Understanding Pilates

Pilates (or the Pilates method) is a series of about 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. Pilates lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. It requires concentration and focus, because you move your body through precise ranges of motion. It improves flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness.

In Pilates, your muscles are never worked to exhaustion, so there is no sweating or straining, just intense concentration. The workout consists of a variety of exercise sequences that are performed in low repetitions, usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. Mat work and specialised equipment for resistance are used.

The Pilates method is taught to suit each person and exercises are regularly re-evaluated to ensure they are appropriate for that person. Due to the individual attention, this method can suit everybody from elite athletes to people with limited mobility, pregnant women and people with low fitness levels.

Classes are held in specialised Pilates studios, physiotherapy clinics or at your local leisure facility or community centre.

Always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or have not exercised in a long time.

 

History of Pilates

 

Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates was formed by Joe during the First World War with the intention to improve the rehabilitation programme for casualties. During this period, Pilates was designed to aid injured soldiers in regaining their health by strengthening, stretching, and stabilising key muscles.

Joe preferred fewer, more precise movements, requiring control and technique over increased repetition. He believed that mental and physical health were essential to one another, creating what is a method of total body conditioning. Pilates uses correct alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement (the Pilates principles) to establish a perfect working body from the inside out.

Pilates classes build strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone with an emphasis on lengthening the body and aligning the spine, rather than on bulking and shortening the muscles.

 

Types of Pilates

 

The two basic forms of Pilates are:

Mat-based Pilates – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. The main aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of your body to improve posture, balance and coordination.

Equipment-based Pilates – this includes specific equipment that works against spring-loaded resistance, including the ‘reformer’, which is a moveable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks. Some forms of Pilates include weights (such as dumbbells) and other types of small equipment that offer resistance to the muscles.

 

Health benefits of Pilates

 

The health benefits of Pilates include:

improved flexibility

increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)

balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body

enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs

improved stabilisation of your spine

improved posture

rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances

improved physical coordination and balance

relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back

safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries

prevention of musculoskeletal injuries

increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing

improved concentration

increased body awareness

stress management and relaxation

increased energy levels

a clear and focused mindset

stimulates and eliminates toxins and waste.

boosts your immune system.