Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, and popular in many countries, including Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. Pilates is a body conditioning routine that will help you build flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back. It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, and developing a strong core or center, and improving coordination and balance. Pilates’ system allows for different exercises to be modified in range of difficulty from beginning to advanced. Intensity can be increased over time as the body conditions and adapts to the exercises.
Pilates main Principles
The first modern book on Pilates in 1980. outlined six “principles of Pilates”. These principles have been adopted by the wider community. The original six ones were: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.
Pilates demands intense focus! You have to concentrate on what you’re doing all the time. You must concentrate on your entire body for smooth movements. In Pilates the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves.
The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment. All exercises are done with control with the muscles working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. The Pilates teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its slave.
For practitioners to control their bodies, they must have a starting place: the center. The center is the focal point of the Pilates. Many Pilates teachers refer to the group of muscles in the center of the body (abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks, and inner thighs) as the powerhouse. Every move starts with or includes powerhouse and spreads to limbs.
The Powerhouse is activated effectively by hollowing of the deep abdominals, by drawing the navel back into the spine in a zipping-up motion, from the pubic bone to the breast bone thereby engaging the heels, the back of the inner thighs, the deep, lower-back muscles, and the muscles surrounding the sitting bones and tailbone area without inhibiting the natural function of the diaphragm. This should be done without the breath holding either from lifting the chest upwards or contracting the chest.
Pilates aims for elegant sufficiency of movement. 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.
Precision is essential to correct Pilates. Not concentrating on the correct movements each time you exercise leads you to improper workout and you risk to lose all the benefits you would rather get. The focus is on doing one precise movement, rather than many sloppy ones. You will gain more strength from a few energetic efforts than from a thousand sluggish movements. The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
Breathing is important in the Pilates method. Increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood is very important. Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation are key for this. Forced exhalation is the key to full inhalation. 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.
The Benefits of Pilates
- Body Awareness - It teaches you how to train your mind and build symmetry and coordination in the body. The biggest benefit in my eyes would be personal awareness: Awareness of how you sit or how you stand or how you move and being able to relate those habits to the aches and pains and injuries you have or have had in the past. If we don’t concentrate on building a good foundation and a strong trunk or core, we’ll end up tight in some places and weak in others.
- Body Control – Unless you are taught how to move and discover with your teacher what is blocking you, you will never achieve body symmetry. When you start getting control of your body, it gives you a great degree of satisfaction.
- Stronger Core - First of all, do not equate a Stronger Core with a Flatter Stomach. It’s not the same! When people want ‘flat abs,’ they are usually looking for weight loss, not abdominal strength and core support. As you develop body awareness, you will stand straighter and gain more flexibility with your body.
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