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Tips for Practicing Pilates Safely at Home
May 20, 2020
by Celia Polyzou
With studios shut down due to the temporary lockdown, exercising at home has been the next best thing, with plenty of pre-recorded and live streaming options. Skipping traffic and working out from the comfort of your own home might have its perks, however attending a class in-person can offer more context and support. When you practice at the studio you can understand the instructor's queues more clearly, obtain observable feedback from the instructor, the rest of the class or simply by looking at yourself in the mirror. Most importantly you have access to real time adjustments from the instructor. Whether you are trying to keep up with your pre-quarantine workout routine or you are taking online classes for the first time, proper form is necessary in order to work out safely and avoid any strains or injuries. Here are a few common mistakes most people make while exercising and a few tips on how to improve your Pilates workouts.
Curl ups: Are you experiencing neck pain after core work? You are not alone. Our favorite core burners, the hundreds and the series of five are the usual culprits. Students trying to lift their heads by pulling on their necks instead of engaging their core, has been a common mistake I witness in all my classes. That can put unnecessary pressure on the cervical spine and as you might have guessed, will not help fire your abs. In order to avoid straining your neck, think of pulling your belly button in toward your spine to activate your deep abdominal muscles. Curl you head and chest up to the bottom of your shoulder blades, high enough to look at your lower abs. Keep your chest open and your shoulders back and down, away from your ears. If the exercise calls for hands behind the head, let the weight of your head rest in your hands, elbows wide to the sides. If you are still experiencing neck tension, your abs are probably too weak. Simply keep your head on the floor and try curling up only for a few repetitions, following the guidelines above.
Neutral spine: You will hear this term a million times during your Pilates class. Maintaining a neutral spine is crucial in order to avoid disc compression and preserve the natural curves of the spine. To find neutral, lay supine with your knees bent, feet parallel and flat on the floor. Feel your sacrum on the mat and arch your back slightly, creating a small gap underneath the low back. Your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine or simply put, your hip bones) should be in line with your pubic bone. Draw your navel toward your spine and visualize balancing a glass of water on your belly.
Planks: Proper form and core engagement are of outmost importance when planking. Misalignments in this pose can cause neck, wrist or low back strain. To practice planking safely, start by stacking your shoulders over your wrists. Press the floor away, broadening your shoulder blades. Keep a soft bend in the elbows and your gaze down toward the floor, elongating your neck. Draw your belly button toward your spine to activate your core. Hips are leveled, legs are engaged. Maintain a straight line from the crown of your head all the way to your heels. If this feels too challenging, regress the pose by bringing your knees to the floor or try a forearm plank instead.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to breathe!