A. The point of control is the Pilates concept and practice of pressing the muscles between the navel and the pubic bone against the inside of the lumbar spine. By doing that you are engaging the multifidus, the connecting muscle between the anterior sacrum and lower lumbar, the quadratum lumborum, which connects the pelvis crest with the lumbar spine and the iliopsoas, which connects the anterior part of the lumbar spine, goes across the inside of the pelvis and ends at the inside of the thigh bone. All that connects with the muscle groups of the abdomen.
The point of control is also the ability to feel the shoulder blades, back of the ribs, and sacrum/pelvis on the floor, honoring the lumbar spine curve and keeping a steady contact with your mat while moving.
This is why Mr. Pilates initially called this technique the method of "Contrology" , Because he believed that if one can control the center of the body, one can control everything else.
A. This is an important question. The preparation breath “prepares" your muscles and body during warm ups and facilitates the ability to control your core and middle abdominals right before each Pilates exercises.
The breathing goes as follow:
a) You inhale and fill your lungs allowing your viscera and soft organs to be push towards the abdominal area (this action is also known as belly breath).
b) Then, when you exhale you press on the point of control, your belly (the area between your navel and pubic bone) and allow the diaphragm to work by pushing the air out.
At the very beginning of the class I will instruct you to repeatedly do it with the warm up exercises.
As the class continues you will notice that right before we start a new move I cue you "preparation breath in" and you perform the preparation breath, get into the starting position to perform the moves.
Once you start your Pilates movements you keep (ideally) the point of control on your lower abdominals and breathe in and out with the rest of your upper cavities.
NOTE TO THE PERFECTIONISTS OF THE CLASS: YES I mean you! I am not going to pretend you get this right a way. If you loose "your point of control" during an exercise you won't be penalized. It is my hope that eventually you are able to control the abdominal muscles at will. That is the reason of these exercises; you'll be surprise be the end of the term how much you can do with your belly muscles.
A. "The four corners of the back" are none other than what is known in classical Pilates as "the box". This is a term I coined to more organically describe what Mr. Pilates referred to as the right and left shoulder blades, the back of the ribs and the right and left sides of the pelvis touching the mat before starting any movement.
It is essential to have those landmarks touching the mat in order to acquire better control and prevent injuries.
A. Your body is in prone position (facing down) and the arms are extended.
When one lifts the upper body off the floor with the arms rotated (little finger toward the inside), one is activating the muscles of the arms such as the radio-ulnar joint, triceps, latissimus dorsi (underarms),the intercostal muscles (anterior and posterior serratus) and the quadratum Lumborum that attach to the hip crest and the anterior part of the lumbar spine, making the peripheral as well as the core muscles of the spine work at the same time.
However, there is freedom in doing the mat because once you know the sequences you can work anywhere, anytime. I love my mat!
A. Because as we age the middle fat is caused by the hormone cortisol which is located on top of the kidneys. Cortisol hormone releases due to the fight-fly response our bodies experience from daily stress. Adding stress management techniques is part of the recipe that helps you decrease the fat around your back and waist. The combination of exercises such as Pilates, a diet low in sugars, and stress management techniques such as Yoga and/or meditation will help to achieve that goal easily.
I understand that for some of you changing your life style that includes more yoga, Pilates and no sugar could be overwhelming. So, I suggest you start with small steps such as using this class to be aware of the possibilities for you. Some of the steps you can take during class are:
1. Proper breathing techniques.
2. Awareness on the muscle groups your want to target will enhance the ability for the body to shape the waist the way you want.
3. While in class pay attention to the beginning part of class is regenerative and healing for your body.
4. Pay attention to the exercises on the stomach.
5. Check yourself the next day, you will feel the difference.
A. This is an important question for those of you with back conditions. Do not over arch the back if you are experiencing pain. Over arching the back slowly to study how far you can go safetly is another matter. Over the years I have seen experts saying different things about this. My take on it is that if one over arches to experience the strech of the anterior (front of the spine) is actualy a good thing. However, one should do it carefully and slowly. Any sudden moves are not conducive to increase spinal flexibility. If the rhythm is fast paced then you must not over arch the back.
In this picture Carla is carefully overarching after a series of stretches. Notice she is stretching her leg from the hip joint and her arm from the shoulder joint and she did it very slowly!
"Remember, a relax muscle
is strong muscle"
Dr Joan Paul
Anatomy and Kinesiology of movement
University of Tennessee
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