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My Pilates Journey Week 2 – Subtle Differences

2nd July 2018

To those of you who have not (yet?) seen my previous blog entry, I’m Laura, a programming intern set out to test myself by doing Pilates daily. I’m back with another blog; this week I’ll be writing about my experience with Matwork.

The two pictures presented with this blog are the same pose before and after I received detailed instructions - read along to find out how my posture changed and why!

As a jujitsu practitioner, I am quite familiar with groundwork: we often practice grappling in my club. Your goal when fighting on the ground is to have your opponent submit, by holding them in a position that completely restricts their movement, or putting a choke/lock on them. A lot of people assume that those with a stronger and heavier build have the upper hand in this. In reality, it’s more about strategy, reacting to your opponent’s movements, and having a strong core.

Pilates Mat classes aim to strengthen the core by focusing on individual muscles and joints. What that means is that it can isolate body parts that I don’t use so often, and force me to rely on them for the motion. As I am used to more dynamic movements, it takes a lot of concentration to keep most of my body still while part of it is doing the workout.

A good example of the challenge that Mat has posed to me are the side-lying leg lifts, where you lay down on your side and lift a straight leg up and down, front and back, or move it in circles. Standing up, I can kick above my head, using my upper body as a pendulum to power the kick. But in this technique, you’re meant to lift your leg from the hip joint, without relying on the rest of your body. This results in a smaller range for the lift, and in my case, a burning sensation in the muscles around my thigh at any attempt to hold my leg up.

Even more than core-focused techniques, I enjoy the stretches we do in Matwork. Carrying my backpack to the studio and back every day has given me stiff shoulders, and Mat classes are very helpful at easing them up. I am likely too eager about stretches, as a few times I got brief spasms because I rotated too far!

I hope to get a better grasp on my physical limits in the future.

EDIT: I came in today to find my blog taken down! As it turns out it was taken down for reasons that further illustrate my point: it shows how subtle Pilates movements are. The pictures I uploaded with the blog weren't in good form, so we retook it, this time supervised.

My old pose - shown on the picture below - was a big back extension, with as few points of contact as possible (as because of my background, I expected this movement to be about back flexibility, and a means to strengthen limbs by holding them as high as possible). What I've just found out is that it's actually about correcting posture. I slouch a lot each day as I type on computers, and when done correctly - as shown on the picture on top - this exercise presents another extreme: it brings the neck back while keeping it straight, lifts the belly button off the ground and keeps the legs firmly together. It is not the big dynamic motion that I'm used to, and I believe it's less about increasing endurance and more about improving overall posture, and preventing any damage that may derive from that.

To continue reading of my experience with Pilates, click here!


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