Pilates: A WHOLE New You!

Published 2:52 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Though Pilates has been around since the early 1900’s, it has often been held as the exercise system of the elite. Though originally sought out to teach his conditioning methods at Scotland Yard and to German soldiers, Joseph Pilates’ American roots took hold in New York City in the midst of the world of dance (New York City Ballet) and show-business. But, in the last decade, Pilates has emerged on the mainstream scene as one of most popular exercise systems for cross-training athletes, rehabilitating the injured, and your next-door neighbor. This is no doubt due to its undeniable results and the fact that truly EVERY “body” can do Pilates. Pilates has even recently been added to physical therapy facilities and is regularly recommended by doctors. So, what’s all the hype? What does Pilates have that other forms of body conditioning do not?

An often cited list of benefits of Joseph Pilates’ method of conditioning includes long, lean muscles; increased balance, flexibility and coordination; a stronger core from which to support our spines and execute our daily movements; relief of back pain, improved posture and circulation… and the list continues. But the whole-person benefits of this exercise are found in the 6 Pillars of Pilates, the foundation on which this exercise system is built- a foundation that has the power to RE-FORM every mind, body, and spirit.

Pillar # 1: Breath

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As an asthmatic, Joseph Pilates knew the importance of breathing deeply and pushing freshly oxygenated blood through the body. Pilates exercises are designed to be executed within specific breathing patterns, and because deep breathing promotes calm and relaxation, one of the unique benefits of Pilates is a calm and focused mind even in the midst of a vigorous workout!

Pillar #2: Concentration

Pilates encourages the mind’s full engagement in the work of each exercise. By focusing the mind on the muscles required to execute the exercise along with intentional breathing, Pilates develops an awareness of how our bodies work. Through this self-awareness, we learn to be mindful of our posture, alignment, and origins of movement in our daily lives. No more thoughtlessly hoisting a heavy bag over our shoulder or lifting a box from our backs! Pilates encourages the mind to consider more ergonomic movement patterns on a regular basis.

Pillar #3: Centering

Pilates encourages all movement to develop from the core, or what Pilates practitioners call our “Powerhouses”. Mindfully engaging the “corset” muscles of our cores (those muscles which extend from the floor of the pelvis and wrap around our backs) and allowing our everyday movements to be an extension of that core strength protects and stabilizes our spines.

Pillar #4: Control

Interestingly, before Joseph Pilates’ death, his exercise system was called “Contrology”. It was his goal that through proper breathing, centering, and concentration (awareness), people would learn to be in control of their bodies instead of at its mercy. In a society plagued by bodily pain, we appreciate the importance this work places on being in complete control of our muscles. We understand all too well that thoughtless, sloppy movements lead to lifelong pain.

Pillar #5: Precision

Pilates encourages precise and purposeful movement. Each exercise was designed with precise placement in mind. Pilates educates individuals on proper alignment and employment of specific muscle groups. Awareness of our placement and concentration on precision creates strong yet graceful movements. Because of the focus on alignment and precision, most clients notice an immediate awareness of their posture which continues long after leaving the studio.

Pillar #6: Flow

Unlike some other forms of exercise, each Pilates exercise has a specific beginning and end with a fluid, seamless transition between each. It is often said that watching a seasoned Pilates practitioner is like watching a dancer. No movement is wasted. Even the transitions between exercises are so intentional that the movement in Pilates is constant until the last exercise is completed. This focus on the continuity of movement improves grace and control.

The benefits of Pilates not only range from physique-reforming to rehabilitative, but the very principals which lay the foundation of this form of exercise are designed to focus the mind, reduce stress, and build healthy bodies. And, one of the unique features of Pilates is that it’s never too late to start! With over 500 exercises in the repertoire, this gentle-on-the-joints, gravity-defying system can be customized and modified by a qualified instructor for anyone at any stage of life. Pilates truly is for every BODY.