BRINGING strength, flexibility and function into our body is not as simple as just beefing up the muscles.

We have several types of muscles, both involuntary such as our gut muscles, diaphragm, heart and arteries; and voluntary muscles such as those which move our joints.

Our voluntary muscles will perform movement with greater ease and efficiency if our joints are supported by the deep postural muscles which the brain can activate (to move an arm for example) by sending messages to the nervous system.

Sometimes the body has lost that immediate reaction of the postural muscles, maybe due to injury or lifestyle. That’s when the physio tells you to “strengthen your core”!

However our stability system is a reactive system, it’s not that it needs to be strengthened, but rather it needs to be retrained to react and stabilise the body against whatever forces are being thrown at it.

A movement discipline is like learning a language or learning to play a musical instrument: you wouldn’t expect to be expert at it without putting in the practice, the process is ongoing. Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi or dance can be compared to this. Little and often will help to retrain postural habits, that is exactly what we are doing in Pilates. In class, as we gradually improve our technique we are able to take on greater movement challenges and our overall strength increases.

It works like this: the deep postural muscles interact with each other like a continuum throughout the body, one muscle group will glide against and activate another muscle group or pull on the tissue which covers our bones and tendons, sending messages along the telegraph lines of connective tissue and myofascia. The diaphragm, our breathing muscle, partners the pelvic floor and the deep abdominal muscular belt to create stability in the spine and pelvis. Our pelvis, spine, and shoulder girdle are supported and moved by a complexity of muscles which reach and wrap around body in such a way that the shoulders relate to the tailbone, the pelvis is even affected by the jaw. Not as simple as "brace your abdominals”!

The eight principles of Pilates all serve to develop trunk stability. Concentrate; find a precise alignment; lightly activate the trunk stability muscles; breathe; isolate your deep core muscles; challenge your position with flowing, coordinated movement and rhythm; be controlled but relax. And most importantly, never struggle!

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