What is Pilates?

Pilates is a physical exercise technique that was devised by Joseph Pilates at the beginning of the 20th century.   It is an exercise system which promotes core strength, stamina, flexibility, focus and a sense of wellbeing.  Since the system was first developed it has evolved and has been adapted in response to new research and a better understanding of how the body functions physically, mentally and emotionally.

Pilates conditions the body and the mind. Regular practice of the technique using precise, controlled movements, creates a strong and stable inner core by targeting the deep postural muscles, many of which support the back. The technique exercises all the muscles groups in the body, builds strength from the inside and restores balance and correct alignment to the body therefore improving posture. Regular Pilates results in a more slender shape from a more toned and leaner body, a flatter abdomen and a trimmer waist. It increases body awareness creating a feeling of strength, endurance, and flexibility, resulting in a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Pilates benefits everyone of all ages and abilities, regardless of their level of fitness. It is particularly beneficial for those who suffer with low back pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, and poor posture.  For those who sit hunched over a computer all day, or drive for long hours, Pilates is an ideal form of exercise to combat the effects of sitting in one position for long periods of time.

The basic principles of Pilates are:

Breathing
as in yoga, breathing is very important and often the hardest part of Pilates to perfect.  As we breathe in we make our ribs expand outwards to accommodate the in-breath (lateral breathing), and breathe out on the greatest effort of the move.  This can be difficult to practise at first but the most important thing is that you breathe – don’t hold your breath!  As you become more accustomed to the Pilates moves the breathing pattern becomes easier and more natural.

Concentration
the ‘thinking way of moving’.  Every movement is a thought process therefore whilst practising Pilates exercises you should focus on the movement and block out all other thoughts.

Centering
this means stabilising the centre of the body by engaging the pelvic floor and the deep abdominal muscles.

Control
Pilates strengthens the body by using the weight of the body to work against gravity – this requires controlled movements to make the relevant muscles and joints work to their full capacity but, at the same time, not wasting any energy.  The slower the movement, the greater strength we gain.

Routine
maximum benefit is gained by performing the exercises regularly and frequently.  Pilates is not meant to be a replacement for other activities but is an additional form of exercise which strengthens the body.

Flowing movements
the movements are performed slowly and continuously with grace and control, resulting in balanced and functional training.

Precision
this means placing and moving the body correctly and precisely when doing the movements.

Pilates is widely recommended by physiotherapists and many other health professionals. It is used by top class athletes as an important part of their training.

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