Pilates: 5 things you need to know
Joseph Pilates, the founder of the exercise programme, said Pilates is the ‘complete coordination of mind, body and spirit’. There are many forms of Pilates now practised around the world, some stick more closely to the exercises Joseph Pilates designed than others. Most agree that the series of exercises you do when practising Pilates, promote movement, flexibility and the development of strength and balance.
There are however a number of things you may not be aware of when attending your Pilates class. These include:
Pilates is a mindful exercise
When you follow the Pilates method, you are doing several things at once and the mind and body have to work together. This includes: thinking about your alignment, that is the best position to start the movement and then the range of movement from your joints as you move; concentrating on how you breathe to help the movement; considering which parts of the body are moving and which parts you need to keep still; using your core for stability, balance and strength and using your mind for co-ordination. To do it well, you can’t mentally be somewhere else!
Core stability is not just about your abdominal muscles
Centring (as it is sometimes known) or core stability, is your ability to keep control of the position of your pelvis, spine, shoulders and head in order to provide a stable base of support for movement. The muscles involved in core stability include: the pelvic floor; the abdominals – all four of them; the diaphragm and the multifidus, a muscle involved in the deep stability of the spine. So using your ‘core’ in Pilates is much more than just pulling those tummy muscles in.
Pilates is about functional movement
Functional movement, is movement for every-day life. Pilates is concerned with helping us move efficiently and safely, so that outside of the class we can go about our day-to-day activities moving well without consciously thinking about it. Many of us develop poor posture. Pilates seeks to restore ideal posture, which leads to minimal wear and tear on the body and therefore less aches and pains.
Exercising your feet is important
The foot has 26 bones and 33 joints!. Moving these joints (which for much of the year are stuck in shoes/boots) and exercising the feet is important to your posture and perhaps surprisingly, heart health. Massaging the soles of the feet (for example, on prickle balls) helps stimulate blood flow to your heart. There are pumps in your foot which, when flattened by your body weight, cause the blood to be pumped back up to your heart. Another reason why walking is so good for you too!
Pilates may lead to a longer life!
Many Pilates exercises are designed to challenge your balance. The more you practice the better balance you get. Research has linked better balance to longevity. Keep those Pilates classes going and you may well be still practising in your 90s.
So if you are not already doing Pilates exercises, get along to a class and you will learn a series of exercises you can do anywhere, that give you great posture, more energy and stamina and might even prolong your life!