There are a lot of people in the public eye—actors, athletes, even some politicians—who are looking good right now. They're walking taller, and appearing more lithe and supple. For a growing number of this supposed über-folk, this can be attributed to regular Pilates.
Pilates works on integrating the body with the mind, and not only tones outer muscles, but also the less visible (but no less important!) muscles, like the pelvic floor so that optimum musculoskeletal form is restored. As well as being an excellent form of exercise, Pilates can also be instrumental in managing pain as well as in rehabilitating a variety of injuries because it is very low impact (some of the exercises were originally intended to assist the recovery of soldiers injured during World War I.)
There are six key principles at the core (most appropriate!) of the Pilates Method:
Controlled breathing fuels the moves and increases internal oxygen flow. Your breath should be the life force of your movement. This assists with muscle control and invigorates the entire body.
Concentration is the art of being mindful in one's entire self that is to be present in one's body. Pilates focuses the attention so the mind and body are wholly attuned, and the mind is in constant conversation with the body.
Joseph Pilates originally called his method ‘contrology'. It wasn't until later that the exercise became eponymous. Developing overall muscle control endows the body with an improved capacity to ward off possible injury. As the biomechanics of the body improve there is less strain on joints and ligaments.
Pilates identified our ‘centre' (or ‘core') as comprising the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks. When we say 'core' nowadays, we are usually referring to the deep 'transverse adbominius' muscle, multifidous (deep back muscles), and the pelvic floor. Once this is understood and the core is strengthened, these areas then become the ‘powerhouse' of the whole physique, so the body is more aligned and better supported.
Seamless movements are conducted at a steady, even pace so that they flow smoothly from one to another. Pilates is concerned with physically powerful yet graceful dynamics.
Less is more with Pilates, as it economises on physicality without impinging on effect. Every move serves a particular purpose, with an emphasis being placed on quality and accuracy of movement so that all areas of your musculoskeletal structure are given a thorough workout.
What can I expect if Pilates were part of my regular fitness routine?
Joseph Pilates the man who started it all towards the turn of last century professe;
"In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20 you will see the difference. And in 30 you'll be on your way to having a whole new body."
More specifically this means you can expect to feel an improvement with; flexibility, muscle tone, core strength, physical coordination, circulation, reduction in aches and pains, concentration, body image, agility, energy, balance.
Pilates is also sometimes recommended by medical professionals for a wide range of conditions including Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoporosis, and Scoliosis, making it a relatively safe type of exercise. But as with any fitness program that you may be thinking about embarking on, do seek advice from your physician and the instructor so that you're not compromising your health.
Pilates is either carried out simply using exercise mats on the floor or in a suitably equipped studio (usually with no more than four people being instructed at a time) where you'll find such apparatus as the Reformer, the Cadillac, and the Wunda Chair. You can also join small group mat classes or allegro classes which are group equipment classes conducted in small groups also.
Written by Brad Leeon