How to apply Pilates in real life

woman sitting at computer failing to apply pilates to real life

By Amy Jaya

Are you a dabbler?  Do you dabble in a bit of this and that?  Do you dabble in exercise?  Many of us do.  We attend a class or two of Yoga or Pilates during the week and once the class is over we might not really think about it much again until the next class.  This is human nature.

But I want you to get more out of your class.

A Pilates class offers you the chance to learn and practice a series of movements in a dedicated setting.   The next, and arguably more important step, is applying what we have learnt into our daily lives.  One can be a star student during the class but if you revert back to bad habits during the rest of the week then you have really wasted your opportunity.

So much of what we learn and practice in Pilates is about alignment.  Alignment allows our body and its organs to function optimally.  So if we are out of alignment we sabotage their ability to give us strength and good health.  Today I want to focus on two practical ways you can apply what you learn about alignment in your Pilates class to real life, to ensure the benefits are realised well beyond the weekly classes.


The number one thing to watch for when sitting is ‘hunched shoulders’.  Hunching the shoulders is one of the most common misalignments because it is so easy to do.  We do it without thinking about it and it takes conscious effort to change.   Those of us who work at a desk know how hard it can be to sit up straight.  If we are concentrating on what is on the screen it can be so easy to keep leaning forward and hunching over.

Now think about what you do in the Pilates class.  There are so many exercises where you are sitting and being taught to keep yourself aligned.  This is the learning and practicing in readiness for the daily sitting we do.  So a handy tip is, when you are doing these exercises in the Pilates class, visualise how you are going to apply the good posture you have maintained so beautifully in class to your sitting positions during the day.

To change poorer posture, that many of us naturally revert to during the week, you are going to need to consciously be mindful of your hunching when sitting, and correct it regularly.  The more conscious you are of it the less likely you are to relapse back into that position.  As time goes on sitting straight will become automatic.

What to do

When you notice that you are hunched over, relax your shoulders by drawing the shoulder blades down away from your ears and toward the spine.  Sit up tall and aim to sit on your sit bones (fleshy part of your bottom) and lift up from your spine to maintain the natural curves of the spine. Check that your head is balanced on a straight line on top of your hips.

In addition, maintain what is called the belly scoop as much as you can – draw your naval (belly button) towards your spine (imagine sucking in your gut whilst zipping up a tight pair of jeans).  The belly scoop helps to protect your back by using the deep abdominal muscles called the Transversus Abdominis.  The more you become better at pulling your abs in, the stronger they get, and you are on your way to a flat belly!


The thing to watch for most when standing is the lean.  We often lean to one side or the other, sometimes as a result of carrying too much in one hand or the other or putting a bag on one shoulder.   Once again this can take conscious effort to change.

Now think about when you are standing in the Pilates class.  This might be when you are doing some initial breathing exercises at the start of the class.  As mentioned earlier, as you do these exercises in the Pilates class, visualise how you are going to apply that good posture during the week.   Once again you are going to need to consciously be mindful of your posture and correct it regularly.

What to do

When you stand up make sure you are standing tall.  Imagine a piece of string pulling the top of your head to the sky.  This imagery will help to lengthen the spine.   Gently lift your pelvic floor muscles up and pull your tummy muscles in.  Aim to have your ribs in line with your pelvis.

If you are carrying more than one bag, distribute the weight across hands as evenly as possible and engage your abdominals.  If you have a big box to lift and carry, hold it in front of your chest to keep the weight in the middle of your frame.  If you only need one bag, where possible use one that can be put across both shoulders.


So as you go about your weekly Pilates classes, start thinking about how you will apply what you have learnt throughout the week.  Start to visualise yourself sitting and standing better.

Ask yourself, how will I sit and stand more like the way I do in class?  What can I do to avoid the bad habits in the first place?

And finally, commit to being mindful of your posture during the week and correcting as you go.  This will require persistence.  Your body will thank you.

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