PILATES 101

Is improving your fitness and overall health on your list of goals?

It’s never too late to begin! If you are looking for a new workout program, you may want to try Pilates.

Are you looking for an exercise routine that can address the following?

✓ Low back pain?

✓ Poor posture?

✓ Stiff muscles?

This low-impact fitness method has been popular for decades. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Pilates can help you strengthen your muscles (especially the core) and improve flexibility and balance. Get ready to discover the transformative power of Pilates!

WHAT IS PILATES?

PI-LA-TEES, not PIE-LATES

n. Pi•la•tes | \ pə-ˈlä-tēz \

 

Pilates is a low-impact exercise that enhances strength by balancing muscles and improving neuromuscular patterns.

It aims to improve:

  • flexibility

  • body awareness

  • strength

It is suitable for:

  • beginners

  • fitness enthusiasts

  • people with limited mobility

    •  

HISTORY OF PILATES

1920 Joseph Pilates, a German citizen, was interned in England during World War I where he developed Pilates, an exercise method that was formerly known as Contrology. During his internment, he shared his expertise method with other detainees. He also created an apparatus to rehabilitate patients with impaired mobilities or injuries using available materials in the camp.

1926After moving to the United States, Pilates continued to develop his apparatus, which became known as the reformer.

 

1930In addition to the apparatus, Pilates also created mat exercise programs and became well-known for his ability to fix dancers’ injuries.

 

Present Pilates aims to improve people’s physical health and elevate their overall wellbeing and awareness. He emphasized that the principle of the practice is to sustain mind and body connection through the exercise.

FIVE COMMON PRINCIPLES IN PILATES

 The 5 basic principles used in STOTT Pilates practice for injury prevention and recovery:

        1. Breath – Proper breathing promotes effective oxygenation of the blood. This allows the mind to focus on tasks and helps avoid unnecessary tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and mid-back. Exhaling deeply can activate deep support muscles.
        2. Pelvic Placement  – STOTT Pilates stabilizes the pelvis and lumbar spine in a neutral or imprinted position. Neutral maintains the normal curve and provides relaxation, while imprinted flattens the back towards the mat and is used for safety in people with special conditions.
        3. Rib Cage Position – When you inhale or move your arms, be mindful of the position of your rib cage because it may frequently shift out of place.
        4. Scapular Movement and Stabilization Keep the shoulders in a relaxed and tension-free position without lifting them up too high or pushing them too far down.
        5. Head and Cervical Placement – Maintain the natural curve of your neck and keep your head balanced above your shoulders whether you are lying, sitting, or standing.

THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF PILATES

 1. REFORMER PILATES

  • Provides structure and resistance, making it easier to find stability and align the body during exercises

  • Ideal for beginners who need more guidance and assistance

2. MAT-BASED PILATES

  • Allows more room for movement and focuses on strength and improving posture

  • Requires more body awareness and control, making it more challenging but versatile

WHAT MAKES PILATES DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TYPES OF WORKOUT REGIMENS?

Pilates? Yoga? Calisthenics? These three options offer similar workouts, so what are the differences?

PILATES and YOGA

PILATES

  • Focuses on aligning the body

  • Special equipment can be used

  • Designed to rehabilitate and improve posture

YOGA

  • Movements and poses are slow, controlled, and steady in form 

  • Less reliant on equipment and more focused on the body 

  • Suitable for relaxation and mental health 

PILATES and CALISTHENICS

PILATES

  • A workout routine that uses equipment and a holistic approach

  • Uses the entire body and focuses more on improving movement

  • Focuses on the strengthening of core muscles

CALISTHENICS

  • Repetitive and straightforward type of exercise that promotes strength through bodyweight and resistance workouts

  • Used to target specific muscle groups

  • A calisthenics instructor may help you engage with different muscle  areas but with less focus on core strengthening

WHAT CAN PILATES DO FOR YOU?

        • Alleviated back pain – Pilates strengthens the lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, which provide support for the organs and stability for the back
        • Boosted energy level – Pilates improves cardiorespiratory capacity through breath control, which, in turn, can stimulate feel-good hormones, oxygen flow, and blood circulation
        • Better body positioning – Pilates helps strengthen idle muscles, which can lead to better posture, mobility, and muscle proportion
        • Injury prevention – Pilates enhances the muscles to avoid loosening, weakening, or stiffness. The body is prone to injury when the muscles are either too lax or rigid
        • Enhanced body awareness – Pilates is a technique that promotes body awareness or proprioception by focusing on sensations, emotions, and the environment
        • Reduced stress – Pilates helps regulate breath and internal focus, which can lower stress, and take the body out of fight-or-flight mode by down-regulating the nervous system
        • Improved flexibility and range of motion – Pilates combines precise and controlled movements to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility
        • Strengthened immune system – Pilates improves the immune system by ensuring and promoting proper blood and lymphatic flow
        • Reduced menstrual pain – Pilates can reduce menstrual pain by relieving tension in the pelvic area, encouraging blood flow, strengthening the abdominal muscles, improving posture, and alleviating stress
        • Improved balance – Pilates enhances balance and gait by strengthening the core and emphasizing body alignment
        • Better sports performance – Pilates stabilizes the body by strengthening muscles, mobilizing weak areas, and stretching tight ones to improve agility and reduce injury risk
        • Strengthened core muscles – Pilates strengthens core muscles—a vital factor in decreasing back, hip pain, and pelvic dysfunction.

