Pilates has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why. It is great for improving your posture, strength and flexibility are well known. Here’s why you might want to give it a try.
German-born Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1883-1967) was way ahead of his time. Plagued through his childhood with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, he dedicated the rest of his life to studying and finding wellness.
Pilates studied human anatomy, yoga and martial arts. This combined with his professions as a gymnast, body builder, diver and boxer led to his total body transformation – he posed for anatomical charts – and a system of exercise that is hailed by many today as the ultimate exercise for a perfect body.
In the mid 1920s, Pilates emigrated to New York where he opened an exercise studio and soon gained an enviable reputation among the dance and ballet world. Pilates originally called his system of exercise Contrology.
Word spread about the remarkable benefits of his exercise system and it has continued to spread until this very day. Known for building strength and flexibility, Pilates is still used by top ballerinas and dancers as well as athletes.
Balance your body
Pilates is a body conditioning system of precisely executed exercises that set the body in correct alignment so that muscles can be targeted and exercised effectively. Pilates improves posture, tones and strengthens the body and is known for giving a long, lean look and flat belly.
Pilates is also well known for its benefits as a rehabilitation tool and helping to protect against injury, aches and pains. It brings the body back into balance through easing tight muscles and strengthening weak ones.
In his pioneering book Return to Life through Contrology (1945), Pilates explained that his technique ‘develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit’.
Studies show Pilates can strengthen your immune system, protecting you from illness. It can even boost your sex life by strengthening your pelvic floor.
Develop a stronger core
All Pilates exercises begin from your centre or ‘powerhouse’, helping to develop a strong core. This ‘centring’ or focusing also helps to connect your mind with your body, shutting out external stress and creating a calming effect.
Today, modern Pilates still teaches the same fundamental exercises but, with time, experts have adapted and modified some of the moves to suit different age groups, body types and goals.
Modern life is not kind to the human body. Machines have taken over many of the chores that previous generations cursed, such as scrubbing floors and clothes, walking or cycling to work in the rain and snow and fetching and carrying wood and water. While it’s wonderful that we don’t have to endure these hardships, the cost to our bodies has been huge and our posture, weight, health and wellbeing have suffered enormously as a result.
Sitting at computers, desks and cars has given us hunched backs and rounded shoulders. Slumping on the sofa watching TV has given us weak backs, flabby bottoms and poor circulation. These factors lead to back and neck pain, headaches and increased stress caused by poor breathing. Slump over and try to take a nice deep breath. Now stand up tall and try again. Can you feel the difference?
Improve your posture
Pilates can help to address many modern ailments and is routinely prescribed by physiotherapists, doctors and osteopaths as a remedy for back, shoulder, postural and joint problems. The precise, controlled nature of Pilates makes the exercises extremely safe for everyone. The focus on body and joint alignment can help undo postural problems.
Many issues that people take to their GP, including back and neck pain and urinary incontinence, can be rectified with regular Pilates exercises. It strengthens where the body is weak and lengthens where it is tight.
Developing core strength helps prevent back pain and enables the body to move more freely. Pilates also ensures the spine is regularly moved safely through all of its natural range of motion – flexion, extension and rotation help it stay supple and strong.
Pilates is also frequently hailed by many a celebrity as their exercise of choice for a slim but strong ‘red-carpet-ready’ body. It’s perfect for toning trouble zones such as bottom, thighs, arms and tummy.
The benefits of Pilates
- Tightens and tones your body
- Calms your mind
- Strengthens your spine
- Improves flexibility
- Creates a long, lean look
- Improves coordination
- Flattens your belly
- Improves your posture
- Corrects imbalances
- Prevents injury
- Improves athletic performance
- Heightens mind-body awareness