What is Pilates? For some people, Pilates is something that has always been in their life…but from a distance. They have friends who attend Pilates classes and others who swear by Pilates for their core strength and achieving other fitness goals, but all this happens without really understanding the process. With this in mind, here’s everything you need to know about Pilates.
Pilates aims to improve flexibility, muscle strength, alignment, and more through the use of low-impact exercises. While some Pilates classes may use equipment like a reformer, others use a simple yoga mat (and this is the type of Pilates that people perform from the comfort of their own homes). While some Pilates exercises focus on the core, others encourage stability and other areas. Regardless of the exercise type, the movements are slow and precise.
History of Pilates
Many people think pilates instructor training is a new trend, but the exercise style actually goes back to the 1920s. In New York, Body Conditioning Gym was opened by Joseph and Clara Pilates. With the benefit of hindsight, they were about to revolutionise how New Yorkers, Americans, and people all over the world would exercise. They proved that exercise doesn’t always need to be an intense process; instead, slow and precise movements are just as beneficial.
Common Pilates Exercises
Especially during lockdowns and periods with no gym, the reason many people are choosing Pilates is that they don’t need equipment and it all begins with very little effort. In fact, you might prefer the fact that you aren’t doing the moves in front of a class. Instead, you’re able to follow a YouTube tutorial or an online guide in your own time (and without people watching!).
When taking beginner Pilates classes, you might encounter exercises like toe taps. As you lie flat on your back, lift your thighs to form a right angle with the body; from here, bend at the knee so that your lower legs are parallel with the floor. When you’re ready, slowly bring one foot down to the floor tapping gently with your toes. Bring the foot back to the starting point and perform the same move with the other leg.
Elsewhere, other moves in Pilates include the following:
- Donkey kick
- Kneeling plank
- Book opening stretch
- Abdominal curl
- Side-lying legs lift
- Prone chest lift
- Bird dog
Benefits of Pilates
Why should you add Pilates to your workout schedule? There are many benefits of doing Pilates, and one of the biggest is improved core strength. With precise and deliberate movements, the core is always engaged for the movement (and sometimes just to stay balanced too!). The abs might hurt in the morning, but people who do Pilates regularly tend to enjoy improved core strength.
Simultaneously, this leads to improved posture, a problem for many who sit in the same position in an office chair every day. With the right posture, you encourage spinal alignment, and this has lots of long-term health benefits. You don’t need to do Pilates every day, but it’s a valuable addition as part of a wider workout strategy. For example, while training for a marathon, Pilates helps with core strength, flexibility, muscle toning, strength, muscle control, stabilisation, lung capacity, circulation, physical coordination, joint health and mobility, and much more.
If you want to give Pilates a go, there’s no better time to try. These days, Pilates/yoga mats are incredibly affordable and there are lots of online resources to get started!