We may all be aware of the growing popularity of Pilates in recent years but what actually is Pilates? And does it work??
As if the endorsement of top athletes and A-list celebrities around the world wasn’t enough maybe a strong core, improved posture and balance as well as increased co-ordination and flexibility might convince you!
So what actually is Pilates?
Pilates is an exercise system developed by a gentleman named Joseph Pilates at the start of the 20th century. It was designed to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve overall health by focusing on engaging the body and mind. It is true that Pilates when done effectively will give you those so desired sculpted abdominals but not without working on and truly understanding some of the very important principles. These principles are the foundation of all of Joseph Pilates work and are referred to as “The Pilates Principles”. Here we have focused on six of the main principles.
Breath is the essential link between our bodies and our mind. To quote Joseph Pilates, “Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” However, it is the way we breathe that is so important and it is one of the many building blocks that makes this exercise system such a phenomenon. The techniques can be used to facilitate movement, improve strength, increase mobility as well as improving the capacity of the lungs and focusing the mind. There is an important correlation between the breath and movement in the spine and the engagement of the pelvic floor and deep abdominals. In Pilates there are various ways in which we may que a client to breathe in order to maximise movement or perhaps challenge further. Examples are Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing which works to engage the core on an exhale and relax and focus the mind. Lateral (rib) breathing works to direct breathe into the back and sides if the ribs, releasing the mid back and increasing lung capacity. It can be used to increase energy and stimulate the mind. One lung breathing allows increased lung expansion in lateral spinal flexion. It is particularly useful in clients with thoracic scoliosis on the concave side to increase spinal and rib mobility.
“Always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them.” This principle is about bringing your full attention to each and every move to ensure it does not lose its’ form and purpose. Based on Joseph Pilates teachings it is better to have a client do less repetitions perfectly than 20 with lack of attention.
Being in control involves the understanding and maintenance of proper form, alignment and effort throughout an entire exercise. Engagement of the mind to control the movements and efforts of the body is of upmost importance. Most of the advanced exercises in Pilates such as the dreaded 100s requires a lot of control of the global muscular and stabilising systems.
All Pilates moves expand outward from the centre or core of the body. Building a strong and stable yet flexible centre of body is what defines Pilates as an exercise form.
Precision is the accumulation of concentration, control, centering and practice. Being precise in all your movements will ensure you get the most from workout. To touch on what we said earlier it is better to do a lower amount of repetitions of perfectly performed movements than 20 not so perfect.
All movements in Pilates should flow and with a sense of rhythm. Flow creates smooth, graceful and functional movement which in turn protects and strengthens joints and allows our body to preform wholly.
So hopefully now you understand a little bit more about what Pilates is all about. The integration and practice of all of these principles will help clients to achieve their mind-body goals.