Your teacher may regularly use the words stability and stable during your class and perhaps they deserve some further explanation for the context of Pilates, and movement in general.
Stable = stiff…… sometimes
Sometimes stable might mean the same thing as stiff. Lots of Pilates exercises (the Hundred, Single Leg Stretch, Push Up, Footwork……) involve you keeping our spine in the same shape while we move your arms, legs, or both. In this case stability means not moving the joints and it’s a very useful skill to have when you need to be able to move heavy loads, for example. (Research indicates that your capacity to keep your spine stiff and move from your hips is closely related to your risk of injury to your back as well as your knees).
However, stable doesn’t always mean stiff – it also refers to joints that are moving. Whatever position your joint might be in during a movement, there will be an ideal ‘fit’ of the two bones – generally when there’s maximum possible contact of the two surfaces. In this case stability refers to your capacity to move the bones while maintaining their optimal contact to each other.
It might help to think of Pilates exercises as always being 3 dimensional. We’re never focused on a single muscle because we need to have muscles all around the joint working to stabilise it. Pilates is ‘whole body’ exercise in part because our aim is to develop symmetry of the muscles around all of our joints. This allows us to stabilise effectively.
Even though ‘stability’ might seem to mean slightly different things according to the demands of the exercise, even when you’re trying to create stiffness in your spine that still involves the joints in your spine keeping optimal contact. A less good ‘fit’ will be much harder to stabilise well.
Overall we can think of Pilates being a system that helps you to keep your joints fitting together well. This allows us to move freely as well as reducing wear on the joints.
Next time: What do we mean by ‘mobility’?