The practice of Pilates was developed over 100 years ago by Joseph Pilates, a German trainer who wanted to create a practice that had benefits for both the mind and the body. He wanted to strengthen both facets of his health, and believed that his method could help to repair problems in the body.
Pilates developed his exercise regime under intense duress, while he was at the Knockaloe internment camp. He worked with others who were imprisoned at the camp, fine-tuning his method to provide maximum benefits to both the mind and body.
Here, we'll explore everything you need to know about Pilates, from the different types of Pilates, the benefits you can expect from doing Pilates regularly, and how you can use Pilates to get maximum results.
What is Pilates?
Part stretching, part strength, and part mind-body connection, Pilates takes a multi-faceted approach to fitness. Many types of Pilates utilize what Joseph Pilates referred to as "apparatus." The most common type of apparatus used today is known as the Reformer, named for its ability to reshape and realign the body. Each apparatus in Pilates is used to accelerate the process of aligning the body, stretching, strengthening muscles, and supporting the development of a strong core.
Each session of Pilates is meant to feel like a workout, rather than a mental health or physical therapy session. It often takes experiencing a Pilates class to understand how intense the workouts can be, as they consist of small movements that may not look like hard work to someone who isn't familiar with the process.
There are many similarities between yoga and Pilates, including the importance of mind-body connection. The key distinction is that yoga is rooted in a deep spiritual tradition. Pilates focuses more heavily on physical health and encourages a stronger focus on core strength.
Different types of Pilates
If you're getting ready to try a Pilates class for the first time, it's normal to feel overwhelmed when learning about the different types of workouts that all fall under the Pilates umbrella.
There are seven general types of Pilates, and understanding the differences between the different types can help you choose the option that's the right fit for your needs.
Also known as Contrology, classical Pilates is based on the concepts initially developed by Joseph Pilates, and follows his sequence of movements in order. Classical Pilates classes can be done either on a floor mat or on a Pilates Reformer.
Clinical Pilates requires the instruction of a physical therapist who will work with you one-on-one to use the concepts of Pilates to address injury or other health concerns.
This type of Pilates combines classical Pilates concepts and movements with other types of exercise, including aerobics and yoga. Each instructor approaches contemporary Pilates differently, and classes can vary widely.
A Pilates mat provides comfortable cushioning and can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. While some mat Pilates classes have a specific focus, generally, the practice works to improve balance while strengthening the legs, hips, lower back, pelvic floor, and shoulders.
A Pilates Reformer machine uses a frame, platform, and spring-based system to create resistance as participants move through a series of Pilates exercises. Most find that Reformer Pilates is more intense than mat Pilates. It's important to learn how to use a Pilates Reformer under the supervision of a trained instructor, but over time, you may feel comfortable purchasing and using a Pilates Reformer at home.
This type of Pilates works to create balance in the body by restoring the natural curve of the spine. During Stott Pilates, participants work to keep the lumbar spine off of the floor while moving through a series of movements designed to strengthen the muscles that surround the spine.
Named after Mari Winsor, the method's founder, this type of Pilates works to focus on energy in the center of the body, and is focused on healthy weight loss. Winsor Pilates encourages participants to focus on their breathing, using the power of their breath to support their movements throughout their Pilates practice.
What Pilates does for your body
People who practice Pilates may experience myriad health benefits, which can include:
- Improved muscle strength (especially core strength)
- Restoration of balanced muscles throughout the body
- Increased muscular control
- Lower stress levels
- Enhanced flexibility
- Improved posture
Like any workout program, it takes time and consistency to see continued results while taking Pilates classes or going through Pilates workouts at home.
What is Pilates good for?
Pilates can be a great way to get back into exercise if you're just starting to work out, have limited mobility, or are recovering from an injury, as the movements are customizable to your ability level. You'll likely find that you're able to progress through tougher movements as your strength and balance improve.
While Pilates is certainly a strenuous workout, you'll be able to go at your own pace, taking breaks as necessary. Many people who are dealing with stress find that the concentration required by a Pilates workout provides a welcome break from the chatter in their minds.
How effective is Pilates?
If you're new to this type of workout, you may be wondering, "Is Pilates good exercise" or searching for answers to questions like "does Pilates build muscle".
In addition to working as a solid fitness program on its own, Pilates can also work to support your body as an add-on to other workouts. The practice can help to strengthen muscles and create a sense of muscular control that can protect the body from injury.
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