Oh my….it seems to me that the subject on everyone’s mind these days is our beloved exercise, The Hundred….every article I’m reading about the Pilates Method of Exercise lately, so many tweets from one studio and another, the blog posts, and the conversations I’m overhearing at cocktail parties! It’s unbelievable. Okay – you got me – I haven’t yet heard anything during cocktail hour, but maybe I’ve got your attention?
The Hundred is one of the most complex Pilates exercises in the repertoire, and since it’s at the beginning of each practice it serves as an opportunity to warm up the fundamentals and principles, and is an opportunity for learning to stay in the present moment with gentle self-discipline. I have to admit I’ve often wished it wasn’t ‘The Hundred’ at all…how about ‘The Fifty’ or at least ‘The Seventy-Five?’
Especially when I first started out…..’i have to keep my legs – where? ‘….breathe,breathe,breathe,breathe,breathe….’oh, i think my stomach’s sticking out….it’s supposed to be…point toes, pilates v’….’darn, i forgot to pull the steaks out…. ‘breathe,breathe, breathe, breathe,breathe ….’why am i always the loudest?’…. ‘reach…arms…reach’….’what? 4 to go? you have got to be joking.’
A La Carte?
A friend of mine went to a Pilates class at a gym the other day and had the interesting experience of being told, a fair way into the class, that she could ‘attempt the Hundred if she wanted to’. This, unfortunately, is becoming less and less uncommon. There seem to be a lot of Pilates Instructors out there, and consequently a lot of their clients, who are under the impression that a person has to build up to being able to do the Hundred. If you are being taught this way, or doing workouts yourself this way, you are being seriously cheated out of the great experience that Pilates can offer.
In the Pilates Method, The Hundred is an exercise that is done right out of the gate. You don’t mess around, you get straight into it. In the Mat work it is the first exercise, in the Reformer it is second, right after the footwork series. The Hundred is such a brilliant exercise for helping you get centered and bringing your focus into your body.
The Hundred and Staying Present
Pilates isn’t a ‘perfect’ it’s a practice. Perfection instigates right/wrong, good/bad dualistic thinking. Perfection isn’t a principle of Pilates. Pilates is about strength and freedom of movement, developing grace, control and true health and fitness. Don’t let yourself miss out on that!
You have to concentrate on your breathing, which is fundamental to any good workout, wake up your abdominal muscles, which is fundamental to any good Pilates workout, and co-ordinate your breathing with your body movements, which is fundamental to good health.
A lot of people aren’t strong enough to hold the full position for long, or even at all in the beginning, but that is no reason to not start with it. It has been my experience that most of us underestimate what our bodies are capable of. This doesn’t mean that we should all go out and try doing back flips (I definitely don’t recommend that), but your body has to be challenged if it is going to improve. It’s as simple as that. The Hundred is one of the initial exercises that sets the rhythm for the rest of your workout, so move, breath and enjoy it!
During our Hundreds we get this wonderful opportunity to see what is going on with our mind and body. Thoughts and pains are mirrored back to us, bringing rich information we can utilize to set our practices for that day. By keeping mindful about our intentions to practice the Hundred fully present, while maintaining awareness of all the aspects involved like movement, form, breath, length, centering, coordination, precision, we can synchronize mind and body, and this will translate not only into the quality and experience of the rest of our practice time, but also into our daily activities.
My challenge to you this week is this: during your next session instead of anticipating what is going to be said next…focus on what your body is doing, feeling and where is it supposed to go. You’ll find that each step of The Hundred, that you’ve either been doing forever or have just begun, will be felt on a much deeper level…the process of starting as a beginner then moving on to intermediate to advance is different for each person and each exercise. Allow yourself to really pay attention to the movement…not what you think it’s supposed to be but what your body is doing right then and there…and then one day…the results will be right there waiting for you!
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