Pilates 101: Find Your Perfect Shape
Pilates is a form of exercise that is based on six principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. Originally developed by Joseph Pilates, this exercise was first coined, contrology, emphasizing the need for the integration of the six principles in order to bring about the improvement of a person's core stength, flexibility and awareness. With the combination of these three qualities, one can achieve balanced and graceful movement.
The 6 Principles of Pilates
In order to make the most of your Pilates exercise, you should do each movement properly by keeping in mind the six principles of Pilates.
- Every single movement in pilates is powered by the center which is located between the lower ribs and the pubic bone. Because of this, you need to do centering or focusing on your center in order to perfect the wide array of movements that are taught in pilates.
- Since you will be doing some moves that you are not used to and you will need to command some muscles that you don't usually use, intense concentration is needed when doing pilates exercises.
- Most of the exercises in pilates will require you to assume certain positions and do some small movements that require a lot of control.
- When you do pilates, you need to be aware of every single body part that is involved in the movement. Every movement that you do must be done with precision. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the exercise will be reduced.
- Breath is very important in pilates because it is your proper breathing that will facilitate the movements done by your body during the exercise.
- In pilates, every movement must have fluidity and grace. Flow, not only implies the smoothness of every motion but the uninterrupted flow of the energy throughout the body.
By integrating all six elements in each movement that you do, you will be able to move with balance, grace and strength.
What's Good About Pilates?
Anyone can do it.
In Pilates, age doesn't matter. No matter how old you are, there is a Pilates exercise for you. Neither does it require a certain level of fitness. It doesn't prefer any gender either. As long as you are willing to take classes, your instructors are trained to create a Pilates program that is right for you. That's the good thing about Pilates! The exercises can be modified to suit you and you can grow into new movements as you go on.
Just make sure that you sign up for the right class. For your first time, go to a beginners' class instead of a multi-level class regardless of your fitness level. Pilates has very specific movements that focus on the alignment of your body and it would be beneficial for you to be aware of these subtle movements before proceeding to a more advanced class where these are rarely explained in depth.
It reduces stress.
Because controlled breathing is done during Pilates, it can promote relaxation. This helps eliminate stress as well as chances of having stress-related illnesses in the future.
It can improve your fitness.
Pilates can definitely improve components of fitness like flexibility, strength, joint mobility, coordintation, balance and alignment. Aside from improving your fitness, having a greater range of motion can improve your posture. This can help relieve lower back pains as well as hip and knee problems that are caused by poor posture and muscle alignment. Another effect brought about by having a well-aligned body is the improved circulation of blood and organ functions.
It will give you a better body.
Since most of the exercises in Pilates encourages you to have a better posture and keep your tummy tucked in, your body will be trained to keep this posture. Pilates can also tone your muscles. As a result of having good posture and a well-toned body, you'll look slimmer. Doing Pilates, however, is not enough to make you lose weight. It should be combined with a cardiovascular workout such as jogging, spinning or swimming, can help you lose weight. And, since it does make you stronger, it can make you perform better when doing cardiovascular workouts.
The Pilates Bible
I recommend this book as it is well-illustrated and contains Pilates exercises for all levels. It also has a very good section that highlights proper alignment.
What You Need To Practice Pilates
As a beginner in Pilates, you should first get yourself a mat as well as some comfortable clothing that will not inhibit your movement or cause injuries. Because you will start with basics like breathing properly and aligning you spine, you wouldn't need the other equipment yet. Of course, as you start advancing in the training, you may need to purchase a Pilates ball and exercise bands.
Pilates props are used to make an exercise easier or more difficult. The small core ball, for example, can be used a means of making the exercise difficult by encouraging the practitioner to balance or easier by using it to prop the practitioner up during seated exercises. The Pilates ring is usually used for encouraging abduction or addiction (the inward and outward movement of our limbs).
Pilates doesn't just focus on strength, it also works on flexibility and proper posture. So, please do not come in to your Pilates class with a no pain, no gain mindset. The Pilates exercises you will find maybe very different from the grunting exercises you may find in a gym. Some may even seem or look too easy for you. If an exercise seems too easy then ask your teacher for adjustments that will make it difficult. Perhaps, for your first time, it would be smart to get a private class so the teacher can show you the mechanics of different exercises.
Which do you like better?
© 2007 Shanti Rose