Are you curious about Pilates but haven’t booked a class as you don’t really understand what it is and what it can do for you? You’re not alone. Despite Pilates being around since the early 20th century, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the practice.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is Pilates?
In a nutshell, Pilates is a form of low-impact resistance training that can be done on a mat or a reformer (a machine with springs, pulleys, ropes and a moving carriage). Pilates involves a series of slow, controlled movements to improve core strength, balance, posture and flexibility.
A potted history of Pilates
Pilates was invented by German bodybuilder and gymnast, Joseph Pilates. A sickly child, he tried to combat his ill health by studying and practicing lots of different forms of exercise. It was through this that he began to devise his own exercise method that he called ‘Contrology’.
Joseph came to England for work in 1912, but was imprisoned in an internment camp at the beginning of World War 1. This didn’t stop him refining his exercise system, which he used on his fellow male prisoners to keep them strong and healthy.
During his internment, he helped rehabilitate bed-bound inmates, using an early incarnation of reformer Pilates. He attached springs to their hospital beds and used Pilates moves to help tone and strengthen their muscles whilst in bed.
Pilates continued to develop his exercise system after the war. He opened a studio in New York, which was popular with dancers and athletes.
Word spread, Contrology became mainstream, and the rest is history.
Contrology was renamed Pilates in Joseph’s honour after his death in 1967.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
There are too many to mention in one blog, so I’ve condensed it down to 5 key benefits.
1. Anyone can do it
Whether you’re in your teens or eighties, an elite athlete, or a couch potato, Pilates is for you. With hundreds of exercises and modifications for every exercise, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.
2. It develops core strength
Pilates works your core muscles (or ‘powerhouse’), which consists of your lower back, abdomen, hips, pelvic muscles and glutes.
Here are just a few reasons why a strong core is essential:
- Balance and stability
Your core stabilizes your entire body, allowing you to move in any direction. It enables you to stand still on bumpy terrain, or stand in one spot without losing your balance. In this sense, a strong core can lessen your risk of falling.
- Good posture
Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Good posture trims your silhouette and projects confidence. More importantly, it lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture helps you gain full benefits from the effort you put into exercising, too.
- Injury prevention
The core muscles play a huge role in our everyday activities, from getting out of bed, to walking down the street, and bending over to pick something up. Most importantly, they help us stay upright. This is because the core muscles are the base of support for the entire body.
When our abdominals are weak, it’s often because our back muscles are overly strong. The strain can lead to back pain and injuries. Strengthening the core helps bring balance to the front and back of your body.
3. It’s great for your mental health
Pilates takes you away from the stresses and strains of daily life and enables you to take some time for yourself. Deep breathing is integrated into the exercises, which can reduce feelings of anxiety and encourage relaxation throughout the body.
There are a number of specific stretches for the neck, back and shoulders that reduce heaviness and tension in the muscles, leaving you feeling energised.
4. It creates long, lean muscles
If you practice Pilates regularly, it will change your body. Known for creating long, strong muscles and a leaner look, Pilates improves muscle tone, balance, posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace. All of these things will make you look and feel very fit.
5. It increases flexibility
In Pilates, you work toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. Rather than utilising static (unmoving) stretches, Pilates focuses on movements while stretching. This means the muscles are warm as you stretch, allowing you to stretch further, with less pain.
Start practicing today!
What are you waiting for? The benefits are immense. Sign up to try some of our free taster classes and start reaping the rewards of Pilates today!