What is Pilates?

Developed by Joe Pilates, the exercises

“…develop the body uniformly, correct wrong postures, restore physical vitality, invigorate the mind and elevate the spirit.”

 

Pilates was way ahead of his time in viewing the body holistically and emphasising the body working together as one. During his lifetime he worked extensively with professional dancers in his studio in New York. Nowadays the Pilates movements cover hundreds of exercises that can be done on a mat, not requiring any special equipment or clothing.

Pilates exercises develop strong abdominal, bottom, back, leg and deep postural muscles. Benefits of this approach include increased body awareness, good muscle tone and increased flexibility. Pilates is often recommended as a rehabilitation system for back, knee, hip, shoulder and repetitive stress injuries. Pilates will help to correct imbalances from one side of the body to the other – many of us are weaker on one side of the body than the other. Core strength, good posture and muscle flexibility are key to Pilates.

Why Practise Pilates?

The movements gently stretch your muscles so that they become longer and leaner. The movements are designed to be appropriate to the needs of everyday life to prevent strains and sprains and through body awareness we become able to identify and change our bad habits in day to day life. Pilates will give you a whole body workout but in a controlled way that takes account of your individual needs and limitations.

The Principles of Pilates

  1. Concentration. With many types of exercise class you can almost ‘switch off’ whilst executing the program but with Pilates, every movement is controlled by thought. The mind creates the body. Pilates is often called the thinking way of moving. So the mind/body part of this exercise program is that you block out other thoughts whilst you focus on the movement.
  2. Breathing. Breathing is a huge part of the technique and often quite challenging for beginners.
    Centring. The torso and back are areas that need a lot of attention nowadays. Many of us spend a lot of the day sitting at work so exercises that help improve the way we sit are extremely useful. To do this we need to balance or centre our torso area. In Pilates this area is called the ‘Power House.’ Every exercise is controlled by contraction of the deep abdominal muscles.
  3. Control. By working against gravity we strengthen the body, the slower the movement the greater the strength we can develop.
  4. Precision. We focus on placing the body in a certain exact position at the start of each movement, this leads to control and thus the exact execution of each movement.
  5. Flow. Each movement is flowing and continuous so that through concentric and eccentric movement we develop a balanced and functional training of the body.
  6. Isolation. We learn to isolate muscles and muscle groups as we work them correctly. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and the movements help us to focus on our own bodily requirements for training.
  7. Routine. Repetition and frequency leads to an increase in skill and strength. Pilates does not replace other activity but instead it will strengthen your body for whatever activity you choose to participate in.