In Pilates, your alignment starts at your centre with your “Rib-Hip Connection”. Your Rib-Hip Connection is the distance between your ribcage and your pelvis, or from your lower ribs to your hip bones. When your rib-hip connection is in “neutral” your spine and pelvis are in neutral. Many Pilates exercises focus on maintaining neutral spine and pelvis whilst challenging this, for example by moving the legs independently from the pelvis. Of course, alignment of the neck (which is often not perceived as part of the spine due to its anatomy and use) and the limbs follow the alignment of the spine and pelvis. This is observed in any starting/finishing position such as supine (lying on your back), prone (lying on your front), four-point kneeling (all 4’s), side-lying, and in standing. Maintaining correct alignment allows you to balance with more stability, and co-ordinate movements with more control.
And why should you care? Well, if you’re aware of your neutral alignment in many of your everyday activities (or passivities, like staring at a screen for ages), your joints, muscles and organs can function at their best. You can balance when the bus starts to move whilst you’re standing or walking towards a seat, you can catch yourself quicker when you’re caught off guard, and you are pro-active in injury prevention.
For your Pilates practice, alignment is one of the corner stones which will allow you to progress in your exercises from beginner to advanced safely and effectively. That might not sound sexy but if you grasp the concept of your rib-hip connection you understand what to feel out for which will support you in in your journey from the pelvic tilt to the double leg stretch.
Here’s a short video about the rib hip connection:
PS: To find out how alignment with yourself can impact you, read on here.
There is this Joseph Pilates quote: “In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you'll have a whole new body.”
Now, from my experience, this is very unlikely to be true if you attend a Pilates class once a week and then forget about it the other 167 hours. I’m not saying do an hour Pilates every day to get results, I’m saying do a little bit every day, make it part of your commute, your lunch break, your morning ritual or evening routine. THAT will get you results because you’ll gradually change your movement patterns and your relationship with movement.
I see it time and again, those of my students who embrace this see and feel the benefits of it. Apart from progressing in their weekly Pilates practice in the studio so much faster, they tell me about their experience of how their aches and pains are more manageable or have disappeared completely. Some feel inspired to change their eating habits which is beautiful to witness. Whilst Pilates can help with strength, tone, mobility, flexibility, balance, body awareness, awareness of breath, and relaxation, it is not going to give you a different body.
Eating well, moving every day, having a positive mindset when it comes to health and body image, having realistic expectations, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and making those small every day choices that serve you in the long run instead of going for that instant gratification are playing a part in how you feel about your body. Unfortunately, so often the focus is on that one detail we want to magically change instead of having a good look at the overall picture.
Combine your Pilates practice with some cardio, healthy eating and some quality time with good friends, that is what I would recommend if you want to change the way you feel within your body.
Exercise not to be a different shape but to be stronger, more mobile and more at ease within your body to lead a long and healthy life. Aim for being able to run for the bus with ease, aim for having the strength to carry the shopping home or store the suitcase in the overhead locker with ease, aim for being able to scratch your back and tie your shoelaces yourself to the last beautiful day, aim for being able to balance on your own two feet when you don’t get a seat on the train, aim for waking up free of back pain, aim for going to sleep free of shoulder tension. That will serve you so much more and make you so much more happy in your own skin than aiming to look like that airbrushed person on the magazine cover that doesn’t even exist in real life.