Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates was formed by Joe during the First World War with the intention to improve the rehabilitation programme for casualties. During this period, Pilates was designed to aid injured soldiers in regaining their health by strengthening, stretching, and stabilising key muscles. Joseph used to say: ‘When I am dead, they’ll say “He was right”. I’m fifty years ahead of my time’.
And he was.
Joe preferred fewer, more precise movements, requiring control and technique over increased repetition. He believed that mental and physical health were essential to one another, creating what is a method of total body conditioning. Pilates uses correct alignment, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement (the Pilates principles) to establish a perfect working body from the inside out.
Now for everyone that wishes to have a toned 8 pack abdomen, Pilates can help you get there. Now please, I am not saying Pilates alone will help you achieve this – nutrition and other forms of stress management all contribute to obtaining a well rounded physique. However the manoeuvres performed during Pilates require the “powerhouse” of the body to be switched on at all times. The “powerhouse” of the body is the abdomen, upper and lower back, buttocks, hips and inner thighs. When done correctly, all movements start from the “powerhouse” then spread to the rest of the body. Poses are designed to be unstable so you are required to switch on your powerhouse in order to keep that position.
Like exercise, Pilates is focused more on performing a movement correctly as opposed to how many reps you can do or how fast. Breathing is also very important. Focus is placed on breathing in to full inspiration and exhalation. It gets tricker when you need to keep your powerhouse engaged at all times while breathing. One way to help with this is to breathe out “laterally”, or feeling the sides of your ribcage expand as you breathe in. Depending on how advanced you are, you can time your breathing to your movements.
Pilates require the utmost concentration. I personally like it as it forces you to be “present” or in the moment. You think of nothing else but what your body is doing. Take time to feel each breath you take in – feel the oxygen fill up every inch of your lung – notice your muscles switch on and engage – feel the tension, contraction and strength of each muscle fibre.
Sometimes we have a million things going on in our brain, and we tend to ignore our body, thinking it will continue to be well for years to come. Sometimes it takes a trauma/ accident for us to appreciate how amazing our body is engineered. The cool thing about Pilates is that there are many different positions. You can use apparatuses, or just your own body weight and it does not matter if you are fit or not. Like yoga you can progress onto harder manoeuvres as you steadily get stronger. It can be incorporated into your fitness regime and if done correctly you can build up a sweat like there is no tomorrow.
If you have never tried Pilates before give it a go. I would recommend going to an instructor/ class first before attempting to do it yourself at home.
Challenge yourself a little. What is the worst that can happen?
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