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Testing With Heini, Part 2

The Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki Services and Administration Planner Heini tests the Institute’s courses. Sports courses are now under testing.

Balancing with Pirkko’s Pilates

I have started Pilates a couple if times before, but the spark of enthusiasm has waned pretty quickly. Pilates has sounded good , but to be quite honest, it always seemed a little boring. Its benefits, however, continue to fascinate me: this versatile body mastery method promises posture, mobility and body mastery, in addition to multiple other benefits. This is what I find especially fascinating: Pilates strenghtens the deep muscles in the midriff. A strong midriff and body mastery in turn have a central role in the sense of balance. A good sense of balance is fun and beneficial in a lot of sports, but especially for a dancer it is a pure necessity. This said, my former dancce teacher was of the opinion that balance is found between the ears. One can, in fact, maintain balance by sheer willpower and faith. One can, however, achieve the firm balance of a dancer if the midriff corset is in place. I will start the search for my lost sense of balance in Pirkko Ahjo’s course Pilates for Advanced Beginners and Middle Level.

Nothing is done by force or violently in Pilates. As a total opposite to this, the gym in Annankatu is blissfully tranquil. The class always starts with warm-ups and preparations standing up, after which we move on to the more challenging section laying down. The deep muscles are always activated before starting the exercise: transverse abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles. The scapula support gets a lot of attention during the course. This is good, because at least to me, this is sometimes difficult. In Pilates less is often more: more important than a broad movement is where and how the movement originates. Instead of multiple repetitions the intention is pure and flowing movement. This is why Pilates requires a lot of thought and concentration. The exercises are very powerful even with less repetition, when you do them correctly. This is not always easy: at first it may seem difficult to observe multiple factors at the same time. Breathing creates the exercise rhythm and it is an essential part of the Pilates method, but combining breath with movement can, at first, be difficult. However, breathing helps concentration and at the same time relaxes, because it keeps the mind in the present moment. Especially the midriff is the center of the exercises, and often the muscles are sore the next day. We also tried out various aids: a ball, an elastic band, a ring and a roll. The purpose of these aids is to guide the movement and help the person to perform the exercise correctly. This is perhaps why, at least for myself, the exercises often also become more effective.

As a teacher Pirkko is a real professional. She loves to give personal tips and advice to the students with their special needs in mind, and she walks among the students during class and corrects their postures. She also reminds her students of structural considerations, such as swaybacks and overstretching limbs. Under Pirkko’s guidance you can trust that the exercises are performed correctly.
Now I think that Pilates is anything but boring. I love focusing on breath and movement, and the relaxed feeling after class. Pilates is an excellent stress remedy: when you have concentrated in movement and breath for 90 minutes and thought about nothing else, the worries of the world seem far away and you feel calm and refreshed on the way home. My body awareness has increased: even in everyday life I find myself thinking about scapular support and correcting incorrect postures. The best thing, however, is a better sense of balance. It is wonderful to look into the mirror during dance class and note you can maintain your balance. With the relaxing and invigorating effect of Pilates my life has, surprisingly, more spiritual balance as well.

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Written by Heini, Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki