Pilates is an exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve overall health. Exercises are performed on a mat and on specially designed equipment. The Pilates system includes exercises for every part of the body and applications for every kind of activity. Created in the early part of the 20th century, Pilates was so far ahead of it’s time that it did not begin to achieve popular recognition until the first few years of the 21st century. Over 10 million people are now practicing Pilates in the United States and the numbers are growing every year.
Beneficial for people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels, Pilates is more than a passing exercise trend.
After years of high-impact, make-em-sweat, feel-the-burn fitness workouts, there is great appeal in a slower, safer, sensible approach to health and wellness.
Pilates conditions the body from head to toe with a no- to low-impact approach suitable for all ages and abilities. It requires patience and practice, but results will follow.
Beware of Pilates programs that promise dramatic weight loss or overnight transformations. That’s not what pure Pilates is about. However, with time and dedication, Pilates practice can:
- Improve strength, flexibility and balance.
- Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk.
- Challenge deep abdominal muscles to support the core.
- Engage the mind and enhance body awareness.
- Condition efficient patterns of movement making the body less prone to injury.
- Reduce stress, relieve tension, boost energy through deep stretching.
- Restore postural alignment.
- Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
- Promote recovery from strain or injury.
- Increase joint range of motion.
- Improve circulation.
- Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
- Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
- Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury.
- Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
- Compliment sport training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
- Improve the way your body looks and feels.
Why is Pilates so Popular?
Pilates focuses on engaging the mind with the body to create exercises that
involve the whole body. Every exercise is performed with attention to the breath, proper form and efficient movement patterns. Pilates strengthens the core, improves balance, increases coordination and decreases stress. The exercises are relatively safe, low impact and appropriate for anyone from 10 to 100. Pilates focuses on learning to move better so the benefits are felt in everyday life.
Pilates Movement Principles:
Joseph Pilates thought of his method as a way to connect and develop the mind, body and spirit. These are the key principles of the Pilates method.
1) Breathing – The breath is the essential link between the mind and the body. It draws our wandering mind back into our bodies and back to the task at hand. It is the foundation of our existence and the rhythm that accompanies us from birth to death. In Pilates the breath is integrated into every movement in order to keep our awareness on what we are doing, to improve the flow of oxygen throughout our tissues and to improve the capacity of our lungs.
2) Concentration – To concentrate is to pay attention to what you are doing. To be present with and in control of the task at hand. Without concentration the exercises lose their form and their purpose. When teaching it is important to have a client do only as many repetitions as they can without losing their concentration. As Joe often said, “It is better to do five repetitions perfectly than 20 without paying attention”
3) Control – To be in control is to understand and maintain the proper form, alignment and effort during an entire exercise. Pilates exercises are never done without engaging the mind to control the movements and the efforts that the body is making.
4) Centering – In Pilates all movement radiates outward from the center. Developing a strong, stable and flexible center is one of the defining features of this form of exercise.
5) Precision – Understanding proper form and placement and being able to perform exercises with efficiency comes with practice. Precision is the end product of concentration, control, centering and practice.
6) Balanced Muscle Development – Understanding, developing and maintaining correct alignment and form is essential to Pilates. With practice these principles become second nature and lead to improved posture, increased comfort and enhanced physical abilities.
7) Rhythm/Flow – All movements in Pilates are done with a sense of rhythm and flow. Flow creates smooth, graceful and functional movements. It decreases the amount of stress placed on our joints and develops movement patterns that integrate our body into a smoothly flowing whole.
8) Whole Body Movement – Pilates is fundamentally about integration: integrating movement into a flowing whole body experience, integrating the mind and body to create clarity and purpose, integrating mind, body and spirit to create a life of balance.
9) Relaxation – To be healthy in body and mind it is important to understand the balance between effort and relaxation. In Pilates we learn to use just the amount of effort needed to complete the exercise correctly, no more, no less. Learning to release unnecessary tension in our bodies helps us to find ease and flow in movement and in the rest of our lives.