Time to turn the calendar on the wall and with it, a fresh start to the year: new goals, new workout shoes, maybe even a new hairdo. This time of the year, we see a rush of new faces in the studio, students charged with excitement to get stronger in their core, increase muscle tone and ready to look and feel great! The inspiration of a new year spurs the intent to move in a new direction, make positive change, and to learn from different experiences.
One of the first concepts I introduce to a beginner student is Centering. When preparing to go on a trip, you get your Map App or the GPS out and enter your destination. Then it asks you from where you want to start your path. The act of Centering before you begin class and throughout class, helps take you out of the busy day-to-day, quiet your mind and focus in on yourself; observe your starting point. But there’s a couple of other important aspects I want to touch on with respect to this concept.
Above, I’ve included the image of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. In this notable work, Da Vinci blends his intricate knowledge of anatomy, art and principles of architecture. “In drawing the circle and square he correctly observes that the square cannot have the same centre as the circle, the navel, but is somewhat lower in the anatomy.”1 In Pilates you’ll hear an often-used cue referencing the “naval to the spine” because we’re looking to activate deep core muscles, and they happen to be very close to the body’s (ideal) center of gravity (also referred to as COG).
“The ideal, natural focal point of balance is usually located just below the navel and halfway between the abdomen and lower back, which is midway between the mass of the upper and lower body.”2
Regularly attending Pilates class and getting toned abdominals certainly helps you with your core and your spine health. But did you know that in the practice, you are training your brain on how to be more dynamic in re-orienting your COG? It benefits your sense of balance in everything you do.
So, here’s the thing –there is knowing and taking for granted that you have a center of gravity. And then there’s getting to know your center of gravity. Enter, the Pelvis.
Pelvis is Latin for basin or bowl. It is comprised of 3 bones: 2 hip bones (Ilium in the singular) and the sacrum, which is a set of fused vertebrae in the spinal column. Add ligaments and fascia to this picture and you can see the structure of the bowl more apparent. Believe it or not the pelvic floor muscles play an essential part, not only in supporting the internal organs above it, but also teaming up with the abdominals in stabilizing the pelvis.
The Pelvis is the connection and transition point of the upper body to the lower body. A primary job includes distributing the weight from above to the lower limbs. It also serves crucially to “provide attachments for and withstand the forces of the powerful muscles of locomotion and posture.”3
Your center of gravity lies within the pelvic area – the beauty and design is that it both produces and withstands a great deal of force. When you are strengthening your core and you hear the instructor describing that movement emanates from the center, tune into that idea on the physical and mental levels. The skills you reap from Pilates help you balance from the inside out.
See you in the studio!
Read Part 2: The Foot as a Key Element in Pilates