What is Pilates?
There seems to be a little confusion lately about Pilates and what it actually is.
“Pilates…. Oh I thought you said pie and lattes.” – unknown
Let’s go back to the beginning and get a few things straight. In the 1920’s a man called Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates Method as a way of strengthening his body to overcome his various ailments. He noticed that a man balanced in body, mind and spirit was the greatest version of man. Joseph Pilates called his workout method "the thinking man's exercise."
Very different to today’s image of ‘lululemon and latte ladies’, Pilates was used as a rehabilitation exercise for the injured soldiers in WW1. Joseph himself rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to the infamous reformer machines we have today. Unlike yoga, Pilates is less spiritual and more a body and mind rehabilitation. Emphasising the mental focus of each physical movement, Pilates focuses on the quality of the moment not the quantity. Hence why the instructor might say “nice and slow” or “take your time, don’t rush the movement”.
Pilates hits your core unlike any other workout. However, core strength does not mean ‘abs’ – or should I say ‘abs’ do not mean great core strength. Sure everyone wants a lean, toned flat stomach and washboard abs, but more importantly we should be striving for that inner core strength. Trust me, it will last a lot longer than the abs will. Now without getting all ‘it matters more what’s on the inside than the outside’ on you … actually no I will do exactly that because it is true: With Pilates it does matter what is on the inside. Take a steal rod, a hollow one and a solid one. They both look the same on the outside, but which one is going to be stronger? The solid one of course. The same goes for your core. You might look ‘shredded’ and strong on the outside but it matters how strong your core is on the inside.
‘In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference and in 30 you’ll have a new body’ – Joseph Pilates
How do we benefit from Pilates?
Pilates is for everyone, all ages and all fitness levels. That is the beauty of it. It is a gentle low impact form of exercise that is still very intense. The low impact controlled movements reduce damage on the joints and takes the pressure off your back and knees. It is also wonderful for the mind. Pilates urges you to focus wholly on your breath, your body and the way they move together. You can walk into your class and take your focus off your outside world entirely whilst focusing on you.
It will continue to help you, even once you leave your class, as all of your muscles are joined through your core. This means even in a squat, lunge or run we use our core muscles and with a strong core we improve performance in our sport and day to day living. Pilates also improves your flexibility. When you feel ‘tight’ it is because your muscles are shortened and your range of motion is limited. Pilates lengthens out the body therefore making your muscles feel less tight and your body more flexible.
So if you are looking for a strong core, lean muscles, aligned spine and posture, improved flexibility and a reduced chance of sports injuries, then Pilates is for you. In fact, Pilates is for everyone. There are many different types of Pilates too (mat, reformer, hot, clinical etc) so look around, try out some classes or private sessions and enjoy the benefits. Stay tuned for our at home Pilates/core circuit coming soon to the Neat Nutrition blog.
Katie Morgan – Pilates Instructor at Heartcore, London.