Pilates Reformer

Pilates is only as good as your set up

How often have you struggled through a Pilates exercise, only to have your instructor stop you half way through.

A small change in your set up position and then ‘hey presto’, the exercise is all of a sudden a whole lot smoother, lighter and more enjoyable and in some cases more challenging because you are doing the exercise correctly!!

How To Set Up for Pilates Correctly

Set up is arguably the most important part of a Pilates exercise. Without the correct starting position, you are setting your body up for a struggle as the exercise progresses. In fact it has been said (in Pilates folk law) that 5 degrees of incorrect alignment decreases the effectiveness of a Pilates exercise by up to 50%! With this in mind, it make sense to spend a second checking your set up, your starting alignment ensuring you’re getting the most out of this time you are spending on your body!

The problem is, we are often not aware or even mindful of our starting postures. Whether it is a mat class or in the studio, all to often we rush in, plonk our bodies down and start to move. Expecting that our magical alignment fairies will do the rest. Giving little to no thought as to how we have positioned ourselves dramatically detracts from the effectiveness of the exercise, after all the mind body connection experienced in Pilates require just that … connection!

Luckily for you we have listed a few ‘Quick Checks’ to ensure you are in good starting alignment prior to beginning your Pilates class or studio session.

  1. Be Mindful – Arrive 10 minuets early to class. If you have access to a mat, set your self up in a comfortable position and go through a brief body scan. Sending your awareness to different parts of your body and feeling if they feel the same on both sides is a great way to ensure you’re aware of your body position on the mat and if you may need to adjust before you begin moving.

If you are doing studio work, mentally focus yourself when you enter the studio. Creating this time for yourself and leaving your other worries and thought at the door will give you more access to your sensory perceptions, allow you to start your exercises in the correct alignment.

If the studio you attend can be busy at times, spend 5 minutes in the car before you enter. Anchoring yourself and feeling for the pressure of both legs on the back of the car seat and the pressure of the chair against the center of your back will help bring your awareness to your body and its resting position.

  • Double Check – If you are working with your instructor in the studio use their well trained eyes and ask about your set up position before commencement of an exercise. For each new exercise you learn – listen intently as they explain what cues to use when learning something for the first time.

If you are in a mat class, listen out for the cues your instructor gives you between each new exercise. Things such as ‘stacking your shins parallel to the front of the mat’, ‘keeping your feet hip distance apart’ and ‘starting with your elbow underneath your shoulder’ are all helpful ways to check your beginning in the correct position.

  • Effort Level – Pay attention to the areas of tension in the body. Your set up position should be generally comfortable. There should be no areas of excessive compression or impingement. Your body should feel as though it is stacked like Jenga bricks before you begin your movement.  If you notice excessive tension before you even begin moving, your may need to alter your set up position or use a regressed version of the exercise.

We hope that being mindful of your set up position helps you get the most from your next Pilates session. Armed with this knowledge you may just experience a whole new ‘wow’ the next time you are in the studio! When this occurs, stop for a moment, reflect on what was different about your movement and add this to your mental filling cabinet as you float out the door!

If you would like to learn more about your alignment and the set up position of any of your exercises we would love to see you in the BPS studio.

Until next time, Lana 