Are you looking to tone your body after pregnancy? Or looking for strength and flexibility in old age? You could even be an athlete or a dancer looking for a healthier and stronger body – if yes, then pilates is the answer for you.
What is pilates?
So you’ve heard a lot of celebs who are into pilates – Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Zarine Khan and Deepika Padukone – but what is it all about?
Pilates is a physical fitness regimen developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century that helps balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility and awareness. It builds endurance in the legs, abdomen, arms, hips and the back.
The regimen of pilates is based on six principles – concentration, control, centering, flow, breathing and precision.
Concentration involves focussing on what you do thoroughly for smooth movement. The idea of pilates is based on muscle control so that you are in control of your body and not the other way round.
Centering refers to the powerhouse of your body – the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks and inner thighs – all movements begin from here.
Flow implies that the exercise movements are meant to flow into each other to build strength and stamina.
Precision is of significance in pilates because one correct precise movement is better than many imprecise ones.
And in breathing, pilates makes sure the person breathes out fully so as to inhale fully, thereby allowing maximum circulation of oxygen to the body.
What equipment does it need?
While it can be done with an exercise mat, pilates also uses some equipment. These involve pulleys and using resistance from the person’s body weight on a machine with different spring levels.
Should I give it a try?
If you are a mum-to-be or have given birth, it’s a great way to prepare for childbirth and recover your figure and function, respectively. Of course, there will be certain pilates movements that will be excluded depending on how far ahead you are in the pregnancy.
If you are an athlete, pilates can help you develop balanced musculature and flexibility. Even dancers who are involved in extensive physical training can take it up. Horse riders find that pilates helps them with inner thigh strength and torso stability.
If you are a senior man or woman and are looking for a dose of fitness and flexibility, pilates can help a great deal. As moderate resistance training, it is said to be compatible with bone health programs also.
Pilates can also be a boon for those who suffer from severe back and neck pain.
Myths about pilates
It derives from yoga: While the two seem uncannily similar – the breathing, stretching etc – the two practices are very different. While pilates is intended to develop core strength and efficient movement habits in daily life, yoga (which also develops core strength) is more about stretching and flexibility that’s lesser about improving daily movements.
Yoga is more about combining the physical, mental and spiritual to provide maximum output – while pilates may have the same result for many, it’s not the aim of the exercise.
Only women can do pilates
No! It was created by a man who practiced himself, remember? And he was a boxer, gymnast and a military trainer. Although it’s more popular with the ladies, there’s nothing ‘feminine’ about it.
It’s too easy
Wrong! Which exercise is simple? It’s very adaptable, but the level of ease or difficulty differs with every person. It may be that one thinks it’s easy because it is very popular with pregnant women and seniors but pilates can present challenges for the strongest athletes or muscled men.
Pilates works only for toning abs
Wrong again. Nothing in pilates is a short cut! And while it does tone abs because it focuses on abdominal muscles, that’s not the only thing it does. In fact, it works on all body parts.
While experts tout many advantages of pilates right from better sleep to great sex, there are other advantages of this practice. Pilates can help you tone muscles, improves posture, increases energy and promotes weight loss.
The cherry on the ice cream is obvious – a healthy body leads to a healthier mind.
Can’t I do it at home?
So you think, “Maybe I can buy a DVD or watch some YouTube videos and learn at home”. But you do need an instructor. Why? When you practice pilates (and this is true for some other exercises, like yoga), you can’t see yourself but your instructor can and can immediately correct you if you are going wrong somewhere.
Second, instructors can teach you new exercises depending on how comfortable you are with your current ones – they can be easier or more challenging. You can’t judge on your own, right?
Third, and most importantly, you get customized attention. You don’t have the same body type as the person in the video. There could be some aspect that doesn’t suit you which only an instructor might be able to spot. He or she can also instruct you on what positions or equipment you need to try next.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about pilates – an increasingly popular practice that will not only help you look better but feel and move better too. So, what are you waiting for?