German-born Joseph Pilates began developing his method in the early part of last century, opening his first studio in New York in the 1920s. His ideas about the body and the way it moves came from various influences, including martial arts, yoga, physical culture, boxing, and gymnastics and later on, dance. He had an exceptional understanding of anatomy, and his methods encompassed ideas about living a healthy lifestyle, many of which we take for granted today (such as regular exercise).
The “Pilates Method” is a set pf principles, flowing movements and corrective exercises designed to improve control of the trunk muscles leading to good core stability and strength. This allows the limb muscles to work more effectively and efficiently. It also improves flexibility, balance and coordination, creating good posture. Pilates will noticeably improve posture by stretching very tight, tense muscles and strengthening weak, underdeveloped muscles. This will help alleviate pain or discomfort in the lower back, hips, neck and shoulders. Pilates will literally change the way you move.
The Pilates Principles
Breath-Pilates believed breath needed to get blood pumping to awaken cells. The Body needed to be charged with oxygen. A full inhalation and exhalation was required. Each exercise came with specific breathing instructions. Breath Improves oxygenation of the tissues, Assists inner awareness / focus, Promotes relaxation, Paces movement, Provides greater fluidity, Increases strength of respiratory muscles, Helps support the posture. Exhalation increases intra-abdominal pressure assisting in stability of the spine. Centre Focal point of Pilates Core.
Centre– the Power house, the core. Modern Pilates incorporates respiratory diaphragm and pelvic floor.
Concentration– Difficult to maintain– simple exercises become complex. Focus on every part of your body. Your Body parts interrelated– ie. How you place your foot when walking can affect how you hold your head.
Control-Nothing haphazard as you need to concentrate to be able to control. Control not just large limbs but small fine movements. Sloppiness carries into everyday life. Be in control of your body, not at its mercy.
Flowing Movement-Essence of Pilates movement “Flowing motion outward from a strong center. “Nothing too stiff or jerky. Nothing too rapid or too slow. Smoothness and even flowing movement go hand in hand with control.
Precision– Be precise with your movement and control.
Increases the Strength of Stabilizer Muscles
There are many benefits that one can achieve through a proper use of the Pilates program. One of the most significant points of the Pilates program is its ability to increase the strength of stabilizer muscles that may not commonly be worked out in a standard exercise program.
Also, since Pilates stresses the use of graceful and fluid movements, it can be a great way to get a better sense of the kinaesthetic of your body. The sense of body that you can achieve through Pilates is quite significant, and many find that they are better able to balance themselves regardless of the position that they are in.
A Mind-Body Workout That Strengthens Your Whole Body
Another one of the benefits of Pilates is that it engages the mind and enhances body awareness. Like yoga, tai chi, and Asian martial arts, Pilates is not just a workout for your body. Joseph H. Pilates studied yoga, martial arts, and other ancient mind-body activities and included a strong philosophical foundation into the practice of Pilates.
Pilates not only helps tone your body, but your mind and spirit as well. The smooth, precise and flowing movements of Pilates are designed to make you more mindful of your body.
Breath movement is also emphasized to put you in touch with how breath moves through your body. Pilates has been demonstrated to reduce stress, anxiety, and helps lift depression. The mind-body connection is fundamental to the study and practice of Pilates.
Pilates Strengthens Your Core like No Other Exercise
Another one of the benefits of Pilates is that the increased amount of strength that one can achieve in the ‘core’ of the body. The term core refers to the muscles in and around the area of the abdominal muscles and the back.
Proper breathing control is also stressed in Pilates, adding to the numerous list of benefits that one can attain through regular use of the exercise program.
Prevents You from Future Injuries
Pilates strengthens your body and helps prevent future injuries. Pilates helps to condition the whole body, not just certain muscles. This helps balance the muscle and strength of the body. Since no set of muscles is ever over or under trained, there is less risk for injury. The body becomes more fluid and supple, protecting against injury.
Helps You Become Efficient With Your Body The benefits of Pilates is that it teaches you how to become efficient with your body. Very few exercises can help your body become more efficient in its movement.
Why is efficiency so important? Being efficient means that your body moves in a way, that is smoother, safer, and less prone to injury. By practicing Pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body more to move in a much safer and more efficient manner.
Benefits of Pilates for Older Adults
The benefits of Pilates have been particularly noted in older adults. Older adults are more likely to suffer from symptoms of arthritis, including stiff and painful joints. Pilates practice has also been lauded for its ability to help prevent injury.
Even adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength. But is Pilates safe for all adults? Who should avoid participating in a Pilates program, and who is more likely to benefit from the program?
Pilates was designed to progress naturally from one movement to another. If you feel stopped at one movement, don’t give up. Start at the beginning and work your way back to the areas you found most challenging.
Other Benefits of Pilates
• Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk.
• Reduce stress, relieve tension, and boost energy through deep stretching.
• Restore postural alignment.
• Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
• Increase joint range of motion.
• Improve circulation.
• Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
• Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
• Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury.
• Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
• Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
• Improve the way your body looks and feels.
Consult your medical professional if you have any doubts about your Pilates program. If you are suffering from severe degeneration or physical pain, you should take extra care before beginning a Pilates program.
You should never feel negative pain while practicing Pilates. If you do, you know that there is something wrong. Don’t be afraid to pull back if you feel overwhelmed.
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