Posts Tagged ‘muscles’:

slideshow4

Last summer I took a Pilates workshop with Jay Grimes, one of the elders. Amidst all the stories and information, what stuck out most to me was when he told us that if you could truly understand the double leg pull (a.k.a double leg stretch), one of the exercises in the series of five, than you fully understand Pilates. Why, he asked? Because it’s in every exercise you do in Pilates. It incorporates a strong center, and opposition.

Everyone knows that one of the benefits of Pilates is a stronger core. Most people do Pilates for that exact reason. But opposition is like the middle child, often forgotten. Can you guess where I fall in my family order? But I don’t think I’m any less important, and neither is opposition. It’s what will help lengthen your body, and length can be your best friend. Just ask anyone who struggles with back problems.

In another workshop I took recently, the presenter focused on the importance of getting grounded through Pilates. She made the point that you must focus on the placement of your clients feet, because the more supported you are at the base of your body, the more length you can get all the way up. With the length you achieve through opposition, you decompress the spine. That’s why many people say they feel lighter after their Pilates session.

It’s not enough to just cue opposition. Look to see that your client has equal weight on the big and little toe knuckle, as well as on the inside and outside of the heel. This applies to when someone is standing, sitting, or inverted. While you bring awareness to the evenness of your clients feet, make sure their muscles are working the opposite direction, up towards the crown of their head. I like to tell people to visualize stirrups under their arches that work their way up the inside and outside of their legs, pulling their muscles up. Don’t forget the importance of grounding the feet at the same time.

In an inversion, you still want the same emphasis. If your feet are in straps, work to make sure there’s equal weight on all four points of your feet. Since you’re working against gravity, you have to put a little more energy into it. When I’m in an inversion, I pretend I’m standing on the ground and apply all the same principles. Your goal is still opposition. Ground your feet while you work the muscles up towards the crown of your head.

People often ask me if Pilates will make them taller. Clearly it can’t make your bones grow. However, if you strengthen your core and work in opposition, you will gain an inch or two. Truly understanding the double leg pull (stretch) is not only the key to understanding Pilates, but also the key to being taller. Looking to add a few inches? Head to a Pilates lesson.

 

Running

About 3 years into my teaching career, I was living in Boston, and working at a Pilates studio Every Body Pilates, in Belmont. It was clear to me very early on that my time in Boston was limited. I ended up staying for almost 2 years, mainly because of the owner of Every Body Pilates, Kirstin deFrees. I knew that I could learn from her. Besides being a kind and loving boss and friend, she’s an amazing teacher. I remember thinking “I want to teach like she does one day… with her patience and ability to get clients to do what she asked.” In fact, during a review with Kirstin one of her pieces of advice to me was to make sure when I ask a client to do something, that they actually do it. Make their movement effective.

I have never forgotten what Kirstin told me, and I can pinpoint that time as a turning point in my teaching. I credit her for helping me get to where I am today, a teacher trainer for the Equinox Pilates Institute in Los Angeles. I’m in the position to pass on this invaluable piece of advice, as one of my jobs is to make our trainees effective teachers. If you can learn this tool early on in your teaching, it will make you stand out among the many teachers out there. And your clients will stick with you because they will see results. Anyone can teach, but not everyone has the ability or awareness to teach effectively.

What does being an effective teacher actually mean? To me, it means when asking your client to do something, make sure they are actually doing it. It’s the exact advice given to me 5 years ago. Be present as a teacher, follow through with your instructions, and don’t just go on cruise control. In my opinion, there are layers to learning to teach. First you must memorize the information, then you may imitate those you admire and respect, and finally you’ll take what you’ve learned and come into your own as a teacher. This will happen in stages; however, what you can do from the start is guide your clients with effective cueing. Get them into positions where they don’t have the option to not use their muscles. It’s actually a pretty simple concept: Be Present and Aware. Advice that can also be applied to your life.