The Benefits & Technique of Pilates

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness,” said Joseph Pilates, who founded the Pilates Method back in the 1920s. And devotees to this exercise system swear by its ability to achieve the best of both worlds: physical and mental well-being.

Indeed, pilates has been making headlines in recent years. Julia Roberts reportedly used it to lose her post-pregnancy weight, Madonna does it, and so has Halle Berry, Sting, and the San Francisco 49ers.

“[Pilates] has been the fastest growing fitness modality within the fitness industry for years. Everybody wants to know about it,” wrote Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, the director of the Pilates Center of Austin, in the Austin American-Statesman.

Pilates Among the Top 10 Fitness Trends

Pilates will continue to be among the top fitness trends, according to The American Council on Exercise (ACE), largely because of its attention to the mind-body connection.

Pilates, says ACE, provides an alternative to higher impact activities while promoting proper posture, breathing and body awareness. Exercises like pilates, and also yoga and tai chi, incorporate “elements of mental and spiritual fitness.” By incorporating these elements, ACE reports that “individuals will take better care of their entire being and psychological self, not just their bodies.”

What IS Pilates?

You’ve likely heard of pilates, and maybe even snatched a peek of a class going on at your local gym, but chances are you’re still wondering what exactly it is.

Joseph Pilates fully believed that the mind and body are dependent upon one another. As such, when he created pilates he designed it to fully engage the body and the mind.

This is done through a series of controlled, precise movements that work the muscles of the abdomen, lower back and buttocks and create flexibility and strength.

The movements are done either on floor mats or on special pilates apparatus that help support and guide the body, and involve these six core concepts:

  1. Concentration
  2. Breathing
  3. Control
  4. Precision
  5. Rhythm/flow
  6. Centering

Major Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is a popular exercise among dance companies, Broadway shows, students at performing arts schools and universities, sports teams, and celebrities because it lends a coveted “long and lean” look to its followers and creates strength without adding bulk.

But there is much more to pilates than a slimmer figure. According to the United States Pilates Association, pilates:

  • Can be an integral part of physical therapy designed to speed recovery of soft tissue injuries
  • Provides body conditioning and injury prevention and recovery
  • Improves body alignment
  • Enhances breathing and circulation
  • Increases strength, flexibility and balance
  • Improves muscle tone, energy and mental concentration
  • Is useful for pregnant women to learn proper breathing and body alignment, improve concentration and recover body shape and tone after giving birth

How to Learn Pilates

If you are already familiar with pilates, you can perform the routine right in your own home using a pilates DVD. There are many to choose from, including one of the classic favorites, “Classical Pilates Techniques – The Complete Mat Workout Series.”

However, if you have never tried pilates before you may be better off learning the basic movements directly from an instructor. Pilates courses are available in group sessions in health clubs and spas across the country. You can also take pilates at a specialized pilates center, which may offer group or one-on-one sessions. Check out this site from the United States Pilates Association to help you find a certified pilates instructor near you.


Sources

United States Pilates Association

Discovery Health

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