Pilates focuses on improving core strength and muscular imbalances, which in turn has a positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing.
Just like Yoga, the benefits include improved flexibility, posture and balance and in comparison to other more traditional and strenuous forms of exercise and significantly reduces the chance of injury.
Pilates workouts are mostly mat based, so they can be tailored to your personal fitness levels and are therefore suitable for both beginners and those that feel ready to try out more advanced moves.
Originally called ‘Contrology’, Pilates was named after its creator, the carpenter and gymnast, Joseph Pilates. The programme was developed to help injured soldiers and dancers while he was living in the UK. He later opened the first Pilates studio in New York in 1926.
Initially, Joseph Pilates created and devised 34 fundamental exercises that aimed the complete coordination of the mind, body and spirit. These exercises have been developed over the years, but regardless of different approaches taken by some instructors the six key principles have remained and are followed by all certified instructors. They encompass, control, concentration, powerhouse-centring, breathing, precision and flow.
Can Anyone do Pilates?
Pilates classes are open to all, regardless of age, fitness level or previous experience. There are, however, certain situations where an individual may need to take some precautions. These include, pregnancy, spinal issues and any injuries you may be carrying. If any of these are the case, we strongly recommend consulting your GP before taking part. Secondly, the instructor teaching the class needs to be aware of any complications that may be present and so they adapt accordingly by suggesting alternative options.
What do I Need for my First Pilates session?
It is always important to be dressed comfortably while exercising and we recommend picking something that’s comfy, yet body-hugging. The outfit should let the body flow smoothly from movement to movement and allow the instructor verify the technique.
One thing that you don’t need is a pair of shoes. You can be either barefoot or use special Pilates socks. In certain cases you should bring your own mat, however, Everyone Active provides enough mats for the classes’ attendees.
The Benefits of Pilates
Although Joseph Pilates didn’t have the perfect abs advertisements that abound everywhere these days in mind when developing his method, a strong and toned core is one of the outcomes from attending these classes regularly.
This alone is motivating more and more people to attend Pilates sessions but the list of benefits goes a long way beyond just a stronger core. It’ll help you get stronger, yet more flexible, decrease your stress levels, improve your balance, as well as boosting your coordination, blood circulation, injury rehabilitation and even enhanced sporting performance.
These are just a few of the myriad reasons that Pilates makes an excellent addition to your weekly workout.
Different types of Pilates
Over time, traditional Pilates classes have been adapted to fit in with the demands of modern life. This has given rise to a number of slightly different versions, taught by different instructors with different focuses, and they generally concentrate on counteracting the imbalances and postural problems that many people’s stressful and sedentary lifestyle can cause.
The most common version is STOTT Pilates and you’ll find this at the majority of classes you attend and is based on the principles of biomechanics. While more traditional exercises may focus on strengthening the core and keeping a stretched back, this method incorporates latest discoveries in exercise science, concentrating on keeping the natural curve of the spine and a neutral pelvic position to help achieve a stronger core. It may, however, feel uncomfortable keeping the natural spine position for those who have suffered with spinal injuries.
Initially, apparatus or props were not part of the first 34 Pilates exercises, but there are now places that only provide apparatus-based Pilates classes. This includes equipment such as the Reformer, the Cadillac, a variety of barrels and special chairs. From the other side, Pilates Props makes use of rings, Therabands, Swiss ball or mini balls and can take place on a mat.
There are still some areas where the original form is practised. In this case, the exercises are taught in an unvarying order. From the other side, there are instructors who break the method down and the order varies from class to class adding, as well, changes in the original exercises.
It is important to attend a variety of classes with different instructors to find the method that suits you the most. You may also find a variation in the teaching style which you may find easier to follow.
Pilates was initially known as ‘Contrology’ as it is imperative that each movement of the body is carried out with complete control. To achieve perfect control, you need to be fully aware of the movements of your neuro-muscular junctions.
This element looks at the importance of the connection and cooperation between the body and the mind. When taking the starting position in each exercise, careful focus must be applied onto which muscles will be used and how they will be aligned.
The centre of power production in Pilates derives from what’s known as The Powerhouse, in other words the core of the body, which is sometimes mistaken as only the abdominal muscles. It is, however, much more than that, encompassing the abdominal, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, glutes and muscles around the hips. Generally, Pilates movements are sourced from the centre.
Breathing is known as the first and last human function, we constantly breathe in and out; so we often assume we don’t need instructions to perform this activity correctly. Joseph Pilates insisted it was vital to “learn to breathe properly”, he envisioned the lungs as a bellows and we should use them to circulate air powerfully around the body.
You can only ensure you derive the maximum benefits from the classes if you make sure each movement is carried out precisely and in perfect alignment. Missing even what appears to be a tiny detail implies a deviation of the essential meaning of the exercise.
Each Pilates motion should be smooth, balanced and graceful. Emphasis must always be placed on harmony of motion, rather than speed. There is no specific end to each exercise and the transition between them is fluid, keeping the body in constant motion.
To find out more about Pilates classes offered at your local centre, click here.