Whether you’re 28 or 58, chances are you’ve heard of Pilates.
Even if you’ve never attended a class, this actual quote from the original creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, promising you a whole new body in just 30 sessions, will get you Googling ‘Pilates’ in no time:
“In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference, in 20, you’ll see the difference, and in 30, you’ll have a new body.”
Fitness fads and the hype surrounding them have been around as long as your Yiayia has been forcing you to eat Lamb Liver Soup.
‘Lose 5 kilos in 7 days!’ ‘Get rid of that flab using this fab ab abductor’, we’ve heard it all.
Most of these fitness claims have little substance and no research behind them, making them seemingly harmful to your health. However, people – especially women – are sucked into them frequently.
Endless fad diets and hours of cardio will eventually put a strain on your health.
Is Pilates any different, you may ask? Or is this another marketing ploy promising fast results through some miraculous mumbo jumbo?
Rest assured that Pilates delivers results when practised correctly and consistently.
So what is Pilates?
Pilates is a low-impact exercise similar to Yoga that aims to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment, balance and flexibility. Pilates is a mixture of a series of strengthening exercises, with many hundreds of moves concentrating on muscle development in the body with an emphasis on core strength. This helps to improve general fitness and overall well-being.
In Pilates, the chance of injury is much lower than in other, more strenuous exercise forms. This is one of its main selling points. Many athletes use Pilates alongside their usual training to keep their muscles adequately stretched, which aids in preventing injury.
Pilates also focuses on the mind-body connection. While doing the various exercises, your mind needs to be constantly aware of your breathing and how your body moves.
Pilates is practised worldwide, especially in Western countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Pilates as a physical fitness system was developed in the early 20th century by German-born Greek Joseph Pilates, after whom it was named.
Pilates called his method “Contrology”.
Who is Joseph Pilates, and what’s his story?
Here is everything you need to know about Joseph Pilates – the man known as the ”.
- Joseph Pilates was born to a Greek father and a German mother. He was one of nine children and grew up in poverty. He wasn’t a healthy child. He was small and suffered from poor vision and weak immunity.
- Joe’s first-ever client was his mother, who was often near crippled by the demands of domestic labour. He showed her stretches and gymnastic exercises to help alleviate her pain.
- Pilates was originally named “Contrology”: the art of control over mind and body in equal measure.
- The origins of Pilates can be traced back to the time Joseph Pilates spent in an English internment camp at the beginning of World War I. He created and taught inmates a unique form of muscle toning and strengthening exercises here. He helped rehabilitate his fellow soldiers using these forms of exercise.
- He got his inspiration for the reformer machine here by using bedsprings to create resistance in movement.
- Mat moves = vintage Pilates! Joseph Pilates’ original sequence of 34 mat-based exercises (the roll-up, single and double leg stretch, the hundred etc.) are still incorporated into classes today (save for a few modern variations) and changes.
- The ‘magic circle’ was the first Pilates machine from steel bands wrapped around beer kegs.
- Pilates is a physical fitness system: it is not a derivative of yoga!
- While the mat is your best friend, Pilates cannot be complete without apparatus! Apparatus is how we achieve the “right” method in our practice. The apparatus is the reformer machine.
- There are two kinds of Pilates classes: mat and reformer. The reformer classes are more popular.
- The Pilates reformer is a ‘bed-like machine using adjustable springs for multiple levels of resistance, with a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys, allowing for a series of exercises that involve pushing, pulling or holding steady. Reformer Pilates is generally more intense and dynamic than mat-based Pilates, and the repertoire of exercises available is greatly increased, providing far more variety. Reformer Pilates typically works more areas of the body than matwork, as matwork is mostly focused on the core. In contrast, the Reformer works the entire body, including peripheral muscles of the arms and legs,’ according to Studio Pilates.
Joseph Pilates’ principles for optimal health
Joseph Pilates also had some basic yet famous principles for optimal health:
- Proper diet and sleep must accompany exercise.
- Fresh air and sunshine daily.
- Wear loose clothing outside and embrace the sun’s rays.
- Always have food on hand, but only refuel when nutrients are needed.
- Do not overdo exercise: muscle fatigue can ignite poisons in the body.
- Sleep: use a firm mattress, no more than one pillow, and have a quiet darkroom.
- Exfoliation! Dry brush daily.
Main areas of improvement achieved with Pilates
So, if you’re not convinced to undertake some Pilates classes, here are the main areas where you’ll feel significantly improved. For maximum results, it’s best to incorporate 3 to 5 sessions a week, on alternate days, on top of regular walking and jogging.
- Good posture – Pilates will teach you to gain and maintain good posture. The exercises require that your body is always in alignment. This is especially beneficial if you suffer from lower back pain.
- Muscle Tone – The exercises involve using muscles that you may not use daily. After the initial soreness, you’ll find that your muscles will be much more toned. This is especially good for older people and those who are typically relatively sedate in their daily life, as muscle tone is usually lost with age and inactivity.
- Flat abdominal muscles – Because Pilates focuses on strengthening your core which includes your abdominal muscles, you’ll find that one of the benefits of Pilates is that you can dramatically flatten your abs more effectively than any other type of abdominal workout.
- Flexibility – As we age, we tend to lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Pilates will restore your flexibility, gently at first, of course. After a while, you’ll be amazed at how much more flexible your body has become. This is especially important for avoiding injuries from falls.
- Improves your balance – Through the mind-body connection taught in Pilates, you will become much more aware of how your body moves and performs. Therefore Pilates not only improves your physical balance through correct posture but will also restore your mind-body balance.
- Reduces stress – When doing the exercises, you’ll be completely engrossed and unable to think about all those responsibilities that weigh you down daily. You’ll be more focused on your breathing and the moves you are making with your body. This is an excellent way to relieve stress.
- Gives you a general sense of well-being – Pilates focuses on providing a balance between your mind and body, giving you an overall sense of well-being.
Regardless of what class or style of Pilates you choose, make sure to let your instructor know you’re a beginner. This way, they’ll be able to keep an eye on you throughout the class and offer modifications or form adjustments.
With Pilates, you’ll feel leaner, more muscular and taller in no time!
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