When I first started teaching Pilates instructor, I knew I’d become more clued up about certain things—things that I would never be able to impress people within normal, everyday life (such as the kinetic chain involved in bending a leg at the knee or how to twist our waists without moving our hips). However, what I discovered was a set of unexpected skills that have become extremely useful in my daily life.
1. How to stand and sit properly
Gone are the days where I could just sit or stand without giving it a second thought. These days, I’m trying to align my body into the ‘standing correctly position’ or the ‘sitting correctly position.’ It’s just how my mind works now. I start at my feet, checking my toes are facing forwards and hip-width apart.
My bodyweight is over the whole of each foot whilst my knees, hips, and head are stacked over my ankles in a nice, straight line. Slightly lordotic, I tilt my pelvis forward to place my back in neutral. I make sure the sides of my torso are long rather than slumped, something I never realized I did. My abs are gently engaged, my shoulders away from my ears.
All that just to sit and stand! I treat it as a mini-workout—a way to work the muscles wrapped around my lower abs, lengthen my spine and ease it from any compressions, and avoid slouching my shoulders. This all goes out of the window when I lie down at night, where I’m inclined to fall into a position more reminiscent of a starfish!
2. How to communicate better
‘If you could bring your arms out in front of you, shoulder-width apart, just below shoulder height, palms facing the ceiling….’ and that’s only a quarter of the way through a start position. If you’ve ever done any form of Pilates, you’ll know that there is a lot to think about. As a pilates instructor, I have to say a lot in as few words as possible.
I’m also asking you to think about engaging muscles that you may never have heard of and have no idea how to engage! That’s why you’ll hear me reference things like, ‘Imagine you’re taking your T-shirt off’ or ‘Imagine your fingertips and heels are playing a game of tug of war with each other.’
Often, I have clients who struggle to get into the movement, so I’m constantly learning how to get my message across diplomatically and encouragingly, not always expecting immediate results and accepting that improvement can be a gradual process. These communication skills are useful no matter what the setting.
3. How to jog
I used to roll my eyes when I read articles about Pilates helping with other sports, shaking my head, and scoffing at these diehard fitness people (who must have been top gymnasts or team captains at school). That was up until I encountered such benefits myself.
I gave up jogging four years ago when I still absolutely could not jog more than 5K in 30 minutes, despite jogging 3 or 4 times a week for a year. Shameful, I know. I told myself I didn’t have the right body type, but when I looked it up I didn’t think I had the body type of a sumo wrestler either. About a month or so ago, I was quite literally running late to teach a mat class and was forced to jog the 15 minutes there and back.
Shock, horror—I didn’t have to jog and walk (or ‘jalk’ as I like to call it). Baffled, I tried a 5k not once but twice after that. Much to my surprise, I just jogged on through. And what’s more, I enjoyed it. I can only put it down to my strong core and improved upright posture.
4. How to get a pert bum
Pilates is muscle specific. I’ve realized that instead of engaging my glutes, I’ve been engaging my hamstrings, which would explain my saggy bum. I’ve learned how to activate the right muscles with simple tweaks, such as moving my knee an inch away from the midline of my body when lunging, or squeezing the butt of my working leg and allowing the other side to release—things I would never have thought of considering a few years ago (and my bum is now slightly improving, in case you were wondering).