5 Reasons To Try Pilates-Yes, Even You

There are some people, like me, that don’t need a reason to try out a form of fitness.  However, the majority of people are wary to try something new and different.  It can be daunting to get to the gym period, much less walk in to a class with other people who already ‘get it’ and try to learn new lingo, movements, and all the while, look like you DO, in fact, get it. *Oh, come on, you know that’s part of it..no one wants to look silly.

In all honesty, the first time you take a Pilates class, perhaps the first 10 times you take a Pilates class, you will not ‘get it’.  There are many things to think for each movement: alignment, breath pattern, core engagement, and the parts of the movement.  But, I believe you should still give Pilates a try.  Here are 5 reasons:

1. Pilates Is For Everyone

Pilates is a form of exercise that can be done, in some form, by anyone.  If you are breathing, you can do Pilates.  True, not all people can just walk into a class and do all of the movements, but the Pilates principles can be practiced regardless of age, physical condition, or stage in life.

2.  Pilates Can Be Practiced Anywhere

Unlike some fitness forms which require machines, props, or certain environments, Pilates can be practiced anywhere with minimal preparation.  Yes, a mat is helpful, but a beach towel or carpet can work and only enough space to lengthen out your body is necessary.  If you are a busy executive, multi-tasking parent, or on vacation, you can practice Pilates.

3.  Pilates Is Efficient

Many people do not have the time to invest in an hour long routine.  Because the Pilates Method incorporates stretching, strengthening, and in some cases cardiovascular training, it is an efficient way to get a well-rounded workout.  Pilates also moves seamlessly from one exercise to the next, so you can flow through the practice without stopping to adjust body position. (*Well, truthfully, you are constantly making adjustments, but it is part of the workout!)

4.  Pilates Works When You Aren’t

When Pilates is practiced regularly, a certain amount of muscle memory occurs.  So, during class, your body twists as you purposefully engage the core to initiate and sustain the movement.  As you move through your daily life, as you twist, your body’s muscles activate as if you were doing this same movement in class.  The core engages and your body is protected and strengthened simultaneously.

If you are trying to decide whether or not to try Pilates, you are doing this for one or two reasons.  Either something about your current routine is not working or you have no current routine.  So, why not give Pilates a try?  Maybe you are lacking core strengthening or stretching in your current routine-Pilates can fix that.  Perhaps you are injured and cannot do your regular routine- Pilates can help you maintain your current fitness level while recovering.  On the other hand, maybe you are only thinking about Pilates because you know you need to do something, but you don’t know where to begin. You might be worried you don’t have enough strength to even get started.  But this is FALSE!  As I said at the beginning of the post, if you can breathe, you can practice Pilates.  Set up a session with a Pilates Personal Trainer or look for a beginning class.  Remember the BEST exercise is the one you will actually do, so give Pilates a try, it’s worth it!

 

 

Why Core Strength Matters-In Faith & Pilates

Most of my days could be described as, well, scattered, mixed up.  In any given hour, I am performing work, homemaking, parenting, daughtering, and personal duties.  As my grandmother would say, I’m ‘from piller to post’ and back again.  Even when I know what kind of mixed up files  I will be dealing with every day, there are often things blown my way that blindside me.  I, then, have to add whatever that is to the mix.  So, what do I do when things get mixed up? Mixed in?  I think this goes back to foundation.  If the foundation is strong, then no matter what gets mixed into our lives, we will not fall.  Sure, we may get battered and experience pain, but in the end we stand firm.  But if we do not have a solid foundation, we get injured, we crumble, we fall.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27English Standard Version (ESV)

 

 rock strength

In this parable, we see that a solid foundation is built on God’s word AND the practice of it.  We also see that both houses experience unexpected things, thrown their way.  But it is the one with the solid foundation that remains.

