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An Introduction to Pilates

"In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty you will see the difference and in thirty, you will have a whole new body!' - Joseph Pilates

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates who was a frail young man until he discovered a way of exercising that improved his health using pulling systems on beds (now known as the Pilates reformer). He then went on to work with dancers where his reputation grew giving strength and toned muscles to whoever he worked with.

The principles of Pilates focus on:

  • Concentration - keeping the mind focused at all times.
  • Relaxation - working in the session with proper relaxation and no tension.
  • Coordination - learning to use the body in a way that works all body parts in sync.
  • Breathing - deep thoratic (rib) breathing (unlike yoga which uses abdominal breathing).
  • Centring and flowing movements - using movements from either the central powerhouse of the body and then graceful flowing movements to balance the body.
  • Control - each movement is performed in a controlled way.
  • Precision - each movement has a purpose.

This is achieved through using a very important part of our body, our deep down core muscles of the pelvis and torso that are often neglected. It trains you to realign your posture and the way you breathe so your body is more balanced.

It is something that can be done at home, at the gym, on holiday or pretty much on any floor space.

Types of Pilates

Pilates mat work classes

This uses traditional and adapted Pilates routines adjusted to use a mat. The classes can be for beginners, intermediate or advanced levels and usually have a maximum of 12 participants. This is a great class for balancing the body, flexibility, body awareness and toning. Exercises are broken down and tailored to each client being extremely safe for those who are recovering from an injury or alleviating pain.

However, the mat class can be made particularly challenging using larger equipment with more complex techniques.

Studio equipment Pilates classes

These classes are small in size with several pieces of equipment. There may be two teachers and twice as many students. The equipment may include such instruments as 'the reformer', 'the Cadillac', 'trapeze table' and wall springs for resistance.

One to one classes

Pilates can also be carried out on a more private basis with one teacher and one student. Here the teacher can work uninterrupted on the student and this can be especially beneficial for those wishing to use Pilates for injury rehabilitation or pain relief.

Pilates can be for anybody and adapted to suit an individual's needs. For those who don't like group situations private tuition is more suitable but this will obviously be more expensive.

There is no special kit needed, which is unlike yoga. Just loose, comfortable, moveable clothing is fine. You don't need to purchase your own equipment but if you don't you will need a thicker mat than a yoga matt as this is too thin for some movements.

Which gets you fitter - Yoga or Pilates?

If fitness and weight loss are your goals then bikram yoga is the best place to start or astanga yoga. For overall strength, toning and conditioning of the body, Pilates is better. Here core muscles are the focus whereas in yoga the focus is on the body as a whole. For spiritual benefits - hatha and astanga yoga will calm your mind.

Pilates therefore although similar to yoga in many of its principles still has very different benefits and functions. It can be used successfully to work on injuries, rehabilitation and body imbalances as well as toning the body as a whole brilliantly, but if you're looking for more specific benefits such as flexibility, mental health and meditation then yoga comes out best.

Author quote: “I did Pilates myself a while ago to recover from a running injury, very tough discipline to actually master! It was in LA while I was there at the time and the contraptions they use are so funny! But I thoroughly recommend it.”

Article by:

Gemma Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach. Visit her website at: http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk

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