Do you want to learn how to speak Pilates? I know you have had that mental moment in a Pilates class when the instructor says, “knit your ribs, zip up your abs, find your neutral spine,” and you think to yourself, what is she talking about? Then you start to wildly look around at other students so you can figure out what you are supposed to be doing? You are not alone! A lot of the terms used in Pilates classes are not straightforward, but with a little explanation, you will be able to speak the language of Pilates like a pro!
Here are the top 10 phrases you will hear in a Pilates class:
1. Relax your shoulders
You might walk around during the day with your shoulders all the way up to your ears. This creates tension in your neck and results in poor body mechanics. When your instructor says, “relax your shoulders,” you should try to drop your shoulders away from your ears. Sometimes, this is easier said than done, especially if you are stressed and tend to carry all of your tension in your shoulders. Those muscles will be tight. Envision your armpits pressing down towards your hips. Keep checking back in with your body to make sure your shoulders haven’t started to creep back up during your class.
2. Lengthen the back of your neck
Alot of modern jobs have you working at a computer or tablet for a portion of your day. This can cause you to have a forward head that puts tension on the back of your neck. When you are in your pilates class, be mindful of dropping your chin down slightly towards your chest. If you are doing this correctly, you will feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck. You will want to be conscious of this neck position when you are lying down and when you are seated.
3. Don’t pop your ribs
Popping your ribs happens when you don’t have the proper strength in your abdominals and you aren’t using your breath in the right way. This phrase can be a challenging one to understand for certain body types, so if you struggle with this one in class, make sure you ask your instructor for a one on one assessment. Basically, the best way to get your ribs to close is to connect in your upper abdominals, breathe in to your middle back, and lengthen your spine up!
4. Find your sitz bones
Sitz bones, or sitting bones, are the part of your pelvis that takes your weight when you sit. To find your Sitz Bones, sit up and try rocking slightly backward and forward to find the sensation of the two protruding bony parts at the very bottom of your pelvis. Sitting on your sitz bones is important for good posture because it allows you to maintain the proper tilt of your pelvis and elongates your spine.
5. Pull your navel to your spine
Ab exercises are not just about using your six-pack muscles to carry out an exercise. You need your deeper transverse abdominals to work too and this is what the phrase “pull your navel to your spine” is all about. This phrase is used to get you to contract your muscle that acts like an inner corset that wraps horizontally around your midsection from your ribs to your pelvis. To find your transverse, contract your muscles until you feel as though you have a wide belt cinched around your middle.
6. Find your neutral spine
Neutral spine is the natural position of your spine when all 3 curves, cervical/neck, thoracic/middle, and lumbar/low, are present and in good alignment. When it comes to your Pilates class, you want to be able to support your neutral spine while executing your moves. It’s important not to press your spine to the floor or let your pelvis wobble. Your goal is to find your neutral spine and then maintain it.
7. Engage your pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor is a matrix of muscles that live between the pubic bone, tailbone, and the sitz bones. To engage these muscles, imagine that you are contracting the pelvic muscles up towards your navel (belly button) and feel a lift. The pelvic floor muscles can be difficult to access because you can’t see them engaging, but with practice you will “feel” the pelvic floor connection.
8. Relax your face
Pilates can be challenging. It takes concentration and focus and sometimes those emotions can show up on your face. Make sure you are keeping the muscles in your face relaxed. You don’t need to add tension to your neck and jaw to complete your exercises. Check in with the muscles in your face during the harder exercises to make sure they are relaxed and tension-free.
9. Draw your shoulder blades back
Your everyday activities like working on a computer or driving a car, can cause your shoulders to slump forward because the muscles in the front of your shoulders get tight. Use the time in your pilates class to reverse those effects by drawing your shoulder blades back. To find the right position, imagine that you are trying to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades. This imagery is very important when you are working your back muscles.
10. Engage your smile muscles
This phrase can be confusing because these muscles are not on your face. Your “smile muscles” are the muscles at the base of your booty where the backs of your thighs insert into your pelvis. They form a smiling U shape under each cheek when they are engaged. You will know you are working the right muscles when your booty starts to get a nice lift!
Interested in seeing some of these phrases in action?
Try this complete 30 minute Workout!