Backbends and Gravity: Exploring Shapes in Pilates
One of my long time fascinations with Pilates is exploring the similarities of the exercises and how their differing relationships to gravity (or use of different apparatus) impacts them. For example, the Thigh Stretch is a vertical version of the Shoulder Bridge, while Rocking is an inverted version of it, and the Kneeling Side Kick Series explores it all in a side kneeling position. The most exciting thing about these connections is that they make the exercises accessible to every body, the advanced exercises now become more palatable, and whether the exercises you do are basic or advanced, you can reap similar benefits no matter what.
I remember my first attempt at Rocking. Lifting and running were my primary means of exercise back then, and with little mobility work, I was tight in my chest and quads, and had no connection to my core. I had some natural flexibility in my low back but still couldn't do the exercise. It was painful on my knees and uncomfortable in my low back. And so, I never specifically revisited Rocking and just kept up with a more intermediate Pilates practice.
Fast forward to several years later, I took a class taught by my good friend and colleague Allison Bowers (Check her out here! https://www.allisonbowerspilates.com/), and sure enough she chose Rocking as one of the exercises. I didn't think too much of it and just went for it; and like magic, my body picked right up into it and I was able to "effortlessly" execute it in a way that felt aligned, connected and powerful.
While an advanced backbend may not be in the cards yet, the Shoulder Bridge or Single Leg Kick may be. And practicing them well (well being the keyword!), will take you into exercises that you never thought possible. There is SO much to be gained by mastering the foundational movements and acknowledging where you are in the moment, without giving in to ego or lack of patience (life lessons 101 via Pilates). When you skip steps, like throwing yourself up in the Roll Up, you skip building up the strength and correct muscle recruitment to properly execute an exercise. You may be able to muscle through some of the more advanced exercises, but never in a way that are good for the body, and never in a way that will allow you to safely progress to the more advanced exercises.
You don't have to do a fancy backbend to get the benefits of it.
When you understand this, you understand that you are getting similar benefits for your body and alignment even with the most basic of exercises. For example, engaging the abs, stretching through the front of the body and working the back of the body are all present in a foundational extension or a super advanced one!
Pilates is just as much a way of life as it is a way of movement. And while there are so many layers in this genius body of work, there is no secret in how you can access the magic. Follow the principles, remain patient, consistent, and honest with your practice, and you will definitely surprise yourself.
Don't miss a chance to practice with me in my FREE Tuesday night zoom class!
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