I took my first ever Pilates class yesterday, and I must say I think I am smitten by it! I've had a lot friends who are also yoga teachers who claim that Pilates has totally transformed their practice. And so, I must try a class for myself and see how it might influence my own Ashtanga practice. A couple take-away key things that popped out in my first class:
1. A lot of actions isolating certain muscles and joints. For example, we did an exercise at the beginning of the class that isolates the movements of our collarbone, shoulder blades, and the muscles that are responsible for these movements (probably the rotator cuff?). We also focused on "gripping" the armpits in. All these actions are very beneficial for asanas such as downward facing dog, hand stands, and any forearm stands in general, since they help strengthen the upper body movements.
2. Emphasis on keeping the ribs in, imagining the anus and your bladder "riding an elevator" up the center of your body. The goal of these instructions was to allow us to feel our energy withdrawing towards the center of our core to give us a sense of stability in all our movements. Sounds familiar? Yup, this, ladies and gentlemen, is the Pilates lingo for BANDHAS. Honestly, this is a MUCH better description of bandhas than what I've heard so far. Of course, there is no concept of bandhas in Pilates, but the ultimate result is the same. Ribs in, tail bone curling inwards to meet our pubic symphysis. Sounds like the famous golden coccyx.
All these core work, the emphases on movement isolations and on alignments ultimately can help us achieve stronger, more stable practices. The core work, especially, was useful for me as I have been working for a few months on keeping my ribs in (they tend to flare out do to my more flexible spine) to stabilize my jump backs, jump throughs, jumping into bakasana, and pinca mayurasana. I've already booked another class for next Saturday and am looking forward to it!