Pilates through the eyes of a Yoga Therapist
By Heather Van Dalfsen, Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher & Pilates Teacher in Training
Everyday you have the opportunity to move.
• From fingers, toes, limbs and spine
• To creating facial expressions
• To subtle internal movements through shallow breathing, deep breathing
• Through softly singing, humming or
• Even imagining these ‘movement’ practices
Pilates and Yoga work as team-mates, adding more tools within the movement toolbox, giving you a variety of options and fresh perspectives as you check in with your short term and long term goals of physical and mental health.
Many foundational layers of a Pilates practice are similar to the building blocks of an intentional Yoga practice. Each of the following ‘foundations’ could create ongoing discussions and learning curves within your lifetime of practice. Let’s review and keep the dialogue and practice going.
Breath as a Guide – Breathing can be the bridge between mind and body, supporting you in understanding how you are moving in the space you are in and how you can continue creating alignment and stability from feet to pelvis to shoulders; from spine through limbs. Breathing can support controlled movements while offering a rhythmic pace to your practice. When do you most notice you are breathing and how does it support you?
A Neutral Spine – There are many verbal cues within movements and pauses of movements that ask you to explore and create a neutral spine. What is this and why? A neutral spine equals the natural curves of the spine. This can support the spine’s bones, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscles to handle weight and impact, letting the body work with efficiency and minimal damage. What do you notice about your spinal curves?
Directions of Movement of the Spine – A lot of our daily activities is moving forward – leaning over things, sitting, walking. In our movement practice we can also explore backbends = spinal extension, side bending = lateral flexion/extension, twisting = rotation of the spine and axial extension = verticality of the spine. Practicing all of these builds our stability, mobility and overall balance. What are your daily movement habits?
Stability Supports Mobility – It is quite amazing to move in ways that sharpen awareness of the pelvis as part of the “360” core of the body. The core is more than the stomach! How the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the knees down through the feet; how the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the shoulders and neck are all examples of creating stability throughout the body. When there is stability and alignment of your structure, mobility can be explored, feel more natural and create less stress. What are the ways you would like to increase your mobility?
Everyday Snacks – Like Yoga, Pilates can be practiced everyday – even if short snacks of practices once a day or throughout the day. At some time each day we are either standing, seated or supine. Within these positions of the body, there are ways to check in with your neutral spine and how you can create stability within this foundation throughout the habitual movements each day. What short practices do you already integrate into your day? What else would you like to learn?
As a Yoga Therapist I continue to learn and practice Yoga and Pilates using these foundational intentions and many more. Yet for now, these are a kind reminder that these movement modalities should be and can be accessible and effective, sustainable and even joyful for everyone.
Whether you are new to movement practices or a consistent student of movement, what are you interested in learning and integrating into your daily routine? How would a practice support your short-term and long term health intentions?
5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness has many compassionate and educated teachers who continue to be students of movement. You are always welcome to join us in learning more through attending in-studio or online classes or participating in a private session individually or with a small group of friends and family.