Pilates 101

My first encounter with Pilates was when I was about 15. I was undergoing a summer intensive program with my then ballet school, Ecole de Ballet, Manille. I recall it to be one of my best summers ever. We had class everyday from nine o’clock in the morning to twelve noon or even one o’clock in the afternoon. Each day of the week we trained with a different mentor aimed at helping us hone different skills and techniques for dance.

One of the mentors we worked with was Victor Ursabia. At the end of our first class, he taught us some core exercises that were very strange and new to us. The exercises were very different from the usual crunches and leg races we were accustomed to but they surely hit the sweet spot – the stomach muscles. He explained that these were Pilates exercises that he adapted for dancers.

After that, I had no encounter or exposure to Pilates. Though I would hear about it from a friend or two, and it was something I did want to try sometime, I never came to a firm decision to actually take a class.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I found myself myself in a nearby Pilates studio called Pilates Manila. My parents decided to enroll because they were told Pilates could help solve or alleviate some aches and pains they had been complaining about. As to how exactly this is possible, I have yet to find out. I eagerly joined them to get to know more about the exercises and how these could further enhance my body strength and range of movement.

After completing just my third class this week, I came out of it challenged and more engrossed in this new form of exercise. Based on the first set of movements I learned, I would describe Pilates as a set of strengthening and stretching exercises that focus on awareness and dynamics of the mind and body. What makes Pilates interesting to me is the needed  consciousness of mind to be able to deliberately activate the right muscles to perform a certain set of movements. The most crucial set of muscles in all the movements is none other than the core. I discovered that if I didn’t deliberately activate the right muscles, most especially my core, I could not perform the movement well and had much difficulty OR I’d end up straining myself. It’s as much a mental activity as it is a physical one.

In other sports and activities I took part in, I found that the movements were more natural to the body. I didn’t have problems in figuring out the execution and I felt like my body just somehow new what to do. Dancing came quite naturally, wushu felt similar to ballet with more speed and power, running required a little adjustment in form, and tennis incorporated coordination and agility in basic movements. Pilates, however, heightened my awareness of the different muscles in my body and my capacity to intentionally engage each and every one of them. It’s a whole new perspective of my body, how it moves, and how much more potential it has to perform and develop.

What helps a lot in discovering the capabilities and the connection of the mind and body are the machines. The machines help steer each movement towards the targeted muscle group. At first they looked intimidating, kind of like torture machines (that’s my imagination getting the better of me), but in actuality, they allow for more dynamic body actions with the proper limb placement and direction.

I can’t wait to learn more! I’m really loving the exercises and I will observe how these will manifest in my movements and improve my skills in the other sports and activities. I will definitely share the results with all of you. 🙂

Love, Micki.

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