Opening Your Inner and Outer Circles

Woman on reformer equipment

In exercises where you roll back off your sits bones (like Half Roll Back on the mat or box) it’s easy to simply tuck the pelvis and follow the natural momentum of rocking back toward the sacrum and lower back. But I’ve often experienced a “sinking feeling” as I roll into that curve. My ribs and hips travel toward each other at warp speed and I end up looking like a squished Slinky. Not exactly the Pilates look I’m going...

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Let Your Breath Drive Your Movement

Valya Karcher

The slower you go the faster you will see results. The best thing I’ve found that slows me down is my breath. Inhale slowly to a 4 or 5 count and exhale the same. Let your breath be the force that moves your body through your Pilates workout. Instead of arms and legs racing out of the starting gate first, think breath. Just like your car needs to fill up with gas before it can run, your lungs also need...

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Stabilize then Elongate or Elongate then Stabilize?

Valya Karcher

I always stabilize my spine and then elongate, so what’s up with this blog? Well, Pilates exercises have a natural flow and cadence. The movement is always evolving as the core gets stronger and can support greater ranges and challenges. Stabilization of the spine is at the core of every exercise (pardon my pun!). The spine is stabilized to prevent risk of injury and to place it in the best possible posture: the posture that you carry out of the...

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A Daily Practice of Aligning Your Spine

Valya Karcher

I tell new clients that the first thing they’ll need to adjust after their first Pilates workout is their rear view mirror. How can you sit all scrunched down after you have felt the relief of lengthening your muscles and re-aligning your spine? I have a daily practice of aligning my spine that I’m hardly ever aware of, except to say that it feels good! Since I started doing Pilates I’m more aware of tension surfacing in my body, especially...

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Working Below the Surface

Woman working on Pilates Tower

In Pilates there’s a lot going on below the surface. Slow and complete breaths can deepen your alignment and balance. A full inhale circulates oxygen rich blood throughout your body. A full exhale (navel to spine) calls the muscles of your back to be strong inner supports for a healthy and flexible backbone. I enjoy slowly “reaching” with my breathing so that my muscles have time to release and re-balance. Isn't it wonderful to move the flow of air as...

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A Delicate Balance

Woman on balanced body equipment

I’ve talked about zipping up your powerhouse and sliding your shoulders down your back – both of which bring power into your powerhouse. But there’s a balancing of that energy that’s the hallmark of the “Pilates body.” If too much energy is going up the zipper there may be back extension, with the spine arching slightly backward. Too much energy pulling the shoulders down has the same effect. Several years ago I participated in a posture workshop where we had...

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Downloading Strength to Your Core

Men doing Pilates exercise

Shortly after I started doing Pilates I was writing a letter at the kitchen table and I noticed that my shoulders were up by my ears. As I slowly released them I felt the power of my shoulder blades sliding down my back, and, as it turns out, strengthening my core. I've since been in workshops where we have done exercises designed to increase awareness of where we carry our strength and where strength can “leak away” from the powerhouse....

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One Simple Step Engages Your Powerhouse

Woman doing Pilates

Isn’t the human body an amazing creation? Everything is connected! The simple act of drawing your navel to your spine activates your back and abdominal muscles. Starting with the deepest supports of your spine all the way out to your 6-pack, every layer of muscle joins forces with the one before it to strengthen your back and firm your abdominals. And all because you pulled in your belly button! As you exhale and drop your navel to your spine, another...

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Pilates Rx: Breathe. Repeat Often.

Woman doing sit-ups

When I was told that practicing Pilates breathing would firm my “after-baby” tummy, I was a woman on a mission. I would lie in bed at night and inhale everything I needed for the next day and exhale everything that was not working in my life. I would take my inhale as deep as I could into the mattress and exhale dropping my belly button as deep as I could into the small of my back. It only took about...

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