What is Pilates and how does it help?

Pilates pronounced (pi-lah-teez) is an exercise system that is focused on building strength without bulk, improving flexibility and agility, and helping to prevent injury. It was developed in the 1920s by Joseph H. Pilates, who was a physical trainer and founder of The New York Pilates Studio®. It involves a series of controlled movements that engage both your body and mind.

Pilates utilizes specifically designed exercise apparatus and is supervised by highly trained teachers. It was initially created for rehabilitation, but was later adopted by dancers and athletes and is now utilized by millions. A beginner class generally consists of very gentle exercises done on a mat in either a sitting or lying down position. The primary focus is on awareness of the spine, proper breathing, core strength and flexibility.

The outcome of Pilates training is a balanced body which is strong and supple, flat stomach, balanced legs, and a strong back.

Pilatesmatwork shot

“STOTT PILATES® photography © Merrithew Corporation”


What is Core strength?
Core strength is the ability of the muscles around the trunk of your body; the deep abdominal muscles (no not the famed six/eight pack!) we’re talking deeper (transversus abdominis), the pelvic floor muscles, the muscles around the hips and the muscles around the back that work together to support and stabilize the spine in any movement or when we lift any load.

Why a strong back?
OK..so the flat stomach requires no explanation, “what am I going to do with balanced legs and a strong back?” you ask
“You are as old as your spine is flexible” said Joseph Pilates, so true!
The most common complaint among the urban population is that the back is stiff. Its stiff from sitting in front of a computer all day, or carrying a baby around all day for new mothers or just plain couching out in front of the T.V.

In Pilates the focus is on mobilizing the spine and strengthening the supporting back muscles so as to be able to move it forwards, backwards and to the sides without any undue strain.

Pilates gets people to become more aware of their body posture and movement habits that over the years have created stress and teaches them ways to maintain a neutral body alignment.

Weight Loss and Pilates
I always get asked this question at least by one person in a crowd! “so this is all just swell but…can i lose weight just doing this stuff?”

In the long run Pilates will beautifully complement your weight loss activities.
When one aims to lose a significant amount of weight one of the first things to do would be to enroll in any aerobic or cardio activity. As you begin to shed those pound Pilates can help to create lean muscle mass that increases your calorie burning potential. As you already know it improves your posture making you look and feel thinner. it also sculpts and tones the body for than leaner fitter look.

Great I’m going out and buying me one of those home Pilates DVDs!
Hey its a free country go right ahead! Its certainly has some positives- you save money and you can do it on your own time. However the down side are worth considering- at best you could execute the exercises incorrectly and feel none of the great benefits promised, at worst, you could injure yourself.
Pilates is a precise form of exercise and in order to experience its benefits it is important to have a qualified and experienced instructor to watch over you.

It may take a while for you to experience the full benefits of Pilates. Just as it has taken most of us years to pile on the weight or create postural imbalances that contribute to a stiff back, learning to use deeper core muscles that support the body efficiently takes time and commitment.