With the recent change from Yoga Fitness to Gentle Flow Pilates, I said I would give further explanation of the changes and how they benefit us. To begin, I have chosen to focus on the Principles of Pilates. The first of those being centering.
Centering can be a somewhat ambiguous term when it comes to yoga, Pilates, and the mind-body-wellness, disciplines.
One yoga instructor/teacher describes centering as "A centering is like a warm up for the yogic mind. It's a dedicated time for you to completely quiet the mind, and set an intention for your practice, making your yoga session more focused.".
That's pretty clear. However, in Pilates it's more. It involves our center or our core, where all our movement is supported. And that is perhaps why in the line up of Pilates Principles centering is first. Mastering the Pilates centering will allow for the other principles to be mastered over time.
Pilates centering has both physical and mental applications. As we move through our morning session of Gentle Flow Pilates, we remember to focus with each movement on our core, our powerhouse, as it is known in Pilates. From it's origins, Pilates techniques are very foundational to fitness and wellness. The techniques are movements, and guiding principles that are essential to creating a healthy, pain free, body. In fact, the techniques have been embraced throughout much of the fitness and wellness industry, even into physical therapy. I include them in what I call 'foundationals'. These principles are the very foundation of a strong, pain free body.
Learning the Pilates centering technique and applying it in your day to day, and your other fitness classes will enhance your fitness experience and benefit you in many ways. I teach it in all my classes periodically and cue it continually. "Navel in and up! That's been my theme for all these many years of personal training and teaching.
Specifically our center is the area from the lower ribs to our pubic bone. Centering is bringing our focus to that area and engaging those muscles. Simply stated, engaging those muscles means drawing our navel back towards our spine.
You hear me frequently cuing, 'engage your abdominals', 'draw your navel into your spine'. Lengthening your spine is a part of the technique.
First the "How To" of Physical Pilates Centering: Stand tall, lengthening your spine. Then focus your mind to your center, and begin drawing your navel back to your spine. (more advanced for those who have worked with me a while and have practiced, may add bringing the navel up toward your ribcage)
That's it! Simple huh? 😊 here are a few tips to keep it simple. (KISS method... keep it simple sweetie. That's my version. Work in the positive and uplifting. It carries us much further than the negative.)
Tip # 1: Relax Your Shoulders: As you stand tall, lengthening your spine, check your shoulders, are they relaxed or tense? If they are tense, relax...allow them to rest heavy with your arms, not engaging.
Tip# 2: Allow for the gentle curves of your spine: Avoid flattening out your back. As you engage your core, by drawing your navel in to your spine, keep your spine relaxed and in its natural state or position.
Tip 3: Breath freely: Inhale and exhale. Avoid drawing the breath in with navel to the spine. Practice by drawing the navel to the spine and holding the navel in while then inhaling and exhaling for a few breaths, just to keep breathing freely. Other wise we tense up, lift our shoulders and hold our breath. BREATHE!!!!
That was the Pilates Centering technique for the physical or the body. Now for the mind. This one I do believe in all my years of teaching, I observe this one to be the hardest.
Second the "How To" of Pilates Centering For The Mind. Pilates centering also means staying focused on yourself, rather than comparing yourself to others.
Tip #1: Every body is different, with a different genetic make up, a different life experience.
Tip # 2: Focus your thoughts on you, without comparison to others and so much of the stresses you feel whether in class or in your day to day, will melt away.
:Tip # 3: Question the many stresses we feel. Many of them come from setting expectations that are based in what others may think of us, be it family members, or the voices of family members still in our heads from years ago, or simply what the class mate across the room looks like in her cute fitness clothes and her ability to do the (yoga) poses we may never achieve.
See. This one is harder than navel in and up, but oh so worth practicing. This one makes us more graceful... or should I say full of grace. As we appreciate ourselves and how our Creator made us each unique we will stand taller with new found confidence even in our mature years. And we will find ourselves more graceful as we question the voices in our minds that we have so long been allowing to influence our decisions. Question them. "Are they legit, or have I embraced someone elses expectations or criticisms? Just some food for thought.
As you consider this, remember, these thoughts that we allow are from our very core, emotionally. Pilates Centering, strengthens your physical powerhouse and your emotional powerhouse.
But wait! There's more! There is more, but, I'm going to save it for another post, another time. Next time, we'll look at the many benefits of Pilates Centering and then the Pilates Stance, what it is, how to do it, and why would I want to.
Till then, Navel in and up!
Kimberly Camp- Hall
Certified Orthopedic Exercise Specialist
Certified Personal Trainer