So, what does this have to do with Pilates?  Well, the Pilates method has several principles, but the main one is this:  the center or core of the body is where all movement should initiate.  If the core is strong then all movements are anchored keeping the body aligned and protected.  Even when the unexpected things happen, the core will hold fast, activating to keep you stable and anchored.  The core is the foundation of the body.  When it is strong the body can withstand outside pressure or storms that would otherwise destroy us.  But it takes an understanding and practice of the core for it to be strengthened.  Just like our walk of faith, we must stay connected and centered in the core of God’s word, learning and practicing it, so that we can stay aligned, upright and protected.  Whether we have this foundation or not, the storms will come, we will be tossed around.  It will be the strength of the core foundation, built with understanding and practice, that will sustain us.

COREconnection: The Rest Work is the Best Work

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15a

 

It is often tempting for me to think that if I am not working I am lazy.  Whether this be with work inside my home, at my ‘desk’ job, or in the gym.  I feel like I have to be doing something in order to be accomplishing something.  But this is not Biblical.  Yes, there are many verses that outline and describe the importance of diligent work.  Even the commandment on keeping the Sabbath begins with “For 6 days you shall work…”  So yes, working is important and necessary to get things done, in our homes, in our offices, in our faith, and in our fitness.  But rest is also necessary to get things done.  In fact, it’s what actually makes us stronger.

From a fitness perspective, we know that lifting weights and resistance training helps us to build muscle strength.  Many of us however, do not realize that it is not the actual lifting of the weight that builds the muscle.  It is the recovery/rest period after the work that the body uses to repair- and strengthen- the muscle.  The weights themselves actually damage, or tear down the muscle.  During the recovery and rest phase, when outwardly it may seem like we are being ‘lazy’ that day, is the time when the body is doing the ‘work’ of building the muscle as it repairs it.

This is a lesson for us in our faith-building as well. We often feel like if we are not working diligently through volunteering or serving in church, running a ministry, or going on mission trips, that we are not getting strengthened in our faith.  For me, I feel like if I am not constantly doing a new Bible study or pouring through the concordances for that deeper engagement of my mind, then I am not getting stronger.  But this is a slippery slope.  Similar to fitness, if we work and push harder all the time, we miss the quiet rest that God has given us through His Holy Spirit.  Yes, I can read through the book of Acts in 2 weeks, but if I am just working to get through it and not resting in the truths of it, then it is not helping me strengthen my faith.  Yes, I can serve my church in a variety of ways, but if I do not take the time to rest in a quiet time, praying, for example, I can easily get burned out, and possibly weakened and injured.

I don’t know about you, but whether it be in faith or fitness, I don’t want to be sidelined because I am afraid to sit out.  I want to remember God’s word in Isaiah 30:15 that reminds me that my strength is found in quietness and rest, returning to Him before, during, and after my work, is what will save me and make me stronger.  For it is only when we are safe and strong that we can truly do His work.  So don’t be afraid to rest, sometimes the best “work” is in the “rest” work!

 

CORE2CROSS: Moving in FLOW

This is the CORE2CROSS devotion from COREpilates Lenten Series:

The Pilates principle of Flow incorporates all of the other Pilates principles.  We begin our practice with awareness of the core and move with precision and control using the breath to engage the core muscles and keep us in proper alignment.  Pilates uses the strength of the core to coordinate movements of the body.  The energy created from within this core moves out through the body in order to activate and engage each and every muscle resulting in greater overall strength.

The flow of our faith works in much the same way.  Once we are aware of the CORE of our faith and become aligned with God’s Will, we move with the breath of the Holy Spirit to with control and precision through our lives.  We continue this practice as the core of our faith strengthens and begins to flow- or overflow- into our daily lives, and into the lives of others.  We see this in Christ’s journey to the cross:

    (Luke 6: 17-22) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.  Looking at his disciples, he said:  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Jesus, aware and aligned with His core faith,  baptized with the Holy Spirit, moving with precision and control, begins to move through His life and the lives of those around Him.  The CORE of His faith, activated by the breath of the Holy Spirit flows outward into the lives of others.  The same CORE that supports,  protects, and strengthens Him will flow out to support, protect, and strengthen all who come in contact with Him.

