Over the past decade pilates has gained in popularity. With classes popping up everywhere and other forms of exercise trying to take on a pilates twist, you can now find mat pilates classes, pilates reformer classes, yogalates, and even kickboxing/pilates classes. We’ve all heard and have been told that pilates is the exercise to do to strengthen our cores, but there are many other benefits to be gained from doing this form of workout.
Body Awareness. Doing pilates will engage your mind as well as your body. You will become more aware of the way you sit, the way you stand and the way you move. In our environment, the majority of people sit slouched over at a desk all day. Pilates will help to straighten your postural alignment and become more aware of your daily movements.
Strong Core. When people refer to their core, they are referring to their abdomen and back. Our core is our base for everything we do, however, most people forget to strengthen it. They go to the gym and work on their arms and legs with no core focus. This only weakens it further and could lead to injury. I heard an analogy once that I thought I would share with you. Think of your body like a tree. A tree gets its strength and sturdiness from the trunk, just like our bodies do. If a tree had a weak trunk, but large limbs, it would topple over. Our trunk, or core, should be our strongest part. Pilates focuses on a series of exercises to strengthen your core and stabilizer muscles.
Body Control. By gaining body awareness and building core strength, you begin to have body control. You will learn to move differently, sit and stand straighter, and use your core muscles as your energy source. Fifty percent of people will experience back pain sometime within their life. Pilates movements will help to reduce or eliminate back pain as well as help prevent injury from happening. Gymnasts, dancers, runners, boxers, skiers, and pretty much every athlete and non-athlete can benefit from pilates. One of the beauties of pilates is that anyone, at any skill level, can do it.
Reduces stress. Just like in yoga, pilates focuses on breath awareness to calm the mind and body. So naturally by consistently practicing pilates your stress levels will lower and tension will be eliminated.
Builds strength. I’ve already talked about how pilates strengthens your core, but it also strengthens the rest of your body as well. By practicing the exercise on a routine basis you will build long, lean muscles and improve your overall strength and flexibility.
I have become a big fan of pilates and try to fit it in twice a week. Growing up with scoliosis has left me with a fairly weak back, so it is extremely important that I continue to keep my core strong to prevent back pain or injury. When trying to decide if you should do mat classes or reformer classes, know that both work extremely well. Reformer classes are generally more expensive, but offer one-on-one coaching that mat classes do not. Using a reformer will also help you develop the technique so you have the correct form in mat classes. That being said, I have not actually tried a pilates reformer machine. I only do mat classes and have found a great instructor that works well with everyone in the class, giving them individual attention if needed. Most instructors will be glad to give you tips or advice if you have any questions. Make sure to let them know before class of any previous injuries, back pain, or health conditions.