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Exercising is a skill and if you focus, with determination, on that skill, it will energize your Pilates practice. Trust us. We’ve been doing this a long time.
Pilates is about the mind-body connection. Exercising without engaging your mind is only half a workout. Pay attention to the movements you perform and notice how your body responds to that attention. Sometimes you don’t even know it. For example, the human body has 4 abdominal muscles, the deepest is the transverus abdominis, the next is the internal obliques, next is the outer obliques and then the most superficial is the rectus abdominis.
Believe it or not, Pilates helps you tone the deepest muscles, the all-important transverus abdominis, while most other fitness exercises just get the surface (six-pack) muscles. And a six-pack, while it looks good, doesn’t stabilize the back and strengthen the core because it’s the furthest away from spine. Pilates also engages the breath with every movement, relieving stress and sending oxygen-rich blood to parts of the body that need it most.
Pilates stresses the workout of the entire body with emphasis on proper joint movement that is created by length in the muscles, space in your spine and control of the body throughout the movement. It helps adjust any asymmetries, front and back, left or right, in your body while focusing on core muscles and spinal alignment.
A Pilates workout can be aerobic but usually not initially and it depends on the class you take. Once you get the flow of the workout, and because your mind and body are engaged at the same time, your workout will keep you with a happy, healthy, elevated heart beat.
The core muscles of your body are the muscles of the abdomen, back and the ones closest to the spine. They are ones you can’t see. Sorry. But they support the ones you can see - those elusive abs. In Pilates, everything originates from the core. Once you have a strong core, integrating strength into the other muscles is less strenuous. This also allows for correct spinal alignment and promotes balance.
Pilates helps stretch muscles and increase your range of motion in a safe and realistic way. Notice we said “realistic”? Will you be able to Cirque du Soleil your way through life? Probably not. As opposed to adding weight to build bulk in muscles, Pilates provides for a leaner body that is less likely to be injured because of balanced strength and flexibility.
This is where you will see the advantages of a whole body workout. Because some sports use some muscles more than others, athletes struggle with muscular imbalance. Pilates conditions all sides of the body evenly - left, right, front and back. This strengthens core muscles and helps athletes use breathing and movement efficiently. It’s why so many sports professionals use Pilates in their daily training regimen.
Pilates is predominately done on your back or on your side. This helps people with injuries safely practice their workout without aggravating injuries. Plus each movement in Pilates is controlled and coupled with proper breathing alleviating risk. A lot of physical therapy facilities use Pilates for rehabilitation purposes. We don’t know how many exactly but it’s a ton.
Pilates promotes overall balance. Attention is paid to the alignment of the spine at all times. Stress and fatigue comes from poor posture, improper breathing and imbalance in the body. (Rush hour traffic on the 101 or Bay Bridge probably doesn’t help either.) The moves in Pilates are often called elegant because they are long and linear and have a specific purpose. We like that. It’s the dancer in us.
Because the mind is engaged in a Pilates workout at all times with respect to the spine and the core muscles, there is a constant awareness of how you sit, stand, move and relate to injuries or sore muscles. It helps you channel your energy to a specific body part to get more out of it.
With over 500 different ways to practice Pilates - on the mat, on the machine, and a mix of both, Pilates is open to different fitness levels and needs.