Because of Jesus’ journey to the CROSS, we receive this core engaging, strengthening BREATH of the Holy Spirit.  We study God’s Word, the CORE of our faith, to become aware of and aligned to His Will and purpose for our lives.  Our lives, in turn, begin to move with precision and control by the power of the Spirit breath strengthening us as it flows in us.  God’s Holy Spirit flows into us, within us, and finally, through us out into the world.  Anchored by our CORE to carry His CROSS.

CORE2CROSS-CORE Control: Moving with Precision

 

*This post is part of the Faithful Fitness Fridays/COREpilates Lenten Series 

One of the benefits of using Pilates for strength training is the concept of functional isolation.  By being aware of our bodies, maintaining proper alignment, and engaging the core through the use of the breath, we can learn how to use muscle CONTROL and move with PRECISION.   Isolating the muscles without the use of external supports like weight machines, equips us to use precision and control to move our muscles effectively and efficiently outside the “comforts” of the gym.  With Pilates we learn to use the CORE muscles to support us as we move each muscle precisely  instead of relying on machines to support our bodies while we work each muscle.

As we look at Jesus’ journey into the desert, we see how He steps away from the support and “comfort” of family and friends  in order to practice functional isolation of His faith “muscles”.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”  The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”  The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;  they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him. Luke 4:1-13

Here, He would use awareness of the CORE (God’s Word) and the breath of the Holy Spirit to maintain alignment with God’s will as He moved with precision and control against the resistance of the world.  With no external supports, He relies on the awareness of His CORE, the scriptures, and the breath of the Holy Spirit to maintain alignment as He moves with functional isolation-using precise, controlled movements.  As He does so, the CORE strengthens, providing, protecting, and giving power against resistance.

In Pilates movements, we must be aware of the muscles we intend to use, maintain proper alignment, engage our CORE by using the breath, and move with precision and control through each movement.  It is in this practice of functional isolation we build strength in the CORE of our bodies.Our lives, too, must be a practice in functional isolation through the awareness of God’s word and alignment to His will.  It is easy to practice our faith in the security of external supports- Bible Studies, church activities, places where others support, protect, and give us strength through encouragement.  However, sometimes God calls us in to “dry places”.  Perhaps He does so in order to remove the external supports  from our lives so that we might strengthen the internal the CORE-His presence within us.  If we are aware of God’s Word and maintain alignment to His will by engaging the CORE with the breath of the Holy Spirit, we are able to move through these new territories with precision and control.  Just like Jesus, we activate our CORE in Christ, breathing in the Holy Spirit, and breath our God’s sustaining, protecting, and powerful Word.  Filling the “dry places” with refreshing, reviving, restoring TRUTH.

CORE2CROSS-Engaging the CORE through BREATHING

One of the most common mantras in Pilates is the command, “Pull your navel to your spine.”   In order to do this, you need to engage all of the core muscles or the “powerhouse” from the base of the pelvic floor to the bottom of the diaphragm. (Brian Alger)  Pilates uses the lateral breathing technique to keep the abdominals deeply contracted or pulled in during the inhalation and exhalation processes.  Breathing deeply, all the way down the spine and into the pelvic bowl, we work toward expanding the breath into the back and sides of the ribcage.  Benefits of this type of breathing include improving circulation, increased focus, and rejuvenation and restoration of energy by providing more oxygen to the muscles and brain.  The most significant benefit of this breath, however, is that by correctly using the breath to engage the core, our spine is protected and we are given extra support through each exercise.   The core strengthens with the use of the breath to support, protect, and move us with effectiveness through the exercises.

