Allow me to explain why I LOVE Pilates.
Pilates is a holistic approach to exercise designed to strengthen, elongate, and restore the body to its natural balance. It brings physical, mental and “spiritual” benefits to its practitioners. It is, therefore, an excellent workout for all people, regardless of age and ability. The regular practice of Pilates can help to stabilise the spine by increasing the strength of the core muscles; it can increase flexibility, improve balance and improve posture and develop lean muscle tone.
Do you really need a Reformer Pilates or just a mat?
I fell in love with Pilates on the Reformer. This particular apparatus resembles a medieval torture device – just kidding, it’s actually a fantastic machine. Still, it can be kind of daunting when you encounter one for the first time. One of the many benefits of the Reformer is that it can both make traditional exercises easier and/or more complicated, depending on the tension levels and settings you choose. Studio Reformers are expensive pieces of equipment (like $7500+ expensive). While there are various home options on the market, most of these are not nearly as sturdy or as versatile as a commercial Reformer. Furthermore, and I fully admit to being a bit biased since I am a Pilates instructor, I strongly recommend that if you are interested in the Reformer, you take at least a few classes with a trained instructor to learn the ins and outs of the machine.
However, as great as the Reformer is, all you need to practice is a mat and some comfortable clothes. And please don’t think a mat workout will be boring or easy. In fact, sometimes mat work is highly challenging. And, as you advance through your practice you can add in props – small balls, Bosu balls, light weights, exercise bands, and of course you can also experiment with different types of equipment, not only the Reformer but also the Tower, the barrel, the chair and the Cadillac – just to name a few.
What it is that makes Pilates so great?
Well, the benefits are many and so great that I cannot think of a reason for anyone at any age not to practice. So here are the benefits:
Strengthens the Core & More. In Pilates, all exercises come from the core; even if you are working your arms or your legs (which you will), your core powers every move in your practice. This helps to build solid abdominals and back muscles (and just about all of us are after flatter abs) that not only help you perform well in Pilates but also in functional movements throughout your day. In addition, Pilates will help to sculpt longer, leaner muscles and increase muscle definition in your arms and legs.
Alleviates Lower Back Pain. It is a core-based exercise that centres around strengthening the deep abdominal muscles. Over time, a stronger core will give the back support, like an internal brace, which helps protect the lower spine. In fact, many physical therapists recommend Pilates as a form of rehabilitation.
Improves posture. It was initially developed by Joseph Pilates as a rehabilitation tool, who believed that poor posture goes hand-in-hand with poor health. Today, it is praised by everyone from athletes to physical therapists to office workers who spend much of their day hunched over a computer keyboard to new moms for its ability to develop strength and correct posture in the key areas of the hips/lower back, upper back and neck – basically counteracting the effects of daily slouching. Pilates exercises focus on releasing the typically overactive areas of the shoulders, chest, thoracic spine (upper back) and hip flexor muscles while at the same time activating and strengthening the gluteals, abdominals and shoulder stabilisers. Regular practice can significantly improve dynamic stability – your ability to hold yourself in proper alignment for an extended period, maintaining upright posture and stability.
Energises the body. Pilates is a dynamic full-body workout that emphasises proper breathing. This type of breath control was designed to cleanse the bloodstream through oxygenation by bringing fresh blood to all cells. By learning how to take deep, cleansing breaths, you will increase your lung capacity and fully expel stale air and gases. This will increase oxygen levels throughout your body and leave you feeling energised.
Relieves Tension. In addition, Pilates breathing not only increases your physical health it also reduces your blood pressure. It triggers a relaxation response in the brain. Less stress equals a happy body, mind, and spirit.
Improves Balance. Many people struggle with balance as they age. This is because balance suffers as muscles weaken and deteriorate. Pilates helps to strengthen deep muscles, which aid in stabilisation as you move throughout your day. And better balance leads to a reduced risk of falls and injuries.
Increases Flexibility. Joseph Pilates said, “True flexibility can be achieved only when all the muscles are uniformly developed.” Therefore, it follows that Pilates exercises work on developing the body as an integrated unit. Pilates is about movement or flow; we focus on maintaining proper posture, alignment and control while moving smoothly and gracefully from one position to the next. The slow, deliberate progression of exercises strengthens and lengthens all your muscles resulting in increased flexibility over time.
As a full-body workout, Pilates can be completed in 30-90 minutes. It is an effective exercise regardless of age or ability is easily tailored to meet individual needs. In addition, when done properly and regularly, results are usually observed with 4-6 weeks, which motivates you to continue your practice.
I could go on and on, but if you’ve stayed with me this far, you can see that Pilates is a comprehensive workout that reaps both physical and mental benefits, increases strength and flexibility and heightens mental awareness. It is a great way to stay young in body, mind and spirit. I hope you give it a try.
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is important to gain mastery of your body.”Joseph Pilates