What is Pilates?

"Pilates is not a 'mindless' repetition of movements, but neither is it a spiritual practice. It is more of an understanding of the body's actions and reactions to movement."

Our instructor, Barbara, takes you through what Pilates means to her:

Pilates - an explanation.

I have been teaching Pilates for well over ten years now, to individuals, groups of friends and colleagues and large leisure centre classes. Some of these sessions have been to athletes (amateur, semi- and professional), others to physiotherapy clients. I have taught at hen weekends, to fitness addicts, newbies to activity and covered ages ranging from Girl Guides to Great Grandparents, and, of course, to both men and women.

 

A recurring theme across all of these groups, levels, abilities and inclinations is an enthusiasm for regularly “going back to basics”. So, that’s where I am going to start.

 

I will give you an overview of what Pilates is, to me at least, and then through my blogs I will take a look at some of the basic exercises from which so many variations can come.

 

But as a cautionary note before we go on this journey, I need to remind you that this is my take on Pilates. The purists out there may well consider some of this a distortion of the true ethos of the practice. If you do, then I do understand. In no way do I intend to belittle or deride any of that, it has been the backbone of my teaching for all these years, but my experiences and the people I have had the privilege to teach have naturally affected my interpretation of the original Joseph Pilates teaching and that is what I will share with you here. 

Posture and Lifestyle

For those of us lucky enough to not suffer with debilitating illnesses, injuries or disabilities, many of the aches and pains we routinely struggle with come from poor posture and imbalances in the body. These have their roots in many causes but more often than not it is our lifestyle that lies behind them. 20th and 21st century living, and the ordinary, daily activities that we all carry out, do not lend themselves to a balanced body and good posture. We put pillows under our babies’ heads and shoes on their feet.

We make our children sit at school and we drive, use computers, read books, do the ironing, sit on the sofa and a whole myriad of other small, habitual things that shape the way our body develops. And all this is before we add extra-curricular activities – sports, hobbies and, of course, work. As the body becomes more physically imbalanced it starts to affect other aspects of life. It can have an effect on mood and the efficiency to carry out everyday mental and physical tasks and to be able to cope with stressful or challenging situations.

Developing Body Awareness

Using visualisation queues to enhance slow, gentle, controlled movements to encourage correct posture in everyday life, and in more challenging activities such as exercise, Pilates strengthens and tones individual muscle groups providing natural protection for the whole length of the spine.

 

Pilates is not a “mindless” repetition of movements, but neither is it a spiritual practice. It is more of an understanding of the body’s actions and reactions to movement, connecting our mind with the way we move, giving us the opportunity to think about how we breathe and how to isolate movements while adding stability from supporting muscle groups.

Pilates helps overcome posture related back pain such as sciatica, stiff neck and shoulder and hip discomfort by increasing the strength of the deep core and pelvic floor muscles. Fundamentals of Pilates are used for sports specific training by top athletes and national sports squads to increase core strength and improve muscle balance to reduce risk of injury and recovery time.

 

But to me, Pilates is much more than this. It develops body awareness so we understand our imbalances, those we can address and those we have to live with, and it builds mobility through the whole body.

 

Even with the sports clubs and athletes I have worked with, I have never taught a Pilates exercise with the goal of the client getting better at that exercise. I teach an exercise to enable them to feel how their body moves, and to understand which muscles they need to use, which work instinctively and which they have to cajole into action when they make that movement.

Quality of Life

Think of a squat for instance. Now unless you were a professional squatting competitor, then just being good at squats is, arguably, of not much use. However, being able to get on and off the toilet unaided determines everyone’s quality of life. A movement not dissimilar from a squat.

 

So, understanding how to do a Pilates squat, being able to support your body weight as you do it and being able to do it well, is suddenly much, much more important, particularly if you struggle with being mobile.

I hope you have enjoyed the start of our Pilates journey together. You will find more information added regularly through the Blogs.

 

Do please drop me a note if there is anything you would like to talk about or to book an appointment, and thank you for reading. Barbara

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