Pilates (pronounced puh-lah-teez and not pie-lates) is similar to yoga but emphasizes your body’s core — the abdomen, obliques, lower back, inner and outer thigh, butt, and so on. For this reason, Pilates develops much of what exercisers need — strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, coordination, balance, and good posture — with a much lower chance of injury than with other forms of exercise. The discipline emphasizes correct form instead of going for the burn. With so many exercise variations and progressions, you may have a hard time getting bored with Pilates
Pilates moves require you to engage virtually your whole body. At times, you may try to strengthen one muscle while stretching another. The moves take lots of concentration; you can’t simply go through the motions like you can on gym equipment. And then, for every move you think you’ve mastered, Pilates has another version that’s a little different and a little harder.
Consider a move called rolling like a ball: You balance on your rear end, roll backward, and then roll back up into the balanced position again. This move requires a good balance of abdominal and lower-back strength and is deceptively tough. Pilates teaches you to think about how you use your muscles during your workout so you use them better in daily life. For instance, because much of the focus is on good posture and body mechanics, you stand and sit taller and walk more gracefully.
Pilates one leg stretch
One leg stretch, classic Pilates movement
Breathing is important in the Pilates method. In Return to Life, Pilates devotes a section of his introduction specifically to breathing “bodily house-cleaning with blood circulation”. He saw considerable value in increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body. This he saw as cleansing and invigorating. Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation were key to this. He advised people to squeeze out the lungs as they would wring a wet towel dry. In Pilates exercises, the practitioner breathes out with the effort and in on the return. In order to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine; the breathing needs to be directed laterally, into the lower rib cage. Pilates breathing is described as a posterior lateral breathing, meaning that the practitioner is instructed to breathe deep into the back and sides of his or her rib cage. When practitioners exhale, they are instructed to note the engagement of their deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and maintain this engagement as they inhale. Pilates attempts to properly coordinate this breathing practice with movement.
Pilates demands intense focus, the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves.
“Contrology” was Joseph Pilates’ preferred name for his method, and it was based on the idea of muscle control. All exercises are done with control, the muscles working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus.
For practitioners to control their bodies, they must have a starting place: the center. The center is the focal point of the Pilates method. Many Pilates teachers refer to the group of muscles in the center of the body—encompassing the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs—as the “powerhouse”. All movement in Pilates should begin from the center and move outward to the limbs.
Pilates aims for elegant economy of movement, creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions. Once precision has been achieved, the exercises are intended to flow within and into each other in order to build strength and stamina. In other words, the Pilates technique asserts that physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate movements of the extremities.
Using correct posture while doing Pilates exercises improves safety by correcting muscle imbalances and optimizing coordination.
Precision is essential to correct Pilates. The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Here Pilates reflects common physical culture wisdom, gaining more from a few energetic efforts than from many listless ones. The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
Correct muscle firing patterns and improved mental concentration are enhanced with relaxation.
With increased precision, motion becomes more efficient so there is less stress to perform the exercises