I don’t know whether it is because we’re becoming human doings more than beings, but so much of the focus in Pilates and other fitness classes tends to be on the movement. That’s great as we want to be freely mobile in our day-to-day lives, but often in practice and in my classes I like to focus on what is NOT moving.
The movement in Pilates exercises can often be the easy part, with the hard work coming in stabilising the areas we want to keep static. This is how Pilates is so good at working the smaller, ‘stabilising’ muscles which are often neglected in everyday life or at the gym. We need these muscles to keep us upright and our body parts in all the right places. Over time the bigger ‘mover’ muscles can end up taking over this job for various reasons, which can lead to joint, muscle and nerve damage. So as you can see, what is not moving in Pilates is incredibly important.
Once the movement in an exercise becomes second nature and almost subconscious, (and this will happen quicker than you may think) you can place your focus primarily on the parts of your body not moving. This is when you will really start benefiting from Pilates and experiencing postural improvements, pain reduction, and injury reduction.
I find it useful to when possible use the eye gaze look at the area I am stabilising. This is possible in supine (lying) positions. If my head is down (eg ‘bent knee fall out’, ‘single leg circles’) I look out of the bottom of my eyes at either my pelvis or the leg I am keeping static. I find this not only helps the brain connection to the area of the body, but has the additional function of improving my head alignment. As your eyes look down it helps with the slight tucking of the chin to lengthen the neck correctly. Give it a try and see if it works for you. When my head is off the ground (eg ‘ab prep 2’, ‘the hundred’) I try to keep my eyes in the centre whilst again either looking at my pelvis or legs. Using your eyes in this way again also helps with alignment and getting a good, even curve through the upper back and neck.
So next time you’re in class think about what you’re not moving and get those eyes doing some of the work for you. I hope that helps and let me know how you get on.