Today's post is getting back to the basics of Pilates. There are so many misconceptions - 'what is it? Isn't is just for the older generation? Pilates is just like yoga...'
I want to set the record straight and tell you all you need to know about Pilates, including what it is, why it is great and what you can gain from a regular practice.
The history of Pilates is really interesting.
The creator of this excellent class was called Joseph Pilates (and now you know where the name came from!), a German man who suffered from a number of illnesses and ailments as a child. He had a determination to overcome these issues with the use of exercise, which ultimately led to his success.
During World War I, Joseph Pilates trained others in the particular form of exercise that he had created. He began working in a hospital and rigged springs to hospital beds, which allowed bedridden patients to exercise against a form of resistance. He also studied the movement of animals, particularly cats, which inspired his fitness regimes.
As Joseph Pilates began refining his practice and teaching mat based exercises, his exercise regime became known as "Contrology".
"The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier" - Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates and his wife immigrated to the USA after the war, where they opened a studio and began to train others to teach and develop Contrology and the word started to spread and their following grew.
Contrology encouraged the use of the mind to control the muscles, and paid particular attention to the core postural muscles. Pilates teaches the awareness of the breath and how this can assist you in completing the exercises, increasing the strength in the abdominal muscles and aligning the spine.
Contrology, now known as Pilates, is practiced across the world.
What is Pilates?
So, what actually is Pilates?
Well firstly (and importantly), Pilates is an extremely accessible form of exercise as it is low impact. Even if you have ailments or injuries, it's likely that you will be able to take part in Pilates classes, provided that you have sign off from your doctor (depending on what injury/ailment we are talking about).
Pilates focuses on improving posture and alignment, balance, flexibility and core strength. In addition, we look at stability, muscle control and endurance. There is a focus on the 'mind/body connection' in Pilates, which is essentially being aware of what your body is doing and how it is doing it.
"Through the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can ever be attained. Self-confidence follows." - Joseph Pilates
There are different types of Pilates classes that you can take part in, whether you prefer a group exercise class or a 1-1 session with an instructor. You might want to try both and see what you prefer. There are also different options depending on the type of equipment you would like to use. The two types that we are going to discuss within this post are:
Mat Pilates - get your exercise mat and get ready for some Pilates! You might also use some other equipment like resistance bands, blocks or straps.
Reformer Pilates - a reformer is a machine that adds additional resistance to your workout with the use of springs, a platform, a sliding carriage, ropes and and pullets.
There are different variations of the above and it might take a bit of time to find the right class for you. Ultimately, you need to be comfortable in the class and with the instructor, so you can get the best out of it. If you don't particularly enjoy a reformer class, you might try and mat class instead. You might also have a try a few different classes until you find the instructor that you like.
How is Pilates different from yoga?
There are some similarities and overlaps between these two forms of exercise and ultimately, it is about finding what works for you.
Yoga focuses on the mind, body and spirit and will often have a more spiritual element to it. You tend to find that a yoga class will have a meditation towards the end.
Whilst Pilates also connects the mind and the body, there is more of a focus on the connection between the two when completing the moves in the class. We often use the breath in Pilates to bring energy and oxygen into our muscles, which helps them to contract.
You may find that there are moves that appear in both Pilates and yoga classes, and that's not a problem, as there are overlaps as I mentioned above. Both have benefits and the best way to find the class for you is to try them!
The benefits of Pilates
The benefits of Pilates are vast and it can make a significant difference to your health (both mentally and physically) without taking a toll on your body. Pilates is a low impact form of exercise, which is why it is so great!
Some of the benefits of Pilates are as follows:
Strengthen the core - this includes your back and abdominals;
Conditioning the body (toning the muscles);
Learn how to move effectively;
Reduce stress and anxiety;
Eases aches and pains
You can see here that there are a long list of benefits and it's not an exhaustive list. If you can maintain a regular practice, you will really start to see the positive effects and benefits to your mind and body.
"You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions" - Joseph Pilates
If you have any injuries or issues, then you may need to consult with your doctor before taking part in a Pilates class. However, generally Pilates is accessible to everyone and modifications and adaptations can be made to suit your needs.
I hope that this post will encourage you to give Pilates a try and make you love it as much as I do! If you are worried or feel a bit self conscious, have a chat with the instructor beforehand, who can make you feel comfortable. We were all beginners once and any instructor would be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have about the classes.
Feel free to drop a comment below and let me know how your Pilates classes are going!