What is Pilates?
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness”. Joseph H. Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, wrote this in 1945 in the “Return to life through Contrology”. Difficult to explain in few words what’s Pilates, yet teachers have to answer this question.
Pilates is an exercise program beneficial for the whole body, mind and spirit. Pilates helps with body alignment, posture, breathing, it tones and strengthen, it doesn’t matter the age not the gender. It’s the perfect progression after a rehabilitation program. It’s the perfect program for conditioning athletes as well. Performed just on the mat or using the machines, Pilates will give you tremendous power in the core that it will help the spine in every day movement or your favorite recreational activity.
What are the principles of Pilates?
The principles are not specifically mentioned in Joseph Pilates book. In decades of work, master teachers (Joseph Pilates direct students) set a list of main principles which are based on Joseph Pilates’ words and concepts, they describe best what’s Pilates and why it’s so different from the other disciplines.
1 – awareness 4 – concentration 7 – efficiency 10 – harmony*
2 – breathing 5 – control 8 – precision
3 – balance 6 – center 9 – flow*
* Flow and harmony are principles specific to certain Pilates schools like BASI founded by Rael Isacowitz.
What to expect from a Pilates class?
- some weight body bearing exercises
- working on a mat with all your body or on Pilates special machines (Reformer, Tower, Cadillac, Chair, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector)
- learn the Pilates breathing
- work your abdomen
- overall physical and mental wellbeing
Why choose Pilates ?
- Pilates targets all the muscles, even the smaller muscle groups which are so important as stabilizers and in injury prevention.
- Pilates is a very efficient workout with low impact in the joints: you just need 30 minutes.
- Pilates improves your metabolism, creating lean muscles.
- Pilates helps with some emotional states like anxiety, depression, stress.
- Pilates is the best solution for lumbo – pelvic control, neck and shoulder disorders, chronic neck pain and low back pain.
- Pilates is one of the best fitness program after surgeries like hip replacement, knee replacement, rotator cuff, ACL.
Who can practice Pilates?
Everybody can practice Pilates. This doesn’t mean that it is for everybody. Pilates is appropriate at all ages at all physical levels: man, women, kids, seniors, athletes, pregnant women etc..
How many times should I practice Pilates?
Depending on your personal goals, availability and budget, Pilates should be practiced 2-3 times a week, especially if it’s the only physical activity. 1-2 times a week for people who practice other sports with consistency. Athletes should add 1 session a week to their weekly fitness regimen to improve their physical connection and strengthen the core.
How to find the right instructor?
The fact that you like Pilates or you don’t, often depends on the very first experience and therefore the first teacher you had.
Sometimes you don’t feel satisfied after a class because maybe the teacher is not the right teacher for you. It would be better not to stop at the first impression and try other Pilates classes with different teachers.
In addition to the fact that there are many teacher training schools out there, the class will vary based on multiple aspects: education training, teaching experience, personal fitness background and personal characteristics.
Once you find the right teacher for you and you are enjoying your Pilates sessions, it is important to be consistent in order to have the best results. Try to be always very communicative with your teacher, the teacher is there to respond to your needs and goals, knowing that often the exercises that we like the least, are the exercises that our body needs the most. So don’t feel frustrated, always tell how you feel because teachers also learn from their clients !
What’s the difference with Yoga?
Pilates is a younger discipline than Yoga. The first Pilates studio was set up in 1926. Yoga has far more antiques roots. The exercises are different, even though sometimes you might incorporate some Yoga positions in modern Pilates classes. Pilates is performed also with a variety of special machines. The breathing in Pilates is very different, the feeling in your body is different too. I wrote a post about this, I always think it is a good idea to try both disciplines and try to find good teachers and maybe practice them both!
What’s the difference between Pilates with machines and mat Pilates?
Pilates machines have been created by Joseph Pilates to deepen the practice, intervene with injured clients, assist and challenge. The repertoire is vast because there are different machines. Reformers, Towers and Chairs are the most popular machines that you can find in the majority of the studios, but there are also other type of equipments. This is also the reason why a private session with machines is far more expensive than a regular mat class. To take a Pilates private session is like to take a personal trainer session and they are one-to-one sessions or maximum two people (in the case of semi-privates or duets). While mat Pilates classes are in general taught for a group of people.
Mat Pilates is the foundation and at the same time the ultimate goal of the Pilates discipline: to perform all the exercises in a mat class, especially an advanced level class, takes years of practice.
Why does the teacher suggest a specific time to inhale and exhale during the exercises?
The breathing is one of the principle of the Pilates Method. It’s very important to learn to breath because it maximizes the movement, it helps the muscles, it improves the circulation, it calms the mind and the body. The pattern of the breath should match with the movement. Plus the “pilates breathing” emphasize the lateral breathing which helps with the abdominal contraction.
In any case, the most important fact is to use the breath and be comfortable during the practice avoiding holding the breath.