Pilates was initially developed as a rehabilitative tool by Joseph Pilates, a German gymnast born in 1883,. Joseph dedicated his life to teaching his exercising techniques, believing that poor posture goes hand-in-hand with poor health. He believed that by having awareness of breathing and of alignment of the spine, we could strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles, and reduce stress.
Pilates programs are praised by everyone from athletes to office workers, from pregnant women to the elderly, for their ability to develop strength and correct posture in the key areas of the upper back and neck, and lower back/hips – basically counteracting the effects of slouching posture. Pilates is as beneficial for a teenager as it is for a 90 year old and as motivating for men as for women. It is also used in rehabilitation.
Pilates lengthens, strengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body. It also helps improve flexibility, coordination and endurance.
A few of the many benefits of Pilates includes; increased body awareness, teaches correct muscle activation, promotes relaxation and release of tension, enhances body control and helps corrects posture and alignment.
There is many ways in which Pilates can be practiced, either on an apparatus such as a reformer or on a Mat (floor work)
The reformer is probably the most popular Pilates apparatus used, this is due to its ease of use, the way it places the body in a comfortable, non-weight bearing position and the variation of exercises which can be performed on it. Pushing and pulling with legs or arms against the resistance of the springs, carriage, and body weight is generally strength building. The reformer is a set up for eccentric muscle contraction. This is when a muscle lengthens as it resists a force. That is one of the keys to achieving the long, strong muscles without bulk that Pilates is known for.
Mat work can be practiced anywhere and everywhere and at any time. It is great to combine some Mat work with the reformer to give the body a more varied work out.
Some forms of exercise may be intimidating if you are unsure of your own physical capabilities, but Pilates offers something everyone can do. It is a safe and effective way to exercise and particularly using the reformer allows you to adjust the level of intensity to suit your own body.
Anna Gee – Senior Myotherapist