Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pilates Mat Class Q&A

Have you ever taken a mat class, and wondered why we teach them the way we do? I’ve been teaching mat classes since 1999, and I hear these same questions over and over. Let’s address them!

Why use “Magic Circles”?
The magic circle is a tool that adds resistance to an exercise. It is a circle with cushions on the side comprised of a metal band (or several bands) inside that bends when you squeeze it. When you press into the cushions of the circle, you strengthen your body. Specifically, the circle can make your inner thighs work harder (like in double leg stretch), strengthen your arms (like in spine stretch forward), or engage your pelvic floor and lower abdominals (like the roll-down).

Teachers will choose to use the circle for various reasons; to strengthen specific body parts, to stretch your legs, to check for evenness (or demonstrate unevenness), to add variety to your mat routine, and to integrate or connect your legs, hips, back, and abdominals to each other. It’s tough (!) so if you are new to using the circle, make the movement smaller and focus on what the instructor is saying.

What should I wear?
Pilates Instructors like to see your form, so wear something fitted to your body. We want to see your back (to see if you are sitting up straight), your shoulders (to see if they are up to your ears) and your hips, your knees, even your ankles. Long pants need to be rolled up so we can watch your ankle and foot alignment when you stand. Don’t wear your shoes to class. We work the foot and the arch so wear socks or bare feet. Please wear your hair out of your face so we can see your neck. Also, leave your jewelry at home. It’s clunky, noisy, and you end up fussing with it.

What should I tell the instructor about me?
An instructor will want to know if you are brand new to Pilates, how many sessions or classes you’ve taken, and maybe what style of Pilates you’ve done. Let her know if you have had any recent or long-term injuries, esp. any surgeries, including childbirth. Most everyone can do Pilates, but there are some conditions that are contraindicated (not allowed) in Pilates, including pregnancy (unless you have been doing Pilates before you became pregnant), severe osteoporosis, and certain spinal conditions that do not allow for much flexion (bending forward).

Written by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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