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Questions for your Pilates teacher:

Updated: 5 days ago

When do I breathe?

This question always brings a smile to my face. The simple answer is to breathe continuously and deeply throughout your practice. Breathing is essential to life; our bodies naturally know when to inhale and exhale. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow for Pilates.

In classical Pilates, you often synchronize your breath with the movement of the springs, inhaling as the spring stretches away from you or within your line of sight on the Cadillac. Inhaling during this phase can create oppositional energy and provide oxygen to your muscles.

While your Pilates instructor may offer breathing cues, it is crucial to listen to your body's needs. Everyone's breath timing is unique, and strictly following cues may lead to hyperventilation or running out of breath. Allow your breathing to flow naturally and focus on continuous movement.

Breathing patterns can be modified as your practice evolves. Joe Pilates did not emphasize specific breathing cues for each exercise, recognizing that individuals might need to adapt their breathing to their unique needs. As a beginner, prioritize movement and let your breath follow. With time, you can refine your breathing technique to enhance your Pilates practice.

In conclusion, breathing is an essential component of Pilates, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Be attentive to your body's needs, and let your breath support your movement. Remember, your breath is a tool to enhance your practice, not a rigid rule to follow.

The breath is essential, but in the beginning, move. The breath is a tool, not a rule.

Where should I feel this?

The answer might surprise you—it's not necessarily in your abdominals. Scientific research has shown that simply thinking about engaging a muscle doesn't guarantee it's activated. Even if you believe you're engaging a muscle and your instructor thinks they see it, the muscle fibers might not be involved. This is why cues for pelvic floor engagement are no longer considered within a Pilates instructor's purview unless they are also a PT specializing in Pelvic floor health.

Thinking of specific muscle engagement can help prepare for movement, but only moving against force or exertion can activate muscle fibers. Additionally, muscle activation isn't isolated to a single muscle—everything is interconnected.

Focusing too much on engaging specific muscles can create tension patterns and hinder optimal movement. We don't consciously think about muscle engagement when performing daily tasks like picking up children or putting away groceries, as the mental load would be exhausting! The Pilates method, when taught correctly, helps create connections through movement, eventually linking to full body strength, connecting the core and breath.

As you work against resistance, you'll experience different sensations. Everyone's experience is unique, and the areas where you feel these sensations will change each time you practice.

Moving against a force can create sensations where, over time, connections can be felt. Some teachers can take you on a cueing journey, which can be fun, but the work itself creates a felt sensation.

Where and when you feel something will be your unique experience.

Am I doing this correctly?

Yes, you are! Pilates is a journey, and each moment is exactly right for your practice at that particular time. Your technique can continually be improved, and you can work on refining your use of oppositional energy, deepening your exhale, and closing the carriage quietly.

Remember that not every exercise is suitable for everyone. Pilates offers hundreds of exercises and multiple apparatuses to support your unique journey. If you experience neck, shoulder, or lower back tension during specific exercises, such as Swan on the mat, practicing on a different apparatus, like the high barrel, may be more beneficial for you.

Keep exploring and learning, and trust that your Pilates practice will continue to evolve as you gain experience and understanding.

Is it normal for my neck to hurt?

No, it's not normal or desirable for your neck to hurt during Pilates exercises. If you experience neck pain, listening to your body and making adjustments is essential. Try putting your head down and continuing the movement, but avoid straining your neck further.

After class, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for assistance with proper positioning. They may provide you with some "homework" exercises or adjustments to help alleviate the discomfort and ensure you're performing the exercises correctly.

Remember, your safety and comfort are top priorities during Pilates practice. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to ask—I'm here to help!

See you soon,

Caroline and Zoey



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