Pilates is a method of exercise, which aims to encourage the use of the mind to develop core postural muscle strength, stability and flexibility resulting in more efficient and graceful movement. This merging of the mind and body was originally developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s.
It is an exercise system that keeps the body balanced and is essential to provide support for the spine. “The Pilates Principles” assist in conditioning the entire body by focusing on: proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement. In essence Pilates teaches awareness of spinal alignment with deep core muscle recruitment which is essential for care and prevention of back pain, the rehabilitation of many musculoskeletal problems, and improvement of athletic and physical performance.
The deep core muscles which are the foundation of the Pilates exercises are the deep internal muscles of the abdomen, back and pelvic floor. Pilates trains the core muscles to become strong and work correctly with the more superficial muscles of the body resulting in efficient, painless movement. With increased core strength, stability in the entire body is achieved, which assists with a reduction of pain with movement and an improvement of physical performance.
The Pilates method focuses on quality over quantity. Pilates exercises do not include a lot of repetitions for each move but alternatively each exercise is done with precision. This achieves significant results in a shorter time than one would ever imagine.
Thus Pilates appeals to a wide range of people from all walks of life and fitness levels including athletes, dancers, seniors, pregnant women, new mum’s, and people at various stages of rehabilitation from injury. People that practice Pilates regularly report that the main benefits of Pilates are becoming stronger, leaner and more graceful and efficient with their movement.
Pilates exercises are performed either on a mat on the floor or on exercise equipment developed by Joseph Pilates. The Pilates Matwork series utilizes the padded Pilates Mat with the students own body as resistance in training to build strength and flexibility. Pilates Matwork can also incorporate the use of a variety of props such as the fitness ball, foam roller, circle, theraband, hand weights, Chi ball or Overball, strap and the Pilates pole.
The Pilates Equipment generally uses pulleys and springs to provide assistance to achieve a certain movement or progressive resistance to strengthen the core and superficial supporting muscles. The best-known and most widely used piece of Pilates equipment is the Pilates Reformer however most Pilates Studios will also have the Trapeze Table (Cadillac), the Wunda Chair, the Ladder Barrel and the Spine Corrector (Step Barrel).
There are many Pilates matwork and equipment classes available at a variety of Pilates Studios around the country. There are also many different schools of Pilates such as Winsor, Stott and Polestar Pilates, each with their own take on Joseph Pilates original repertoire. Regardless of which style or school of Pilates you choose, ensure that you practice with and learn from an accredited Pilates instructor who has attained Pilates Instructor Certification.
Benefits of Pilates
Regular practice of Pilates exercises provides the following benefits to the body:
Improves & Maintains Posture
- Improves & Maintains Balance & Coordination
- Improves & Maintains Flexibility of joints and muscles
- Improves & Maintains Pelvic Floor Control
- Strengthens core postural muscle strength, including the abdominal, back and buttocks, which is especially useful in the rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.
- Pilates workouts can also assist in weight loss and cardiovascular/aerobics conditioning
- Regular practice of Pilates also develops concentration, focus and the body-mind connection enabling benefits to be attained similar to those of meditation.
Pregnancy and Pilates
The body undergoes changes during pregnancy which affect posture, muscles and joints. This can result in pregnancy-related aches and pains, but these can be prevented by specific Pilates exercises to support the body during these changes. Pilates exercises also assist in strengthening the pelvic floor which helps prevent and treat incontinence, pelvic instability, lumbar and pelvic pain during & after pregnancy. By strengthening the pelvic floor and postural muscles, Pilates also assist women with labour.