End of my first week of Pilates.
So far, I love Pilates class! Love, love love it! I come out of there each day feeling nicely sore, though completely relaxed. I think it’s all the deep breathing, only to exhale and squeeeeeze the belly button in as hard as possible. Yes, simultaneously sore and relaxed and there’s even nice soft ambient music, sometimes classical, playing softly in the background. Feels like I’m at a spa or something – or how imagine a spa would feel…
I am so glad I went in. I’d signed up because last semester in ballet class Teacher had mentioned that Pilates is good for dancers (even us amateur dancers). So I’d signed up, but as the day came closer I started to get a bit anxious. Just like ballet class almost two years ago, a new First. And I started to worry about some of the more practical details some of us girls worry about: what do I wear?
Surely I couldn’t show up in ballet attire (though if someone who is not terrified of attracting attention were to do that it would be awesome!)? But would a baggy T-shirt be ok? I remembered this exercise class I tried attending once back the first time I went to college, back when I was very overweight, and being intimidated by a majority of the class being very slim and athlelic, some of them displaying a six-pack. A leotard I can do, for the same reason I can’t do many workout wear tops: a leotard keeps the stomach covered (or at least any of the styles I buy, lol).
Well, I sucked it up, faced my fear and went in there. My outfit was a compromise: a T-shirt on top, black yoga pants on the bottome. I got there, saw that there was diversity in body types, and started to relax.
Pilates is very focused on the core, I find out. So far it feels good. I’d been starting to worry that the AB-wheel exercises I’ve been doing at home may have been making my abs grow outward (however weird that sounds), so I like the focus in Pilates of squeezing them inward. Apparently it’s supposed to feel as though your core muscles make a muscle “girdle” for your spine and stuff. That’s pretty cool, and I can already start to feel it, especially in the sides (I guess obliques) area. And we haven’t even done any reformer stuff yet, just mat work (which is really fun!).
But while the ab benefits are great, there’s been another unexpected (to me) benefit: shoulders.
My shoulders are a mess! I’d noticed within the last year – though the problem most definitely extends since my early-to-mid-childhood, but at the time was obscured by all my extra padding – that from a front view my shoulders sort-of curve inward in a crescent-like line from shoulder to shoulder. Never been a part of my body that I like, but figured I couldn’t do anything about it. I mean, I’ve tried to straighten my back out (when I remember – which is about 50% of the time – and I try especially during ballet class), but I’m not even talking about my back I’m talking about my shoulders. Which are easily 2 inches forward of where they should be pretty much all the time! And previously to taking this pilates class I had no idea that this was going on. It’s called a fatigue position or something which just sounds so unappealing, ugh. Whenever teachers have said “Shoulders back!” I guess I hadn’t really understood what they meant. Kind of how for the first year or so I had really no idea what it meant to point the foot (as opposed to just flexing the ankle)…
Anyway, the thing I’ve been finding the hardest so far is keeping my shoulders back. It’s not in muscle memory yet, but I find myself so conscious of my shoulders as I go about normal activities throughout the day. Every time I remember I pull them straight back!
(While writing this blog post, I’ve already reminded myself
four six at least 20 times. Once I remember, pulling them back feels so good…)
By now I discovered that this shoulder forward-hunching appears to be responsible for my constant tight, sore feeling on my upper back/shoulder area. I’d previously blamed this pain on my bra strap digging in, but now that I’ve been putting my shoulders back consciously the pain has been diminishing and I’m still being dug in to by the same strap. Also, having my shoulders forward appears to be the cause of this stubborn under arm/upper chest flabbiness that seemed to never go away. If I can manage to remember to keep my shoulders back,I may even feel comfortable in a tank top soon (assuming the weather was warm, of course).
Check out the difference:
We’ve also been using balls! Both a small dodge-ball-looking ball to squeeze between our knees, and tennis balls to rub the feet. As I’ve previously mentioned, I looooove my tennis ball, rubbing my feet on it and also my back (coincidentally, at the spot where it hurts from hunching my shoulders forward). Oh, and also these really big balls – I think they’re used for ab work – to support the feet for some of the students without sufficient ab strength yet (luckily, all my past few months’ worth of exercise has keep me from falling in that category; so far I’ve been able to do all the exercises, but in my pre-exercise condition half a year ago I probably wouldn’t have. At least not the double- knee raises…). But I’m glad to see that there’s modifications available to make it possible for all different kinds of people to try it.
I’m so glad I decided to try this class out. If you have not already done so, I recommend that everyone, regardless of current state of being in shape or not, try out Pilates.