By Elaine Ewing
If you are one of the many Pilates students who practices Pilates mat exercises at home, you are doing a great job at taking responsibility for your physical and mental fitness! These days, anyone can do Pilates at home with a book, dvd, or podcast. While finding a way to do Pilates at home has gotten easier in the past few years, doing Pilates properly without a live instructor will always be a challenge. Here are five tips on how to get the most out of your Pilates mat workout at home.
1. Take at least one private lesson at a Pilates studio. The most important aspect of Pilates, and the way to guarantee results from the exercises, is to do the exercises properly. Correct form, correct breathing, and the correct order of exercises are very important. Visiting a Pilates studio and taking a private lesson with a certified Pilates instructor can really help propel your home Pilates practice. Call your local Pilates studio and let them know that you want a private lesson on the mat exercises. An experienced instructor can take you through each exercise in the mat routine, make sure you’re doing each exercise properly, and offer you some helpful tips specifically for your unique body- that’s something you can’t get from a book or video.
2. Slow down. Rushing through Pilates is one of the worst things you can do, as it can compromise your back or your neck, and the quality of your movements. Honor each and every position of the exercises, feel every muscle in your body work in unison, keep your core muscles engaged, and take the time to fully inhale and exhale as you go. The difference will amaze you!
3. No pain, no gain? If this is your mantra for Pilates, you need a new mantra! In Pilates, there should never be pain during any exercise, especially not in the back or neck. Pain could be due to spinal problems, disk problems, improper form, or weak core muscles. Pain can also result if you are trying to advance too quickly through the exercises before your body is ready. If you are aware of a spinal problem that you do have, there are certain Pilates exercises that you should not do. If you are experiencing pain during your Pilates routine, a visit to a Pilates studio could make all the difference in the world. An instructor can help you figure out which exercises to avoid, and give you different exercises to do in their place.
4. Give yourself enough space. If space is an issue at your house, take some extra time before your Pilates routine to make adequate room around your mat. One of the fundamental aspects of Pilates is “lengthening” the whole body. Quite difficult to do if your arms wack the coffee table every time you circle them around! Lay your mat out on the floor and lay down. Reach your arms back behind you, then circle them out to the sides. They should not hit any furniture, and should move freely. Next, lay on your side, and reach both legs straight out in front your body. They should be able to straighten and not feel hindered by anything in their way. Make sure you have room on both sides. Giving yourself room all around your body will change the way you move and feel during and after your Pilates workout.
5. Hit all major muscle groups. Pilates exercises are famous for working the whole body, while each exercise targets a particular area of the body. It is very important to work your way through each and every muscle group, making sure not to skip any exercises. Many Pilates students who practice at home make the mistake of skipping exercises they don’t like or don’t understand. Another common mistake is focusing on the abdominal exercises in Pilates and skipping other that are just as important- such as the standing exercises, or exercises laying on the stomach. One of the most important elements of Pilates is balance. Focusing on the abdominals, but not exercising the back muscles will create an imbalance throughout the whole body. If stomach-laying exercises hurt your back, consult a Pilates instructor for assistance, or add a few extra standing exercises into your routine so you’re sure to work your back and your arms adequately.
Elaine is the author of her own blog, “Heads Up On Your Body.”
If you’re interested in working with someone, you can find Pilates instructors on Betterfly.