Pilates FAQsWhat is Pilates?
Pilates is a body conditioning technique that will stretch, strengthen and balance the body. Pilates targets deep postural muscles within the body through a series of exercises aimed at building core strength and flexibility. Excellent for improving posture and alignment, pilates also teaches coordination, concentration and control.
Pilates is either done on a mat or with apparatus in a specialised studio.
Who can do Pilates?
Pilates is accessible to all ages and levels of fitness. The exercises are performed in a precise, controlled manner and can be tailored to suit individual needs.
Because it is low impact it will not cause stress on the body and this makes it popular with older people and those rehabilitating from an injury. Many people start Pilates precisely because they have reached 'a certain age' and want to maintain or improve strength and flexibility.
Pilates is also a key element in serious sports training and injury recovery programmes. Top rugby teams (including the All Blacks and Welsh Rugby Union) and golfer Tiger Woods are advocates of Pilates! Surfers, dancers, skiers and other sports enthusiasts can also improve performance. It will help correct imbalances that often occur with certain sports and can also target any weak or injury prone areas.
Celebrity Pilates fans include: Daniel Craig, Joan Bakewell, Martin Amis, Gweneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet, Pippa Middleton, Cindy Crawford, John Cleese and Sir Ian McKellen!
Why is Pilates so popular?
Pilates is hugely beneficial in counteracting the effects of a modern lifestyle. We all spend increasing amounts of time sitting at computers, driving and generally being more sedentary. This can create bad habits that lead to postural imbalances - we become weak in certain areas and tight in others, more injury prone and susceptible to back ache. Pilates is effective as it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body. Pilates is also one of the best ways to ward off the effects of advancing age.
However, the main reason for the popularity of Pilates is that it works! If you attend classes regularly you will notice the difference in your own body.
Can I 'Drop in' and try a class? Or do Pilates at my local gym?
Pilates is not something that suits 'drop in' style classes. To notice the benefits it is important to have a consistent practice. Like learning any new skill it requires patience and perseverance. Pilates is never boring because you are continually learning new layers of information. The benefits can be life changing! In a 'drop in' class situation there might be a complete beginner in every class… you might have several super fit bodies alongside a pregnant lady or someone else suffering from a herniated disk or health complication. It is far better to attend a regular class of the correct level. The teacher will know your history and be able to modify or add challenge.
What about Pilates at my local Gym? When the popularity of Pilates exploded around 15 years ago many fitness industry businesses set up short teacher training courses. It is possible to do a Mat Pilates Teacher Training online or in only a few weekends! Often at Gyms the Fitness Instructors have done a short course in mat 'based' Pilates. Please check your teacher's qualifications. There are many 'Weekend Warriors' who claim to teach Pilates! A fully Comprehensive Pilates Teacher will have studied full time for a minimum of one year but often several years. They will regularly update their skills and attend professional development workshops. Your experience of Pilates will greatly depend on the teacher.
How often should I do Pilates?
Like any form of exercise Pilates is most beneficial when done regularly. The more often you practice the faster the results will come!
Will I lose weight?
Pilates is not primarily about weight loss as it isn't usually considered an aerobic exercise. However it will give you a more streamlined appearance and increase lean muscle mass (which means your body should burn calories faster).
If your goal is to lose weight you should combine Pilates with cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming etc..), eat a healthy diet and increase general activity levels (walking, gardening etc..)
There are many similarities between Yoga and Pilates. Both are performed on a mat and place importance of breathing with each movement. Both will stretch and strengthen your body, however the emphasis in Yoga is more on stretching while the emphasis in Pilates tends to be more on strength. Yoga poses tend to more static whereas Pilates moves through each pose. The mind and body (spiritual) element is also more prominent in Yoga.
In Pilates we aim to use 'Lateral Breathing' (into the back and ribs). This allows us to maintain an abdominal contraction while performing each exercise (so protecting the lower back). Breathing also adds rhythm and helps focus the mind. It also helps us to recruit the correct muscle for each exercise.
If you're new to Pilates you don't need to worry too much about the breath pattern. Once the exercises are more familiar the breathing will start to come naturally.
Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He developed a system of exercises during the first half of the 20th century which were intended to strengthen the human mind and body. Joseph Pilates believed that mental and physical health are inter-related. He called his method 'Contrology' the "comprehensive integration of body mind and spirit". Pilates emigrated to the USA in the early 1920s and set up a studio in New York. The method soon became popular, especially with the dance community, as it offered a chance to improve technique and recover from injury. >> read more about Joseph Pilates "In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you'll have a whole new body" Joseph H. Pilates