IT’S INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY!
As far back as I can remember, I have been agile and flexible. I was introduced to Vinyasa Yoga in my early twenties. I fell in love instantly! My flexibility allowed me to get into most yoga poses without any major problems. I was able to do many advanced postures including Dwi Pada Sirsasana (both feet behind the head) along with very deep backbends. My passion for yoga led me to exit my career in fashion design and follow my dream to teach yoga professionally.
Then came Pilates which I inadvertently found by being in the “wrong” class at the right time! It spoke to me in ways that were similar to yoga but offered something I felt I was missing. The practice and eventually teacher training taught me control, precision and efficiency, but above all gave me strength that I never knew I had.
Below are 9 things both practicing and teaching yoga and Pilates taught me about my movement and the way my students move.
1. Pilates connected me with my abdominal strength. In yoga, this is called Uddiyana Bandha and it is critical for safe asana practice. It is also a major crux of Pilates.
2. Pilates helped me to strengthen my knees. Footwork on the Reformer brought awareness to the correct alignment of the knees and feet. This awareness translates directly to the standing postures in Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and walking in everyday life.
3. Through Pilates, I have learned how to safely strengthen and lengthen my back, especially my lower back. The Pilates method of using abdominals during back focused exercises has translated directly to many yoga postures that involve deep spinal flexion and extension.
4. Pilates taught me how to evenly integrate my whole body’s strength to support my best overall postural alignment and particularly an optimal pelvic position which keeps my lower back healthy and happy.
5. Both modalities illuminated for me the benefits of training in both concentric and eccentric phases of muscle contraction. The genius
of Pilates resistance training with springs, pulleys, bands, and circles created strength and muscle memory for both stabilization and movement that once again translated directly into my yoga practice whether isometrically holding postures or dynamically moving through the practice.
6. Pilates showed me various road maps for rehabilitation of both my own and my students’ injuries through the ability to isolate and train specific structures when necessary and accommodate structures that need extra care. My Pilates training which emphasized alignment helped me spot muscular imbalances in myself and spot them in my students including yoga students. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga requires full-body integration all of the time while requiring a degree of surrender and subtlety that I share with my Pilates students. Done well it is a very powerful practice. But flexible students often exploit their flexibility in yoga without proper shoulder, pelvic lumbar, and knee stabilization. This can lead to injury. My Pilates knowledge feeds back into my yoga practice and teaching to emphasize the stabilization required for safe, beneficial practice.
7. Pilates has improved my physical coordination and yoga has helped me with my balance.
8. Both yoga and Pilates have taught me how to use my breath correctly and efficiently to increase my lung capacity and improve circulation.
9. Both modalities require you to listen to instructions which leads to improved concentration.
The best part of this combination is that I don’t need to choose between them. I enjoy the flexibility, freedom, and challenge of yoga, as well as the attention to detail that Pilates provides.
Favorite pose? Gomukasana/cow pose, which is a deep hip opener.