It can be really hard to connect with our core muscles body. When pilates instructors talk about pulling the navel to the spine, tightening the imaginary corset around your waist, or lifting up on your pelvic floor some people know what we mean and others have difficulty finding and feeling those muscles.

It’s not easy for everyone and it’s not supposed to be. As odd as it sounds, to move properly takes a lot of practice. However, sometimes for people to make their bodies do what they want they force the muscles by squeezing as hard as they can.

When I ask someone to rock into an imprinted position for the first time one of three things usually happen. 1) They do it with ease. 2) Nothing happens. 3) They thrust their back against the floor and I can see their whole body tense.

If you tend to be like type-three on this list, it’s pretty normal. We are trained to workout while tense in our society, but in pilates there is a more delicate balance going on with the muscles. We want to engage them without tensing them to the point of aggravation. We want them working, but not straining. It’s a very hard balance to find–I know because I often still struggle with the sensation in my body.

If you are new to pilates, feeling overwhelmed by all the new information can make you tense. My best advice when starting pilates or re-evaluating your own practice is to relax a little and cut yourself a little slack. Try to be engaged, but try not to force it so hard.