Transform your Yoga Practice with a Pilates Road Map

Posted on March 5, 2024

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If your yoga flow is tiring you out faster than it should, or if you’re not sure you’re quite nailing your poses, turn to a Pilates class for a spot of biomechanical enlightenment. The body awareness that is part and parcel of a Pilates class can help you avoid injury and increase your yoga stamina by ensuring you’re moving in total biomechanical harmony. Flex co-founder Heather explains the magic behind the synergy between Pilates and yoga.

In a Pilates class you’ll never do any move without full body awareness. Sometimes it may be about how the muscles around the shoulders work, other times about articulating the spine correctly, or recruiting the core correctly. In this way Pilates instructors ensure that each move is as beneficial and effective as possible. Although this kind of information isn’t always included in a yoga class, it can make the difference between a stilted, strained and exhausting class and one that, well, just seems to flow.

Take Warrior II. If you’re not in the correct position you could be overstressing the joints through misalignment, which can make your body rigid, and in turn will prevent you from accessing the full benefit of the asana. Bringing biomechanical awareness to the pose, you first recruit 100 per cent of your muscles and focus to the pose, working the outer skin and body. Then relax, back off around 40 per cent of your effort so that the asana can bring more softness. Ultimately this helps the benefits penetrate through into the internal organ level.

And how about Downward Dog. It is such a common asana, but one that many people have trouble getting comfortable with. If your shoulders are out of alignment or you’re not using the correct trunk muscles, then you won’t be feeling the kind of Zen that allows full internal benefits and helps you move deeply into healing breath.

Consider Warriors I and III, which present many challenges for most people. I cue to put your weight into your back leg and keep your hips square in Warrior I, but in reality it’s very difficult for people to successfully achieve this alignment. On the Allegro machine we have a similar lunge, and because of the spring resistance when you push your leg back against the carriage into the lunge, you need to keep your weight in your back leg. The body learns the movement neuromuscularly, and can translate it to Warrior I when you’re back on the mat. The nervous system (responsible for motor control) responds and learns quickly with the additional feedback from the springs and carriage.

Working into the springs gives also your body increased end range awareness. You can push out longer and stabilise more efficiently when working with resistance. In this way, you can teach your body to learn an awareness of its own “internal set of springs”.

When your body is efficient biomechanically, Vinyasa sequences suddenly become a pleasure. You’ll find you can relax and go with the breath far more easily, rather than worrying too much about the body’s stability (or lack thereof), which affects the fatigue point.

I’ve seen numerous clients grow stronger in their yoga practice with the introduction of Pilates into their workout routine. In fact, many clients do a Pilates class, followed immediately by a yoga class and therefore leverage the synergy of both practices. Using Pilates techniques in a yoga class often clears up key alignment issues in a pose (such as Warrior I), helping clients understand intellectually where they’re going with their bodies. Ultimately this leads to an increase in physical and mental relaxation during asana, and better breath control.

Yoga should feel good, inside and out, regardless of one’s flexibility. The biomechanical information Pilates classes add to your body awareness gives you a road map for your yoga practice, which results in less effort, more benefits and a transformational class experience.

Exponentially increase your stamina, posture and enjoyment of yoga by adding a Pilates class to your regular exercise routine. Check out the Pilates classes we offer at Flex.

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