As we settle into shelter in place mode many of us have embarked on deep cleaning and organizing adventures with our newly found additional time at home. Others of us are adjusting to cleaning our own homes due to the need for social distancing. So, I thought this would be a good time to remind you about your Pilates practice and how you might incorporate it into your spring cleaning routine.
Applying the principles of Pilates to your home cleaning routine this spring will reap benefits beyond creating a tidy, sanitary place to shelter in. The next time you give one room or the whole house a good cleaning, challenge yourself to apply these four principles that you normally use during your Pilates practice: breath, core stabilization, the hip hinge, and alternating sides.
Breath is is with us from the moment we enter the world until the moment we leave it. And yet, there are so many people who simply forget to breathe, especially when stressed or concentrating. In Pilates, the breath is an integral aspect of each movement and I invite you to embody this as you clean your house or work in the garden - don't forget to breath deeply. It does not need to be any particular style of breath, just breath in and out deeply especially as you start to get your heart rate up while sweeping, vacuuming or scrubbing. If you use cleaning products with heavy scents or chemicals please be sure to protect your lungs by opening windows or doors to ventilate the area you are working in and turning your head away when the fumes are most active in the air.
Core stabilization and engagement are likely the first things which come to mind when you think about Pilates. Spring cleaning the house, garage or garden are excellent activities in which to practice this outside of the your fitness routine. In fact, this is one of the reasons we do Pilates . . . to make our daily activities easier and safer on our bodies. Think of drawing your abdominals in and up while you work on household projects to strengthen your center and protect your back. This is important while reaching away from your center with your arms to put things away in high cupboards, folding laundry and changing your bed sheets. Core engagement is crucial for back safety while performing cleaning tasks which require spinal rotation such as sweeping or pushing motions such as mopping or vacuuming and of course while bending down or lifting objects (which leads me to the third principle).
The Hip Hinge is most simply put, this is bending at the knees rather than the back and keeping your spine long and core strong. When preparing to retrieve something from a low cabinet or the washer/dryer be sure to soften your knees, engage your core and hinge your hips to get your body lower. Then, keep your center firm and push down through your heels to rise. Ah shoot, did I just make you do a squat to do laundry - YES! When done correctly not only will this keep your legs and back-side strong, it will protect your back! Use the same principle when lifting heavy items: hinge at the hips to lower your body and keep your spine long as you pick up your laundry basket or TV (whatever it is) then hold it close to your body as you rise with strong legs and long firm trunk and do the same to lower it back into place.
Alternating sides is a strategy that makes sense in your workout but might not even occur to you while cleaning. If I asked you to do 10 bicep curls with your right arm would you be surprised if I didn’t ask you to do the same on your left? Probably so! So - don’t just scrub with your dominant hand or kneel down on the same leg each time you retrieve a pet or child’s toy from under the couch. Alternating sides will likely feel unnatural at first, however it will keep both sides strong and assist in balancing out your strong, weak or tight muscles and compensatory patterns. Bonus: this is great for your brain!
My hope is that after you finish your daily or weekly household chores you will feel not just the success of a freshly cleaned home but also a strong and energized body.