Pilates is more than just an exercise regime it can be life changing. It’s most certainly not just for the rich and famous, the uber fit or the 20-something health nut – it can work for everyone.
The very fact that more than 100-years-ago its founder Joseph Pilates used it to build up the strength of interned prisoners – some of whom were bed bound – and also to train army troops goes to show it’s scope.
Today it has become one of the most popular forms of exercise, praised for producing longer, leaner bodies and a tighter core. But there’s so much more you can get out of it.
In this day and age it feels like nearly everyone is looking for a way to relieve stress and Pilates is something that can really help.
“The reduction of stress through Pilates exercises and breathing is in my opinion one of the biggest benefits of Pilates,” explains Tamsin, intructor on Essence Pilates. “We all lead very busy lives, often juggling long/unusual working hours with family and lots of commitments. Taking one hour out once or twice a week to turn off the mobile, focus on yourself and breathe has huge health benefits.”
“I have had a few clients say that their mental health would be a lot worse if they didn’t come to Pilates.”
Improved sleep is a life changer in itself . You look and feel better when your body has had time to regenerate with a good night’s kip and Pilates can help steer you in the right direction.
“It has a unique benefit over any other exercise in that it boosts the parasympathetic nervous system because we lie on our back for over 20 minutes,” says Tamsin. “This part of your nervous system calms down adrenalin, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosting the feeling of relaxation. Combined with the deep breathing we do at the end of class, my clients often say they sleep really deeply after a lesson.”
Improved Brain Function
Pilates truly is an exercise regime that improves mind and body and as you age it’s even more important to keep your brain busy.
“Pilates focuses on the 3 C’s – Control, Concentration and Centering’,” says Tamsin. “Joseph Pilates named his exercises ‘Contrology’. It was only after he died the name was switched to Pilates in his memory.”
“By focusing on precise, controlled movements we facilitate a stronger mind-muscle connection. We think about which muscles to switch off and which to switch on. This helps to balance out imbalances in the body and eliminates the problem of favouring certain muscles e.g the Glutes are often used instead of the core and lower back. We work slowly with precision and have a real focus on technique. In my classes technique comes first and then from there we build up the levels to develop strength and endurance.”
“As Joseph said: ’You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.’”
Reduced Aches and Pains
Whether you’ve got pain from injury or you’ve started creaking a little with age Pilates can assist in reducing aches and pains which can be debilitating.
“It can really help to rehabilitate after injury and support the changing body as we get older. Improved posture not only leads to less pain in the body but a more effective use of the diaphragm and breathing. A strong core including the lower back helps to alleviate pain in the shoulders, neck and spine. Keeping the hips strong has huge benefits too.”
A loss of flexibility can have a big impact on your life and goes way beyond simply losing the ability to touch your toes or do the ‘can-can’. Keeping your body young and flexible allows you to keep on top of gardening, play with the grandchildren and continue doing day to day chores.
“Many of the Pilates exercises improve flexibility in the body. E.G. the Spine stretch helps to open up the lower spine and hamstrings. The thread the needle exercise has benefits for the shoulders and neck. We work on the whole body and improving flexibility throughout. We incorporate lots of stretching throughout class as well.”
You’ll Look Better
There’s no denying that the reason people often take up Pilates is to improve their physical appearance and the workout can definitely do that.
“As Pilates elongates your muscles it can make you feel longer and leaner! “ explains Tamsin. “Clients notice a huge difference in tone across the whole body, especially the core/abs area. I often say that people look taller at the end of class! This is often from being aware of posture and remembering to stand tall as well as gaining muscular strength.”
Keeps You Social
Loneliness is on the rise and so why not stay fit, healthy and social all at the same time.
“I try and keep the atmosphere relaxed and laid back in class to enable participants to enjoy the lesson and feel at ease.That said we do work very hard at the same time. Generally speaking people enjoy the company and interaction of their fellow participants. We discuss about how they may find some moves difficult and also how they enjoy the relaxation and stretches that other exercises provide. There is a feeling of camaraderie and the group will support each other in the exercises, overall it’s a relaxed non-competitive and welcoming environment.”