Pilates (sometimes referred to as the Pilates Method) is a system of physical fitness developed in the early part of the twentieth century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates liked to call his system ‘Contrology’ because the method is all about controlling the muscles of the body through the power of the mind.
Joseph Pilates was a keen exercise enthusiast who designed and developed over 500 specific exercises based on his belief that physical and mental health are complementary and interdependent. His exercises involve a number of calisthenic, motions that undertake total body conditioning. These exercises teach proper alignment, body centering, concentration, precision and control which results in increased flexibility, muscle tone, strength, energy and body awareness. As a direct result, greater mental clarity and improved concentration is seen.
In the Pilates program, exercises focus on the core muscle groups that control posture. These muscles are ‘trained’ to keep the body balanced and provide proper support to the spine. Pilates places special emphasis on breath control and regulation. This helps to support the alignment of the spine, and thus strengthen the muscles of the torso.
The wonderful thing about Pilates is that you don’t have to be a professional athlete or a Ballet dancer to gain the benefits of Pilates. Everyone – even people who suffer from arthritis will benefit from this form of exercise.
Practitioners of the Pilates Method use their own bodies as weights while training. This helps to build strength and flexibility. Today, many physiotherapists use the Pilates exercises to provide assistance in acquiring movement that helps individuals go about their day-to-day activities in a normal way.
There are two ways to do Pilates. You can choose to work one-on-one with a certified instructor which could be quite expensive. Alternatively, you can participate in group mat classes, which are cheaper in comparison. Whichever way you choose, you will find that the Pilates system is a blend of the Eastern and Western techniques that aid you in building long, supple and flexible muscles that aid in body posture, movement and control.
Some of the benefits of Pilates are as follows:
- Tones down and thins the thighs
- Helps the body ‘defy’ gravity
- Improves energy levels, concentration and self awareness
- Corrects underlying flexibility imbalances
- Even people with painful physical conditions can participate and benefit from Pilates.
The basic idea behind the Pilates exercises is to re-teach the method of holding oneself so that one can reverse the damages caused through years of wrong posture, stress and tension.
Thanks to the specific exercises that work with the abdominal muscles, Pilates help people to get rid of the ever-persistent lower back ache. Pilates also helps people suffering from severe arthritis to reinforce their muscles through proper movement. Sometimes people who use repetitive gestures wear away a single set of muscles. Pilates helps to correct the imbalance by targeting and using the underused muscle groups.
Besides the body, Pilates also demands the use of another powerful resource – the mind. Thus the mind is sharpened and positive energy builds up in the mind. This is why practitioners of Pilates find the benefits truly comparable to the advantages of proper meditation.
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