From the early days of Pilates being taught directly by the inventor to the student, it has been passed down and inevitably changed over the years – a bit like Chinese Whispers! Each person who trains to teach it has their own unique approach, each certification course is slightly different, but the original principles and exercises are still the basis of each method.
The principles are explained in detail in Beginner Book 1 @ www.pilates2goonline.com. If you follow the principles of Pilates you will eventually reap the benefits.
STRONGER ABDOMINAL AND BACK MUSCLES
Instead of associating Pilates with Flat Abs we should think of it as helping to achieve a stronger, healthier back and body.
One of the benefits of Pilates is the increased amount of strength that can be achieved in the ‘core’ of the body. The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported, and the rest of the muscles and joints are able to work more efficiently.
Core training improves the look of the abdominal area, although usually when people are looking to achieve flat abs, they really need to lose weight. You can achieve extremely strong abdominal and back muscles through Pilates but still not be able to see any definition because it is hidden under extra fat
A CHANGE IN BODY SHAPE
If you want to lose weight, the formula is always the same. You have to burn more calories than you take in. As a whole body fitness method Pilates can help you do that, but you should combine it with some sort of aerobic activity, which is more efficient at burning fat.
Pilates really does change the shape of the body by building leaner muscles instead of bulky ones.
Pilates tones the entire body during each session, instead of specific spots. This will help your whole body to look tighter.
As the focus is on your core, your waist may lose inches, you will stand taller, your muscles will tone up and become leaner, and your clothes might feel looser.
However, you will probably still weigh the same. It will be an optical illusion that you have lost weight, unless you have combined Pilates with a diet and some other training.
The core muscle which support your spine include your Transversus Abdominis , the internal and external Obliques, the Multifidus and all the muscles that run along your spine, and the muscles around your shoulders. Evenly developed back muscles and strong abs help to support your spine and improve your posture.
There are 33 bones in the spine called vertebrae. There are 7 in the neck, called the cervical spine, 12 thoracic (upper back) – 6 lumbar (lower back) – 5 sacrum (pelvis) which make up the natural curves of the spine, and 3 coccyx (tailbone).
If there is too much or too little curve in your spine, or if the curves do not balance properly with one another, your posture will be poor.
Weak upper back strength can cause the upper body to fold in on itself, which can cause physical ailments such as digestive problems, poor circulation, low energy and lower back pain.
Poor posture can also drain you of energy. If the spine is incorrectly balanced, some muscles will need to work harder to keep the body upright all day long, whereas others will become weaker.
Pilates exercises are performed in a neutral spine position. This balances the spinal curves, and the exercises encourage even back and abdominal muscle strength and flexibility, which helps us to stand upright.
Pilates also works muscles in the legs and bottom – if these are tight, this can also lead to postural problems. The upper body is also worked so that the muscle structure of the whole body becomes stronger.
PILATES FOR OLDER ADULTS
Pilates is easily accessible to all. You can arrange the exercises to suite your individual needs.
The benefits of pilates have been particularly noted in older adults who are more likely to suffer stiff and painful joints.
Pilates can increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength, and is very low impact.
You should never feel pain while practicing pilates. If you are suffering from any long-term injuries or pain, you should always consult a doctor before you start.
Pilates was designed to progress from one exercise to another in a specific order. If you find one exercise is causing you problems, start again and keep working at it until you can do it to the best of your ability.
Take your time and do not try to make your body do things it has not done for a while all on the same day.
LONGER, LEANER LOOKING MUSCLES
Pilates cannot physically lengthen muscles. To do this your bones would need to grow longer. Pilates tones and stretches the muscles which can make you look longer and leaner.
Pilates is not about building bulky muscles for show, it is more about building toned, strong muscles that work perfectly throughout the whole body. In most workouts, the emphasis is on repeatedly shortening the muscle by working it against a force. This builds strong muscles but gives them a bulky look.
Pilates uses all three kinds of muscle contractions: eccentric (lengthening), concentric (shortening), and isometric (static) as do most forms of exercise.
However when we do Pilates there is more emphasis on the eccentric contraction and the muscle lengthens.
During Pilates exercises we strive for extra length in our movements, when this takes place it also helps to strengthen the deeper stabilising muscles which uses the whole body, not just sections of muscles.
Pilates leads to a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles, and range of motion within the joints. We are aiming for a body that can stretch and bend to meet the needs of every day life.
You will not become flexible overnight. Work at it and gradually. Increase the length of your reach, keep the movements slow and graceful.
Try to give yourself time every day and get into a routine.
Keep it balanced. If you stretch on the left, also stretch on the right and if you bend forwards, bend backwards as well.
The more you exercise, the more energy you have. The more energy you have the more exercise you want to do.
Pilates works closely with breathing which gets the blood flowing through the muscles and encourages the body to get rid of waste. Pilates improves your posture, which leads to better use of the lungs and a more balanced muscle structure.
When your body is more balanced and your muscles do not have to overwork, you will have more energy.
If you are stressed you may not feel like exercising. If you try to set up a routine for Pilates everyday and be consistent about it you will feel more energized after your session and will be allot less stressed. How many times have you thought you could not be bothered to do something, but after making the effort you feel so much better.
Pilates can increase the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in your brain.
It releases muscle tension by stretching and pumping the muscles.
If you exercise regularly, it can help you sleep better which makes you more able to deal with stress.
Pilates requires a great deal of concentration and focus which stops you thinking about whatever it is that is making you stressed.
If you start to see results from your workouts and your health and body improves, your mood will be lifted and you will feel better about everything.
The mind-body connection is fundamental to the study and practice of pilates.
Joseph Pilates said that Pilates is about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.”
He studied yoga, martial arts, and other ancient mind-body activities as well as more sporty activities.
Pilates helps tone and strengthen your body as well as your mind and spirit.
The precise, flowing movements of Pilates are designed to make you more aware of your body.
You will find after you have been practicing Pilates for a while you will start to bring the principles into your every day activities. Perhaps when you are driving the car or sitting at the computer you will be pulling your stomach in, lifting your head up and pulling your shoulder blades together. You will become aware that this feels more comfortable and that you look better for it.
About the Author:
Lorraine is a qualified Pilates and fitness istructor with many years of teaching experience. To learn more about Lorraine and Beginner Pilates exercises visit website www.pilates2goonline.com