Well unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will no doubt have been hearing about Pilates for a few years now. With celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Megan Markle and Sandra Bullock to name a few and let’s face it… we’d be happy with a body like any of these amazing strong women. But what exactly is Pilates and WHY should YOU be doing it?
In short, Pilates is a form of low impact exercise to strengthen muscles whilst improving flexibility and postural alignment. Whilst you exercise all muscles, there is most definitely a huge emphasis on ‘The Core’ – that magic circle around your body encompassing your abdominal area and spine and the area we all crave to be tucked in, flat and rippled… a little like Kate Hudsons, Megan Markle and Sandra Bullock’s! You can do Pilates with or without equipment, but either way you can expect the movements to be slow, precise and controlled with an emphasis on breath control. It is not only a great form of physical workout, but mentally Pilates can provide you with time to quiet the mind and alleviate stress. In short Pilates is the way forward!
Whilst you might not be beating yourself to pieces in a high intensity workout crushing jumping squats and deadlifts you are most definitely working out. In fact, if you don’t feel the workout then chances are you weren’t doing it correctly. Engaging the core and pelvic stability can be a little tricky to get right, especially if it’s been years since you used your core. I have so many women say “I haven’t got a core” when they come to me, but with a little coaching and some deep exhalations we most definitely find it. It’s just a question of being shown how.
In Pilates we refer to ‘The core’ a lot, but that doesn’t mean we only work the abs. Many think the core just means the stomach, but Pilates is so much more. In Pilates you’ll exercise many muscles around the entire trunk area. This includes the abdominals, but also the Transerve which runs like a corset around your middle, the finer muscles supporting your spine, the hips, pelvic floor and inner and outer thighs. Plus there will be some work in there for your arms. In fact, as you advance you’ll find one of Joseph Pilates original moves includes a press-up!
How to be a beginner in Pilates
Many beginners classes will focus on similar exercises and ultimately the goal is to help you achieve some key outcomes:
- You understand more about your core and how to engage the deep stabilising muscles and keep these engaged to support movement
- You understand the how to breath with the movement and how to use the breath to further engage the right muscles whilst performing the move
- You understand your strengths and limitations and how to modify movements to protect your spine and pelvic region whilst your core strength develops
- You learn control and precision of movement understanding stabilisation of the pelvic and shoulder region for improved posture
The exercises tend to be slower, performed with more control and a smaller range of movement. The types of exercises you will see in a complete beginners class consist of exercises such as Wiper, Heel Slides, Table Top, Hip Circles, Seated Spine Stretch and The Saw. As you advance so do the exercise and Joseph Pilates designed 34 of them, all with modifications and progressions. So Pilates really is for everyone.
Ten Benefits of having Pilates in your Life and Why YOU need it.
1. Pilates is a whole body workout – It promotes an integrative approach to exericse viewing the body as a whole. The workouts train the body though all plains of movement for a well rounded workout. Focusing on the core, but incoporating flexiblity, strength, mobility, control and precision to name a few
2. Pilates is for everyone at every level – The original 34 exercises designed by Joseph Pilates can be taught to any level. Each exercise has a set of regressions (simplify) and progressions (challenging) to ensure you can start where you are and progress through the levels.
3. Pilates creates strength in a functional way – The exercises use body weight and small props, so you get a workout that develops strength utilising your own body weight. There are no bulky weights or overbuilding of muscles. You create a functional body that’s strong for every day life
4. Pilates increases flexibility – So many people have tight and weak muscles, especially the hamstrings which can lead to bad posture and resultant pain and injury. Pilates improves flexibility across the whole body.
5. Pilates develops core strength – this is a huge benefit for so many reasons. The core involves the abdominals, spine, pelvic floor and hips providing you with a strong trunk to maintain good posture and remain injury free
6. Pilates improves posture – with the combination of developing strength, flexibilty and agility of movement your posture improves greatly allowing you to walk tall and avoid neck, back and shoulder problems.
7. Pilates increases energy – As with all forms of movement the natural endorphins help you feel better and improve energy levels as the blood gets flowing around the body
8. Pilates can aid in weight loss and toning – Whilst it’s not a intensive interval session all workouts – including pilates – will burn calories and the more calories you burn the more you aid weight loss
9. Pilates increases body awareness – Regularly moving the body in a controlled and precise manner will reconnect the brain and movement giving you greater control over your body and how it moves
10. Pilates improves balance – through a stronger core, more flexible muscles and regular control over movement you will maintain better balance in every day life.