The Pilates Method
Pilates is an exercise method which helps to elongate and strengthen muscles, with the aim of restoring the body’s balance. The Pilates instructor’s thorough understanding of the body's muscular and skeletal systems enables her to create a comprehensive exercise program for her client. Classes focus on specific areas and muscle groups individually and in sequence in order to integrate the whole body, re-educating and restoring it to optimum muscular and skeletal function.
This holistic approach sets Pilates apart from many other forms of exercise. Osteopaths, physiotherapists and general practitioners recommend Pilates as one of the safest forms of exercise today. Pilates can be beneficial for just about everyone, regardless of age and fitness level.
Pilates consists of a repertoire of over 500 exercises which can be performed on the mat or on the equipment designed by Joseph Pilates. The exercises are organized into levels of difficulty from basic beginner to advanced and the grading is according to the degrees of core strength and flexibility.
Specifically the Pilates method works to strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, increase body awareness, build muscle tone and gain flexibility.
Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young.
Pilates is based on six basic principles
There is a grace and beauty to efficiently executed movement, and this is the aim of the Pilates method. Focus on precision of execution leads to great general energy saving as oxygen is used more effectively, energy is heightened and well-being is elevated. No movement in Pilates is superfluous or wasted.
The exercises are designed to flow in sequence from one to the other and movement flows naturally allowing for a natural rhythm in the performance of the exercises. As the practitioner becomes more accomplished it allows for a time-efficient and thorough working of all the systems of the body.
Concentrating on the muscles you are using ensures better effort from your muscles, the muscles function more effectively once the mind is focussed on maintaining the adequate length and stretch through the body. The constant awareness and concentration on the correct physical posture as one performs the exercises gives better results.
Correct breathing allows for greater control of your movements during Pilates and due to the specific form of breathing we use in Pilates, you will experience an increase in lung capacity which increases well- being. Increased oxygenation enables cleansing of the bloodstream and much importance is placed on ridding the body of stale air during the class.
Again like the principle of precision, each exercise is performed with control so that we are in charge of our bodies at all times- this is one reason why Pilates is such a safe and effective form of exercise. At no point are we unaware of the position of our bodies and therefore we do not get injured from sloppy movement or overdoing it.
Here we refer to the powerhouse or the core; this consists of the deep postural muscles which wrap around our lower back, hips and abdomen. All strength originates in the core and flows to the extremities, without core strength we cannot hope to have strength, alignment and balance throughout the rest of the body.
The benefits of Pilates
Some of the many benefits of Pilates include:
- Prevention of injury and recovery from injury
- Improves posture, co-ordination and alignment
- Enhances mental and physical endurance
- Strengthens, stretches and aligns the body through movement
- Improves back pain
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves well-being and reduces stress levels
- Excellent in re-establishing core strength after childbirth
- Creates a strong lean body without creating bulk
Who can benefit from Pilates
Pilates is suitable for all sections of the general population:
- Both the athlete and the sedentary individual
- Those suffering from back pain or general pain
- Those wishing to recover from injury
- Anyone wishing to achieve a lean toned body
- Children over 12