Balance. A term that has been ruling my life lately, so I decided to make it my theme of the year. Balance not only means to be able to stand on one leg, it is so much more.
In life, we try to achieve a sense of balance, homeostasis so to speak, to create freedom in our self and make life a little easier. As Pilates teachers, achieving balance is our optimal goal and one of our main principles. Without balance, there is chaos, internally and externally. But, how do we do it? Hence, it is why it has become my theme.
Recently, I was thrown a curveball. My husband started a new demanding career requiring him to be gone. I had to juggle teaching at 2 different places, plus running my home studio, managing the home, taking care of 2 dogs, (a 105 lbs. puppy with a lot of energy and an old blind chihuahua who needs to go out every 4-5 hours), deal with an old injury, (hello PT), trying to find time to workout, (practice what you preach), and maintain some sort of social life, (sorry my friends).
As I took note of my own life, I looked around at my clients and noticed not only an imbalance in musculature, (really, who has evenly balanced muscles, it is our goal though), but that everyone seemed to be falling over! Not literally of course, but I did notice a balance issue. So, I started to incorporate more balance focused movements in my classes.
Begin At The Beginning!
I usually start every class with roll downs, primarily to reset focus on the body and breath and to stretch the back body. I’ve added heel raises, starting with both legs, once they roll up to standing, then slowly add a small leg lift, alternating legs as they roll up again. As they progressed, I’d add a single leg heel lift as they lifted one leg.
Of course, many exercises in the Pilates repertoire require balance, such as kneeling arm work, standing lunges, side kneeling work to name a few, but, some of the balancing exercises on the equipment is scary for some people so I wanted to blend some active stretching movements involving a balance element in the beginning, middle and end of the session.
More In The Middle!
Another example I would do in the middle of the session is a balancing lunge-plank-down dog, lunge twist movement, (that’s a tongue twister!). Instead of doing a lunge standing next to the reformer, stand facing the foot bar instead. Roll down and place hands on the foot bar, step to a plank, press into down dog, reach right leg back then bring it forward placing foot on platform into a lunge. Holding the lunge, reach arms up to balance and hold. Replace hands on foot bar and step back to plank, switch legs. Repeat again, adding a twist when you come to the standing lunge.
Reset At The End!
At the end of class, I would end with roll downs again, holding the heel lift longer and even add rolling down keeping the heels lifted the entire time. To challenge further and add a visual affect element, eyes dimmed or closed!
Obviously, there are many, many ways to add more safe balance moves into a class, but these are a few of my suggestions that are challenging, yet doable and not too scary. AND, according to my physical therapist, my hamstrings are tight and weak, hip flexors are tight, my core and glutes are strong, (yay), and my right leg is unstable! Guess what? I need to do more Pilates, along with adding balance strategies not only to my workout, but life!