wellness – january 2010 – stretch yourself
There can be few of us in Dubai who have failed to hear about yoga. The physical and mental discipline is instantly identifiable with lithe health enthusiasts with a penchant for Zen. Ask your friends if they fancy joining you at a Pilates class, though, and you’re likely to get as many quizzical eyebrows as you do fellow classmates.
And to be fair, yoga has been around a lot longer. The exercise can trace its origins back thousands of years, while Pilates was the 20th century invention of German Joseph Pilates. Nevertheless, there’s no reason why the relative newcomer couldn’t be the exercise for you in 2010. It is certainly friendly to the beginner.
“Pilates can be done by anyone whether currently fit or not,” explains Asma Lootah, from Dubai Healthcare City’s The Hundred Pilates Studio. “It is a very ‘hands on’ technique, so beginners would have to undergo an initial assessment where they would be introduced to the principles of Pilates and learn how to use their core and get more in touch with their bodies,” he says. “From the assessment, the client would slowly grow from foundation to basic exercises and then after a few months they would progress onto intermediate and then onto advanced exercises over a longer period of time.”
For Lootah, creating The Hundred Pilates Studio was something of a personal mission. “Pilates changed my life a few years ago and I decided that I wanted to help others in Dubai the same way it helped me,” he recalls. “At the time, Pilates was not very well known in Dubai and so it was a great opportunity to set up a Pilates studio that I was truly passionate about and I built it from my heart.”
So just how can a routine of regular stretching inspire such devotion? The core concept of Pilates is, well, to work the core. “Pilates will strengthen the body and correct muscle imbalances which lead to poor posture,” explains Lootah. “The core is constantly activated in Pilates movements and thus Pilates helps prevent and protect individuals from lower back pain and brings the entire body into balance as the core becomes stronger.”
But the best thing about the exercise, claims Lootah, is that “it is suitable for everyone, regardless of age, body size or fitness level”. Sounds like just the thing for those still recovering from the excesses of December.
“Pilates is a very intricate technique and unless the individual has had an assessment, they will have little understanding of how to use the exercises described”
Do the right thing
Pilates is a very intricate technique and unless an individual has had an assessment they will have little understanding of how to use the exercises described. At least that is the opinion of Kirsty Nelson, a Pilates professional at The Hundred Pilates Studio. Here she gives Healthmatters a quick rundown on how to pick up Pilates.
“Place the palms of your hands over the sides of your ribs. Inhale and feel how the air expands laterally, pressing the ribs into the palms of your hands. You should also feel the back of the ribcage expand.”
“Lie prone on your stomach with your forehead resting in the palms of your hands. Allow your navel to relax into the mat. Inhale laterally and on the exhale gently draw your navel away from the mat towards your spine without moving the pelvis or spine. Now inhale again and try and keep the navel drawn in towards the spine. Inhale and exhale a few times keeping the navel continuously drawn towards the spine. This is harder than lying supine on your back as you are working harder against gravity in the prone position.”
“Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Place your hands on your pelvis and feel for your pubic bone and the top of each hip bone. Tilt your pelvis back and forth using your back muscles. Feel how the pubic bone rises above the hip bones as you tilt the pelvis posteriorly (the lower back will push into the mat) and how the hip bones rise above the pubic bone as you tilt the pelvis anteriorly creating an arch in the lower back. Now imagine a triangle on your pelvis with the pubic bone as the top of the triangle and the hip bones as the two base points of the triangle. Bring all three points level with each other. Now you are in neutral pelvis.”
“Imagine your pelvic floor is like an elevator resting on the ground floor. Inhale first, as you exhale, draw the elevator up to the ‘top floor’. Feel a little bit of pressure at the pubic bone, tail bone and under each sit bone. Take care not to use the quadriceps, buttocks or inside thighs or tilt the pelvis up. It is very important never to overdo pelvic floor exercises – these muscles can fatigue and strain and too easily recruit other, inappropriate muscles.”
The Hundred Pilates Studio
Al Razi Building Block B, 3020
Tel: 04 4298433