on one joint or a group of joints while keeping other body parts still. Sometimes it might seem odd, why does it matter if your pelvis moves with your shoulders for example?

The main reason for this is if we’re looking to build strength and/or increase mobility in one part of the body with a particular exercise, if other parts are joining in too we’re unlikely to be getting the maximum movement in the target joint. The human body is lazy and clever - it will often seek the path of least resistance to make things easier for us.

For example, if we’re aiming to increase movement in our shoulders but our spine is getting involved to ‘help’ us move our arms further back over our heads, then the shoulder most likely isn’t moving as far as it could be and so we’re both not controlling our spine (and therefore we are not taking the opportunity to build more abdominal strength), and we are also losing some of the opportunity to focus on and test our shoulder movements.

Another good example is locking out our elbows when we’re on all fours. I absolutely get this - this was me for years with my hypermobile backwards bendy elbows and weedy T-Rex arms. The body can more efficiently rest in a locked out position and save energy. Important when you’re running away from mammoths and need energy for that, less so when you sit at a desk five days a week and could really do with building more muscle mass. If you know this one is you too, really focus on the fact that you want stronger arms so they don’t get tired in that position rather than give in to it. It’s also hard to keep focusing on everything all at once, and to a degree Pilates requires that of us, it’s not just about getting moving, it’s also neuromuscular coordination which challenges our brains as well as our bodies.

Pilates is not only about movement but also about control, as Joseph Pilates put it “the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control over your body.”

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