What is Pilates?

Pilates is a ‘mind-body’ conditioning exercise programme that targets the muscles stabilising the trunk (Anderson and Spector, 2000). The method was the brainchild of Joseph Hubertus Pilates. Born in Germany in 1880, Pilates was a rather sickly child and said to have asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. However, by the age of 14 he had overcome his illnesses and chose to dedicate his life to physical fitness.

He studied a variety of techniques from gymnastics, zen meditation, martial arts and yoga to the Greek and Roman regimes of exercise. These were the inspiration for his method that he called ‘contrology’. After the first World War, he emigrated to the US and opened the first Pilates studio in New York City. Dancers and other performing artists took a liking to his Pilates  techniques and it gained an almost cult-like status among these groups. Following a great deal of research to understand the science behind the art (Hodges and Richardson, 1997; Richardson & Al, 2002), the Pilates method has now become a mainstream form of exercise used by doctors, physiotherapists and physical therapists all over the world. Pilates  combines mat and equipment-based exercises that are tailored to the particular user’s needs.

Can Pilates help prevent injuries?

If you have sustained an injury, the aim is to rehabilitate your body with the least amount of stress, strain or pain; this can be achieved by attending Pilates classes.  An injury can cause a muscular imbalance, which leads to inefficiency, weakness and therefore can cause pain.

Pilates exercises address the imbalances to allow the body to function at the pre-injury level and reduce susceptibility to re-injury, to either the same or a different body part.

Joseph Pilates developed his method as a means of treating his own ailments by focusing on muscle isolation to strengthen core muscles that weren’t performing well and caused an imbalance.  Rehabilitation Pilates retrains the muscles to be more efficient and pain free and to achieve the strength needed to affect a complete recovery. There are many different exercises specifically designed to retrain muscles to move correctly and to return to their pre-injury state.

How can Pilates help during pregnancy?

Pregnancy Pilates is not only a safe form of exercise, but the core principles are particularly beneficial to pregnant women, by increasing strength and providing a feeling of general wellbeing.

  1. Concentration: Pregnancy Pilates helps you to focus on the part of your body that you are using, which will be useful during childbirth.
  2. Core strength: Pilates classes during pregnancy will teach you to reach the deep abdominal muscles which are vital for support whilst moving. These muscles are particularly important during pregnancy.
  3. Breathing:  Some mothers are known to experience breathing difficulties during pregnancy, such as shortness of breath or feel the baby inhibiting the lungs when it moves. Pilates teaches lateral breathing which, in pregnancy helps improve the lung capacity and also makes more space of the baby. Breathing techniques can also ease cramps and spasms, and make the contractions less painful.
  4. Alignment: Your centre of gravity changes during pregnancy which can affect your balance, which can be dangerous. Pilates classes help to improve your posture and promote better balance.
What are the benefits of Pilates?

Other forms of exercise such as traditional workouts tend to build short weight bearing muscles which are susceptible to injury. Pilates lengthens and strengthens the muscles, improves balance, mobility in the joints and flexibility in the muscles, making them less prone to injury.

Pilates benefits

  • Healthier stronger back muscles
  • Toned body with a better shape
  • Leaner longer muscles
  • Flatter stomach
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better posture
  • Straighter and stronger spine
  • Better coordination
  • Increased body awareness
  • Injury prevention
  • Pain free rehabilitation
  • Improved general heath
Can anyone benefit from Pilates?

Pilates classes are widely used by professionals such as dancers, gymnasts and athletes for improving balance, strength, mobility and flow. Pilates exercises are popular amongst both men and women of all ages, and are equally effective.

People who can take Pilates classes:

  • All ages from  young to elderly
  • People with sedentary jobs
  • Pregnant women (pre & post-natal)
  • Pre-and post-operations
  • Anyone requiring rehabilitation

Conditions that can be helped by Pilates classes:

  • Back problems
  • Bad posture
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Lifestyle injury
  • Muscle and joint problems (arthritis/ osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia)
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Shoulder and neck problems
  • Sports injury
  • Stress related issues
  • Whiplash
How long will it take to see the results of Pilates classes?

Real results can be obtained in 6-8 weeks (by coming at least twice a week).

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