My Fascination With Pilates
10th April 2015 - Fitness
With all the fad going on about Yoga, so why Pilates?
What is Pilates and is it tough? How does it benefit me and is it suitable for everyone or every type of body?
A little history of Pilates..
Pilates is an exercise system developed by Joseph H. Pilates in the early 20th century. During WW1, his forced internment during that time allowed him to work with rehabilitating detainees who had injuries and diseases. He developed exercises suitable to be performed whilst lying down (which revolved into today’s Matwork exercises) as well as innovating the use of bedsprings and beer keg rings (our reformer and fitness circle today) for use as resistance exercise equipment. Today, Pilates works on the Mat, Reformer, Tower, Cadillac, Arc Barrel and Chair, with many other small props used to assist performing of the exercises.
What is Pilates today?
Pilates today, or also known as Contemporary Pilates, is still largely based on the original works of Joseph Pilates. Modern advances have been made that incorporates modern research and knowledge into the classical teachings, and thus making the exercises suitable for all types of body form. Pilates focuses on controlling the core postural muscles, thus improving core strength and stability. It believes in strengthening the ‘powerhouse’, in which a lack of core strength is usually responsible for back issues. Many physiotherapists use Pilates to assist in injury recovery, and strengthening the small stabilising muscles to hold joints healthily together.
Pilates combines stretches and strengthening exercise, making it one of the safest and most effective forms of exercise.
Benefits of Pilates and what it can do for you.
Pilates understands that every body is different, and thus works on specific muscle group exercises for what your body needs. It helps to develop your body awareness to draw attention to not just achieving and maintaining good overall body posture, but more importantly on specific postural faults that can be corrected with dedicated specific moves and exercises. In order to attain the maximum benefits of these performed exercises, the accuracy of the execution of the moves must be achieved. Because of this, Pilates classes are usually kept to a small group, or instructors may even recommend a private one-on-one class for a start.
- Helps develop longer and leaner muscles
- Creates a strong, lean and balanced body.
- Improves core strength and stability
- Helps to redefine posture
- Educates to prevent future injuries
- Relieve from body stress and back pain
- Heightened mind-body awareness
- Builds strength for enhanced athletic performance
- Improves flexibility that helps with joint rigidity
- Creates a confident stance. Correct posture gives an illusion of lesser weight.
What to expect
Most Pilates moves take place with your spine laid flat, or in a natural sitting stance. This specific exercise system uses gravity against bodyweight to correct the imbalances in our posture that make us slouch and stand in a less ideal alignment. Whilst lying supine, our core muscles are challenged by movements of lifting the legs, rolling off the mat up or rolling down in controlled momentum, twisting, flexing and controlling in isometric exercises etc. The beauty of Pilates is that it works opposing muscles, both the ‘front’ and ‘back’ of your muscles work at the same time, thus creating balanced, strong and lean muscles.
In your first few sessions, you will expect seemingly ‘simple’ exercises. Yet, every exercise in the Pilates program is designed to work a purpose. Deeper core muscles are working with controlled breathing. There is a lot more control required of you to feel the full benefits of these exercises. They are not exactly challenging like handstands but they do require a lot of control to hold your body in intended isometric contraction. Mat exercises are usually introduced as they form the fundamental basics of other exercises on other Pilates apparatus. Every move will be guided along the way so you will be able to work your way up to more complex and demanding routines.
During your practice session, you must always give each exercise your full concentration and try as best to perform them with accuracy according to the cue-ing from the instructor. Really focus and feel the muscles working.
Within weeks of practising Pilates, you will see a clear improvement in your body. Pilates creates long lean muscles with no risk of developing a bulky physique.
I started my Pilates learning journey 3 years ago with Breathe Pilates (Singapore). I had a very nice instructor then and like everyone else, I started with very basic moves. They were not difficult nor awkward exercises, just simple controlled movements which were still challenging enough as they were hard on endurance and control. I felt empowered as I saw myself grow into the sport. And being the sort of artsy person since young, I saw a kind of beauty in the sharp, clean and precise moves that comes with ideal body alignment and perfection.
Joseph Pilates said, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, in 30 you will have a whole new body.” For me, I felt its magic working by my 3rd session. Standing waiting for buses no longer seem as unbearable. Walking with heavy bags of groceries do not feel as challenging. The awareness that Pilates teaches you reminds you with each breath, of the proper muscular engagements and core control you will need to achieve ideal posture and prevent injuring yourself by unaware movements. Combine your practice with healthy eating and regular cardio exercises for optimum results.
With all the benefits of Pilates, and if you have not already tried it yet, give it a go today! Finding a good reputable studio through recommendations will definitely be most helpful! Persevere through the first 3 sessions (at least), and your body will be thanking you for it later! I guarantee!
Disclaimer : Many osteopaths and physic-therapists recommend Pilates to aid recovery and rehabilitation. Always note that if you have an existing injury or feel pain, always check with a medical professional before starting the new exercise program.