As we continue to look at the path that Jesus would take to the CROSS, we see how awareness of His purpose and His continued alignment to it would be followed by the engagement of His CORE by the BREATH of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3: 21-23

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven; ‘You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Now Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry.”

Jesus’ awareness of His role and His alignment to God’s will would require a steady Breath that would continually circulate through and refresh His body, focus His mind, revive and restore His energy as He flowed with precision through the movements-the path- set before Him.  At His baptism, Jesus receives this vital breath from His Father in the form of the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit would hold Him firmly in God’s Will- as He walked toward trials and temptations on the way to the CROSS, He would be supported and protected by the Strength of the CORE.

An article about the Breath of God/the Breath of Life/The Holy Spirit:

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/gordon-hs_teaching.aspx

How to practice Pilates breathing technique:

http://www.pilates-trends.com/pilates_breathing.html

CORE2CROSS -Alignment

 

*This devotion originally presented during a CORE2CROSS Pilates session (March 2011 and 2012) and focuses on the importance of both Spinal Alignment for Pilates work and Spiritual Alignment for God’s work. 

CORE2CROSS-ALIGNMENT

The second Pilates principle is alignment.  Once we become aware of the body’s intended alignment, we can begin to work toward bringing ourselves into this alignment or neutral spine position.  Achieving and maintaining alignment places all of the muscles and joints in the proper place providing our bodies the protection and support.   Our resulting good posture aids in more productive and efficient movements in our daily lives.  However, when we are out of alignment, we place stress on our bodies which results in pain, bad-posture, inefficient and ineffective movements.

The benefits of spinal alignment include building of the core muscles, sometimes referred to as stabilizers, help to support the spine in “readiness for activity.”  By being protected by this core, we can move more effectively without fear of injury or pain.  Although this physical alignment is important, our spiritual alignment is also crucial for protection, support, and effectiveness in our life’s movements.  Proper alignment of our will to God’s results in protection and support from our Heavenly Father.  By increasing our awareness of God’s will for us, we begin to strengthen the CORE of our faith, stabilizing and supporting us.  With this “readiness for activity” we can move with protection and support efficiently and effectively toward the goal, walking in alignment with His will, carrying the cross He has for us.

In our examination of Jesus’ path toward the Cross, we can see how alignment follows awareness.  In Luke 2:46 we see Him practicing awareness, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  It would then be time for Jesus to begin finding and maintaining the alignment to God’s will as he moved.  The CORE strengthened, He is supported and protected in “readiness for activity.”  *Note here that His alignment begins immediately with His awareness-nothing, not even His parents leaving to make their own journey, pulls Him out of alignment with the center of His faith, the Temple, His CORE.   The very next verse after leaving the temple shows Jesus’ first movements in alignment.  Luke 2:51-52 tells us, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them…And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  You see, Jesus, strengthened in the CORE of His faith- the scriptures was able to stay in alignment as He began his walk toward the goal- to carry the CROSS.   Psalm 143:10 illustrates how becoming aware, learning God’s will can be a stabilizing force. The psalmist says, “Teach me to do your will-may your Spirit lead me to level ground.”  If we allow God to teach us His will, and walk in it by maintaining alignment, our daily activities will be effective, efficient, and supported by His Spirit.  Jesus would demonstrate this very truth as He began His journey toward the cross.  By building His CORE strength, He would show the “readiness of activity” that God would ask of Him.  Next, He would engage His stabilizing CORE with the Breath of the Holy Spirit, then moving with precision and control through His life on Earth, He would show us all how to flow through the movements of our faith by keeping the focus on the Father-the ultimate Stabilizing Core as He moved along God’s path for Him… for us—our ultimate Stabilizer- our CORE, but HIS CROSS.

For more information about finding spinal alignment, see: http://www.complementary-therapists.com/pilates/alignment.htm orhttp://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesexercises/a/PilatesPosture.htm

For Bible verses related to Alignment to God’s Will for you, see:http://www.openbible.info/topics/gods_will