With a Pilates studio in every corner, moving from Singapore to Sydney as a Pilates instructor felt extremely exciting and rewarding. I was especially impressed by the popularity of Reformer classes. It seemed there was no need to explain to people what Pilates was all about (which I had to do a lot when I lived in Myanmar).
Just like many in Australia, you have probably heard of Pilates and its amazing benefits and maybe even have tried a class or two. However knowing in your head and knowing in your body are two very different things; and just like any tried and tested discipline it takes time and effort to truly learn the Pilates method.
“You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions.“ – said Joseph Pilates
I hope the following benefits (you may or may have not heard about) will convince you to give Pilates a chance and truly understand the requirements and see the results of this wonderful fitness method.
1. It is accessible to everyone. EVERYONE. Young or elderly, healthy or injured, Pilates can be modified to your personal needs and abilities. Being a low impact workout that focuses on musculoskeletal alignment, Pilates offers tremendous benefits not only to women and people with injuries but also professional athletes who need to complement their physically demanding exercise routines.
I would like to especially mention Reformer Pilates, where machines offer a great deal of support, and provide proprioceptive feedback to even the most clueless of practitioners. The springs on the Reformer machine deliver assistance when needed and provide resistance for those who want more challenge. Therefore anyone with any kind of physical limitation could find Pilates suitable for them and it could give them a big sense of achievement.
2. Trains flexibility in a safe way without compromising strength and stability. One of the most frequently discussed Pilates benefits is improved flexibility. Flexibility allows us to achieve ranges of motion that we were not able to previously manage, and enjoy movements without pain or restrictions. However sometimes trying to pursue flexibility, one could be on a dangerous path. By becoming more flexible, we don’t want to lose our strength and stability at the joints, which may lead to injury. Pilates helps to train flexibility in a very safe way making sure that small stabilizer muscles provide appropriate support during movement.
3. It is great for prevention and treatment of lower back pain. Pilates is a great tool used by many physiotherapists to manage lower back injuries. Most musculoskeletal injuries of the lower back, shoulder joint and neck are related to tightness and a lack of mobility in the thorax (mid section of the spine and a ribcage). Since many Pilates exercises focus on segmental movement of the spine in all three dimensions, there is greater mobility achieved in the thoracic spine, which in many cases helps to lessen lower back pain or eliminates it altogether.
Another reason why lower back pain may be relieved is, of course, improved strength of the deeper core muscles. Deep core muscles help to stabilize the spine during movement and prevent injuries from occurring. Every single Pilates exercise – be it supine (lying on your back), prone (on stomach), side lying, seated or standing – is performed with that deep core awareness and should be done only once the core is engaged.
4. It is both a body and mind discipline. Pilates is getting more and more popular among Hollywood actors, professional athletes and Victoria Secret models. Having lean and strong muscles, washboard abdominals, improved posture and alignment is what attracts many celebrities. However, Pilates is much more than that. It is also about the positive energy and joyful attitude one leaves the class with. Many a time, people feel taller, stronger, confident and happier. While its largely applicable to physical activities, Pilates is special in the way that it as much a mind as it is a body workout.
“Our body moves as our mind moves. The qualities of movement are a manifestation of how the mind is expressing through the body at any moment…movement can be a way to observe the expression of mind through the body, and it can also be a way to affect changes in the body mind relationship”. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
5. Less is more. One of the rules of thumb in Pilates is: “As much as necessary; as little as possible”. Oftentimes we tend to overwork our bodies, overloading one part of our system and overlooking the other. Pilates encourages you to work both hard and smart. With the right movement strategy and efficient distribution of forces, when your whole entire body works in harmony, you might not necessarily feel your muscles burning or feel the same intensity but instead perform exercises with ease and lightness, agility and suppleness.
You might notice your Pilates instructor giving you many detailed instructions to what seems to be a simple exercise at first. With time and practice you might be able to apply those instructions to your movement and differentiate between less efficient and more efficient movement patterns, which will allow you to achieve greater results and feel more energetic.
The founder of the Pilates method (which used to be called Contrology), Joseph Pilates, established three guiding principles for his discipline: Whole Body Health, Whole Body Commitment and Breath.
Whatever your reasons for doing Pilates are – let the main reason be your wellbeing and the health of your body.
As soon as you step into the studio, leave your worries and anxieties behind. Focus. Be present. Commit to it.
Lie down on the mat or the Reformer bed. Close your eyes. Breath. Inhale deeply, exhale fully. Inhale energy and positivity, exhale stress and negativity.
Start Moving. Enjoy it. Have fun.