WHAT HAPPENS IN A PILATES CLASS?

Now that you have an understanding of Pilates fundamentals, let’s explore what  typically takes place during a Pilates class.

Comparison of Reformer and Mat-based Pilates Program

REFORMER PILATES

  • The Pilates Reformer looks a bit like a wooden bed base, but with moving parts, straps, and pulleys 

  • It uses springs to offer resistance, and you sit, stand. or lie on it to move

MAT-BASED PILATES

  • Much of the time is spent lying on the floor doing fairly small movements

  • These moves will work on tone, flexibility, and balance, and almost all of them will involve what Pilates tutors call your Powerhouse – the muscles between your lower ribs and your hip bones

  • You’ll spend a lot of time maintaining control of this Powerhouse by pulling your tummy close to your spine and lifting your pelvic floor

WHAT CAN I EXPECT IN A PILATES CLASS?

Since many Pilates exercises are done while lying down, you should expect to spend a lot of time lying on your back during the workout. Here are some things you can expect in a typical Pilates class:

  1. No music. Don’t expect any music; classes are done in silence.

  2. Exercise demonstration: Pay special attention to the cues provided by the instructor to focus on specific areas during the Pilates workout to ensure safe and effective movement.

  3. Breath instructions: The Pilates exercises are particular with the timing of inhale and exhale breathing. Synchronizing breath with each bodily movement provides additional control and improves effectiveness

  4. Whole-body workout: Pilates practice engages your entire body, even in the simplest movements. It is challenging how it will leave your body sweaty and sore

  5. Speed: Pilates is a fitness routine that stresses the importance of gradual and controlled movements rather than rapid actions commonly found in aerobic workouts. In obtaining the benefits of Pilates, pay attention to the instructor’s cues and take  your time during the exercises. Rushing through the movements may impede the quality of the workout and increase the risk of injury

  6. Vocabulary: While participating in Pilates classes, you might encounter terms or jargon that may be unfamiliar to you. However, you can tap the instructors for simpler explanations. With their guidance, you can quickly become familiar with the fitness lingo and feel more comfortable about the practice.

WHAT DO I BRING IN A PILATES CLASS?

 Clothes: Fitted clothes with breathable materials are best for Pilates classes. It provides unrestricted movement and prevents equipment damage

Shoes: Shoes are not necessary! However, you can also opt for socks if you wish. However, it is recommended to wear non-slip socks

 Hair bands: If you have long hair, it’s best to keep it tied up during Pilates sessions to avoid obstructions and potentially getting caught in the Pilates reformer.

Water bottle: Pilates may seem easy, but it’s challenging. Although too much water may interfere with engaging your core muscles, it’s crucial to be hydrated during your workout.

WHAT EQUIPMENT IS COMMONLY USED IN PILATES?

Flexible rings or Magic Circles are loose metal rings available in almost every Pilates studio

Pilates Reformer is a machine that utilizes added resistance to enhance your muscle tone and endurance while aiding in the development of your core strength, flexibility, range of motion, and posture

Wunda Chair is a small, backless-like chair used to build stamina and resistance and strengthens the core

Cadillac is likened to a bed frame, essentially a hybrid of a reformer, composed of a mat and a tower

TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Be patient.  It’s important to be patient because achieving results takes time and effort. Talk to your instructor to determine realistic goals for you and work steadily towards them.

Avoid overexerting yourself. While it’s normal to experience some discomfort during exercise, if a particular exercise causes too much pain, it’s important not to push yourself beyond your limits. Listen to your body and be mindful of its signals.

Take your time with your exercises. It’s important to allocate sufficient time for your workout routine. Avoid rushing through your exercises, as this may make them more difficult. Follow the natural rhythm of your body.

Avoid comparing yourself to others in your Pilates class. Keep in mind that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. Remember that Pilates is a personal workout, so concentrate solely on enhancing your abilities.

Pilates is a workout for anyone at any fitness level!

It is a workout that can improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and overall fitness.

Whether you’re a novice, an experienced practitioner, or simply seeking to enhance your flexibility and muscle strength, Pilates is a great form of exercise to consider.