Pilates for Leaner, Stronger Legs
I cannot imagine what my life would be like now if I had not given Pilates a try to alleviate my knee pain more than 10 years ago. It has made such a difference to my life when I look back. The pain was so bad that seeing a flight of stairs just gave me a feeling of dread. I knew every step up and down would bring on the pain. It was my knees that was the problem, but that did not mean the pain was isolated in just that region. The rest of my body found ways to compensate for the pain which meant I ended up feeling pain and discomfort in my entire body. Needless to say, it did not help with my sense of wellbeing or motivation. It was difficult to just be happy.
The happy ending to this story is it took me just a month of Pilates to not just feel the relief but to also heal the pain. And I learnt to smile again.
Today I am working with so many amazing bodies at My Body My Pilates, all exploring ways to understand how their bodies work and what they need to be healthy and happy. I see clients start with us with some hesitation and doubt and with each session, they begin to understand how incredible their bodies really are. There is so much we can do to improve alignment and strength to get freedom in our movements.
Today I want to bring the focus to the base and foundation of the body - the feet and legs.
They hold us up and getting to know them better can help us understand how to align them so they can help us move more efficiently and freely.
The pelvis, knees and ankles form a continuous architecture of our legs to support the body weight.
At My Body My Pilates, we look at the entire body as a structure where all the parts work together in alignment to support and allow movement.
What I love about Pilates is how grounded it is, and we are working barefoot, which is crucial to helping the body to sense and react to the stability of the ground and how each muscle in the foot is intricately trying to feel, adjust, balance, readjust to help you stand. Even your humble toes are imperative to helping you with balance and impulse.
Getting strong and lean legs is not about doing lots of exercise to get chunky muscles. It is about understanding how all the parts work together, how they affect each other and giving each part the exercises it needs to be healthy.
So how do we focus on the pelvis, knees and ankles in Pilates?
We do core strengthening exercises in Pilates in the pelvic area to give a solid foundation from which all movement can grow.
The hips are a solid part of the body and they give weight and stability but the muscles around it need to be strong to initiate movements in the legs. The hips also need flexibility to allow for bending and stretching movements. Building core strength can start with just doing 10 Hundreds well in one session, and then building it up as your core gains strength, which is more effective than mindlessly huffing your way through 100 Hundreds at one go.
The knee is a joint which means it allows a range of movements but is not in itself stable. It needs the surrounding muscles and ligaments to support it. When these are not in alignment or are not strong, the knee suffers.
Exercises on the Reformer help clients to keep their bodies in a correct alignment while they work on strengthening the muscles (e.g. quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors and adductors, external rotators, calves) that support the knee.
With a strong pelvis and correctly aligned knees, we must not forget about the ankles. If the ankles are misaligned, the distortion can travel upwards and affect your knees.
Ask your Pilates instructor for some exercises on the Chair to not only build strength in the ankles but also to gain awareness. You can try to create awareness with these questions:
How are you flexing your ankles?
Are you keeping alignment or rolling outwards or inwards?
Are you engaging your core muscles during the exercise or are you ´sitting´ into your feet and ankles and letting them do all the work?
A New Lease of Life
I get the most out of my job when I see clients who first come in with pain and you see how they change after a few sessions. They are smiling, their bodies are happy, and they become wonderfully enthusiastic and motivated to gain a clearer understanding and increase their knowledge about the amazing instrument they all possess.
It is about empowering each person to fully inhabit and feel safe and free in their own bodies. For some people like myself, Pilates has given me a new lease of life. I have been given a second chance to live freely, pain-free.
Now I am even doing physically-challenging activities my younger self would never have dared to do! Pilates hasn´t just healed my body and made it stronger. It has opened up new opportunities for me.
Come experience for yourself what change feels like at My Body My Pilates. Every body is different, and Pilates has limitless possibilities in terms of exercises, machines and apparatus to help your body grow stronger, healthier and happier.
To learn more about the different levels of Pilates and get a preview of some of the exercises we do on different equipment, read our blog here.
TOKYO PILATES Studio
Our Pilates studio is at 3 丁目5ー11元麻布 1/F Pilates Studio, Block C Majes Motoazabu Gardens, 港区 Tokyo 106-0046.
Contact My Body My Pilates to discuss your Pilates exercises.