Those who are unfamiliar with Pilates may hear the term “Pilates” and get a visual image of Pilates Reformer machines and consider that the extent of the method. Yet it is so much more than that.
For example, there is the Pilates mat class. Performed on the floor, mat Pilates exercises are aimed at improving flexibility and muscle tone, along with the spine and lower back. They also focus on body balance, as well as promoting mind-body awareness.
Mat Pilates is often recommended for those new to the practice, as it can serve as a gradual introduction to the Pilates concepts, as well as beginning to train the body and mind to more easily accept the more advanced techniques and equipment. Every concept and movement that is fundamental to Pilates is incorporated in the mat work: breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow.
At the same time, mat Pilates can be more challenging than workouts which employ the various machines, because the correct performance depends entirely on you. To perform the exercises correctly requires intense concentration and an awareness of how you’re holding your body, as well as how your body is reacting to what you’re doing. A common misconception, though, is that no equipment at all can be used in mat Pilates. Some poses may involve such equipment as weighted balls, resistance bands, or a Pilates ring.
The typical mat class may at first glance resemble a yoga class. Much of it is performed on the floor, either prone or supine, and the mats resemble yoga mats. The Pilates mats are somewhat thicker than a yoga mat, however, and the exercises are specific to Pilates.
One of the most popular mat poses is known as the Hundred. Here, owner Christa Gurka demonstrates this.
Lying on your back, you bend your knees, making sure your feet are flat on the floor. Arms are next to your torso, palms down. Breathe in slowly, then as you exhale, try to imagine your navel touching your spine. Bring your legs up slowly, one at a time, until they are perpendicular to the floor. Reach with your arms, and simultaneously drop your chin and curl your head, neck, and shoulders off of the floor. Inhale five beats, exhale five beats, and repeat ten times, ensuring your abdominal muscles do all the work.
There are numerous benefits of mat Pilates. It can be performed by almost anyone at any level of fitness. With its focus on the core (i.e., the abdomen, back, and gluteus) it not only improves posture but athletic ability, flexibility, and endurance. Mat exercises have also been shown to decrease body fat and increase balance.
At Pilates In the Grove, our monthly community Pilates Mat classes can help introduce you to the discipline, as well as challenge you to advance as you gain confidence and experience. Check our pilates events schedule regularly for our special community Mat classes and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on when we offer these free specialty classes.