How to Improve Pilates at Home
You may have seen them before: The perfectly vertical person standing in front of you at Starbucks; the woman walking down the street who seems to breathe with deep, measured intention; or the girl who does a roll-down instead of just flopping onto the coach like everyone else. These people have taken the lessons of Pilates and incorporated their practice into day-to-day life (well, either that or there’s something not quite right).
And while you don’t have to deprive yourself of a good jump onto the sofa after a hard day’s work, there are some simple changes you can make throughout the day. Changes that will improve not only your Pilates practice, but also help maintain the effects of the class in a more sustained, practical way.
Here are some easy little things you can do anywhere outside of class that will make a difference.
1. Maintain Good Posture
It is important to maintain good, straight posture, whether you’re walking to the office break room or just sitting in your car in the morning commute. Days in front of the computer or on our feet often lead to slouching—a habit that can be a difficult habit to break.
So the next time you have a free second, try sitting up straighter. The more you remind yourself, the more nature it will become. And having good posture will not only will it improve the health of your spine and assist your Pilates alignment, it will also make you appear more poised and confident (a definite bonus)!
2. Engage Your Abs
Try engaging your abdominals throughout the day, even when you’re just standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at your desk. “Scooping” them like you do when you’re in Pilates class is an easy, subtle way to activate the core.
By engaging and holding the abdominals for little moments scattered during the day, you’re helping to maintain muscle memory learned during Pilates class, as well as building a little bit more strength in your powerhouse. And who doesn’t want that come swimsuit season?
3. Repeat Breathing Patterns
Rush hour traffic is never fun or easy to endure, but instead of getting angry the next time you’re in a jam, start practicing your Pilates breathing.
Maintain even breath for the in and out counts, pacing it steadily till you get to your destination. This will help your breathing come more naturally in the next Pilates class—and you’ll find yourself a little more relaxed to boot.
4. Roll down to Get down
Roll-downs are a great exercise for the entire body—so why not take the move with you wherever you go?
Try doing a slow roll-down the next time you’re getting ready to lie in bed or recline on the couch with a book, instead of just flopping down. The same goes for getting up: Rather than popping up using your arms, try going through a roll-up, working past every individual vertebra of the spine until you are in a seated position.
If you find yourself feeling exceptionally motivated, keep going! Do roll-downs and roll-ups until you get tired. Who knew getting off the couch could turn into a legitimate workout?
5. Remember the Counter Stretch
In Pilates, there’s a counter stretch for every exercise. The counter stretch helps balance out the tightness gathered in the muscles from the previous exercise with a bit of lengthening movement.
Apply the counter stretch principle to your life, and counter every sustained posture with a stretch that lengthens the muscles you were contracting: If you’re sitting at your desk with your head down for too long, try lengthening out in a reclined position; If your arms are constantly stretched forward, try extending them behind you. This will loosen up muscles that easily gather knots and rebalance your body, benefiting both your Pilates and your daily life.
6. Activate Your Pelvic Floor
One of the most important principles in Pilates is the concept of the imprinted pelvis. By keeping the pelvis in a relatively neutral position at all times, tipped neither forward nor back, the alignment of the spine—and the entire body—is improved.
Try keeping your pelvis in this neutral position throughout the day, whether you’re sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Activating the muscles that keep your pelvis in neutral just a few times a day will improve your overall posture, spinal alignment, and allow you to get the feeling of an imprinted pelvis more easily in your next Pilates class.
Though it may seem strange to do at first (especially in public), factoring the principles of Pilates into your daily life will not only make class easier, but also promote a healthier and more aligned body in your daily life. So what are you waiting for? Start clenching those abs!