This blog post was written by my daughter, Amber Yancey (photo left). She is a third-generation fitness instructor, an Alvin Ailey-trained dancer, a Pilates instructor, a choreographer and co-founder of the largest nonprofit dance company in Washington, D.C., Capitol Movement. (Can you tell I’m a little proud of her? Read more at the Capitol Movement Website -- Sibyl Adams
Pilates is a method of total body conditioning that focuses on building core muscle strength to support posture and alignment and creating long, lean muscles in the torso and extremities. When practiced under the supervision of a certified instructor from a nationally or internationally recognized institution, Pilates can benefit any age group and is also beneficial for rehabilitating many physical limitations.
The classical Pilates method has evolved over time to offer benefits for the general population, not just for elite athletes and dancers. By strengthening the core muscles, focusing on posture and alignment, this form of exercise can improve and benefit conditions like scoliosis, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolythesis, hip replacements, discectomies, rotator cuff injuries, broken femurs, and more.
For the active individual or athlete Pilates may also improve your golf or tennis game, and more. Private Pilates sessions can be expensive, but many insurance companies are now covering the cost of Pilates as rehabilitation when prescribed by a doctor.
Furthermore, Pilates apparatus classes may be practiced in partner sessions and small groups to lower the cost of the lesson. Many gyms and health clubs also offer Pilates mat classes on their regular group exercise schedules. But protect yourself if you’re exploring the world of Pilates. When you walk into a large group setting, you should be sure to introduce yourself to the instructor as a beginner. As you try the exercises, be sure to listen to your body. Pain is a sign that something is wrong -- so if you feel pain, stop what you are doing immediately and rest.
If you’re familiar with the techniques and want to try some simple stretches at home, here’s a easy way to start:
To achieve the proper Pilates "scoop" of the abdominals, lie on your back, slide the shoulders down towards you back pockets, keep the back of your ribs in contact with the floor and a neutral spine in your lower back (Neutral Spine=the ability to fit two fingers under your lower back without having to shift or move around to place them there). Take a breath in and then draw your navel to your spine, but do not arch or flatten your lower back. Practice this several times, keeping the abdomen pulled inward during both inhalation and exhalation of your breath.
To perform Tabletops, raise one leg at a time until both legs are bent with knees and hips to a 90 angle. Then lower your legs as close to the floor as you can without arching your back. If your toes can touch the floor while maintaining your abdominal seatbelt, that is great. Repeat for 4 to 8 repetitions. If you experience any back pain, stop and bring your knees to your chest, then release.
For sit-ups, repeat the "scoop" (this is the key to proper abdominal control). Then place your hands gently behind the rounded part of your head (towards the top back of the head) and perform 8 to 15 sit-ups.
Follow by bringing the knees to the chest and repeat another set.