My reasons for starting Pilates classes are to improve my posture by correcting my tendency to slump to one side, strengthen my stomach and back muscles to reduce stiffness and pain and along with cutting some calories and walking a mile to and from the classes two days a week, lose some weight and just generally feel better. But in my first class yesterday I found an unexpected additional benefit!
I've been to a couple of Pilates classes in the past in different centers and thought I knew more or less what to expect-- kind of like yoga postures with more rhythm and resistance. But I was pleasantly surprised by this instructor, she went over the basic postures with me in a completely new way. What really got me thinking was when she broke it down for me by explaining that I needed to stabilize my core by allowing it to support the movements of the rest of my body but not allowing the core itself to move. This sounded strangely familiar-- what's an independent seat if not that? Finding your center of gravity and staying there but without blocking the natural movement of your hips, knees, ankles, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc...
If my hypothesis is correct, perhaps Pilates will allow me to improve not just my posture and muscle tone while riding, but improve my overall balance, the independence of my aids and finally give me the skills I need to keep my damn hands (or legs, or shoulders, or whatever) still even when I momentarily lose my balance when riding! I'll let you know how it goes, in the meanwhile here are some really interesting resources on the benefits of Pilates for riders:
- Inside a Pilates for the Equestrian workshop (includes free exercise descriptions)
- Centered Riding: The benefits of Pilates for riders
- How Pilates improves riding skills
- Riding longer and better with Pilates
- Equilates: a system to develop the equestrian athelete through the use of Pilates-based exercizes