Pilates 101 tips given at Geismar Library

Darian Graivshark
Nannette Crystal teaching those who attended the class how to do the basics of pilates.

Is running not your forte? Try your shot at pilates!

As an instructor at Action Therapy and Wellness, Nannette Crystal taught a basic pilates class on November 13 at the Geismar Library.

Crystal is experienced in pilates, especially with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. She has a love for movement with the body, and it shows in her work.

Pilates was named after Joseph Pilates. Joseph originally taught it as Contrology, which means to control the body. He originally used it on World War I veterans who were in hospitals, and eventually brought his work to the United States.

"Many people start taking pilates without knowing the history behind it. So, I share this will everyone today so you can understand that Joseph was a genius before his time," Crystal said.

Crystal's teacher, John Fletcher, had the opportunity to work with Joseph. She studied with Fletcher for eight years, with him being her mentor and teacher.

"In a way, you could almost call me the granddaughter of Joseph Pilates," Crystal joked. "It was important for me to get as close to the original source of it all as I could, and that is what I did."

Educating the community about the art of pilates is important to Crystal, and she was thankful to be able to instruct the class.

To being, she introduced breathing, which encourages improved posture, invigorates the body, increases flexibility in the torso, and works the core. The core is our entire trunk of our torso, and we want to be sure that we work from the core out.

There are three ways to breathe. First, we can breathe normally, then notice what may feel tense in our bodies. Next, we deepen this, inhaling through our noses fully, then exhaling through our mouths until we are empty with a sighing sound. Finally, inhale like before, but exhale by narrowing your mouth, almost as if you are going to try and whistle.

By doing these different techniques, breathing will become deeper over time. The last technique requires more focus and uses your core muscles more.

"To begin pilates, we'll start on our mat today lying down and focusing on our breathing. By doing this, you are allowing your bones in your spine to decompress and increase flexibility. If you reach your arms towards your feet, while still lying flat, it will help stretch your neck," Crystal said.

Making the movement more intense, the class began to flutter there arms in slow up and down movements. This helped to work their back and shoulder muscles. If you'd like to begin engaging your core more, you can raise your legs to a table top position above your hips while your back remains on the floor. One may even squeeze their knees closer together to ignite a fire in the inner thighs. Increasing intensity more, you may add a double breathe for more of a challenge.

"Once we're comfortable with this, we can begin to extend one leg and continue this flutter pattern with our arms. Eventually, the position would move into fully extended legs that hover above the ground without touching it. For those newer to pilates, this may be a little more challenging. After working one side, you should compare the other side. Not to judge your body, but to get a sense of what you may need to do differently," Crystal said.

With the cooler weather, our muscles may not want to move the way they usually could. Heat tends to relax our muscles more and helps with deepening our movements. If you ever feel like your back is being pulled during an exercise, be sure to bend your knees more.

Always remember to breathe and do different variations based on what your body can handle comfortably.

Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.