Pilates…What It Is and Why Everyone Should Be Doing It

Many people have heard of Pilates but have yet to experience the form of exercise that can transform their bodies and lives in a multitude of ways. Whether you’re a golfer, tennis player, runner, new mom, or work many hours hunched over at a desk, Pilates is for you!

People of all levels of fitness, as well as individuals who are new to exercise, say they’ve seen improvements in range of motion, strength, flexibility, body awareness, and posture after starting an exercise program that incorporates Pilates exercises. After a session of Pilates, a common remark from people is that they feel taller, balanced, lighter, more connected to their bodies, and move more freely. The benefit of having more body awareness and core strength carries over to daily functional activities as well as improved sitting and standing postures.

So what exactly is Pilates? Pilates is an exercise system that was developed by Joseph Pilates from the 1920′s to the 1960′s. Pilates is a unique method of conditioning that combines muscle strengthening and lengthening with breathing patterns to develop and restore muscle balance in the body. Joseph Pilates called his exercises system Contrology. His system combined his personal philosophy with movements based on gymnastics, martial arts, Greco-Roman calisthenics, and his observations of animal movements. Contrology is the complete coordination of body and mind achieved through a series of exercises aimed at building movements that help to strengthen minor muscles, which, in turn, strengthen major muscles.

principles of pilates

Pilates’ teachings were defined by six fundamental principles: Concentration, Control, Centering, Flowing movements, Precision, and Breathing. Emphasis is placed on performing quality movements where the whole body works in synergy versus working major muscles in isolation. The concept of centering is fundamental to the Pilates method and refers to simultaneous stretching and strengthening of the “powerhouse of the body”, an area commonly referred to as the “core”.  If you think of a tree, it’s strength is in its trunk and roots, not in the limbs. Without a strong trunk, the tree would topple over. The same holds true for the human body. When our trunk, or core, is weak, we end up with imbalances in our bodies. This leads to tightness in some places and weakness in others. This can lead to injury, or strain in our neck, shoulders and backs, as well as poor posture and decreased spinal and joint mobility.

A benefit of performing Pilates in a studio is receiving precise cueing provided by the Pilates instructor. The exercises were designed to be performed with constant mental concentration, precision, and intentional movement necessary to achieve correct form. Pilates instructors have extensive training in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and multiple medical conditions. Exercises are tailored to the individual ensuring safety and a positive movement experience.

The benefits of Pilates go way beyond toned and strong abdominals. It’s about balanced strength and flexibility around all joints, energy efficiency, body awareness, and mental clarity. Isn’t it time to see what Pilates can do for you?

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