So, there is a lot of hype around Pilates at the moment. It has been growing in popularity ever since its sudden explosion onto the market in the 1990’s – despite the fact that Joseph Pilates thought it into existence around 1912!
It’s no surprise that Pilates is used by so many, for so many different reasons; it really was created to heal all. Joseph grew up a very sick little boy; he suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. And it was because of this that he dedicated his entire adult life to improving his wellbeing through movement. With his Mum being a Naturopath (and his Dad a gymnast), he believed there were better ways to heal rather than with medicine. In his early days before moving to New York Joe was a gymnast, a bodybuilder, a boxer, a circus acrobatics performer and during his internment in the UK (during WWI) he also taught wrestling and self-defence. It has been said that in his camp there were the least fatalities and illnesses, and many left the camp in better physical condition than when they arrived (though this is heresay, and I could not tell you the source if I tried!).
So with all that in mind, what are the proven results of regular Pilates practice?
- Improved blood flow – great for every single cell in your body! Particularly highlighting the cardiac system here, Pilates is amazing for great heart health
- Mindful breathing – higher oxygen levels in the blood are associated with a calm mind & body. Also, remember how Joe had asthma? The breathing technique he used (the loud ‘hhhhuuuuh’ on the exhale) was purposeful in increasing lung capacity and circulation
- Flexibility – this occurs through active stretching, working the muscles while lengthening them out. A major reason so many sports stars, dancers and athletes do Pilates!
- Muscle strength & tone – this one is obvious, through body weight movements or the use of props, Pilates will help build long lean muscles. If you’re a ‘gym-junkie’ you’ll find that Pilates is a whole different ballpark, and will help to give your muscles a ‘sleek’ look rather than bulky
- Balanced muscles – both sides of your body will be balanced out (over time), rather than having that one side which is overly dominant and/or developed
- Supported limbs and joints (AND SPINE!) – I’m talking to you there, with the bad knee/ankle/shoulder! Pilates specifically works to strengthen the muscles so that they better support your joints and posture
- Improved concentration & body awareness – I don’t mean to scare you, but Pilates is hard. If it’s not hard, it’s not Pilates! During a session you need to have a certain level of focus to complete each move. With this, you’ll also gain a better feeling of where your body is in ‘space’, which helps with balance too!
- Stress relief – it all comes full circle here, the breathing, the release of endorphins, the lengthened and strengthened muscles lead to a happier, healthier and less stressed you!
You know what is cool? That’s a super shortened version of the list! I could write all day about the benefits of Pilates, I could search website after website and find more and more! But I think the most important for me, personally, is the impact a regular practice can have on you mentally. The gorgeous muscles and flexibility and balance is all fantastic, but the clarity you gain from these sessions is something I’ve not gotten with anything else. And with the mental fog lifting, your physical wellness will not be far behind!
Now when I say there is a bit of focus involved when you’re being instructed through a class, you don’t have to worry – it’s not like you’re in a University lecture and you can’t relax – you can definitely relax (except in my classes we talk & giggle a lot)! But you’ll be guided to ensure that each muscle is activated and that you’re breathing ‘normally’. These things seem simple, but I bet we’re all guilty of holding our breath when we are doing something a bit tricky! I know it’s not just me!
I’ll leave you with one of my (many) favourite JP quotes;
I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.Joseph Pilates
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