Builds strength, flexibility and stamina and improves posture
Pilates uses small, subtle movements graduating into larger-range movements to challenge core strength, flexibility and mobility, making it a great complement to your yoga practice.
Pilates and yoga are often compared as they are both practices for the mind and body. However, yoga is a centuries-old, spiritual practice, whereas Pilates is relatively ‘young’, having been created in the 20th century. Inspired by his background in athletic pursuits such as a martial arts, boxing, body-building and gymnastics, Joseph Pilates created a series of movements and exercises to train people to fight the problems of modern living.
“Civilisation impairs physical fitness.” ~ Joseph Pilates
Pilates was originally called “Contrology” by its creator who believed that in order to have a healthy body, one needed to have a healthy spine, both flexible and strong. All movements are meant to be performed in coordination with the breath, in a conscious and mindful way. Pilates helps to build strength, flexibility, endurance and stamina without overtaxing the body. The practice focuses on the ‘core’ (otherwise known as the trunk or torso) and the muscles that support the spine, hips, upper and lower back but it’s also a wonderful overall conditioning method that encourages the body to move as a connected whole.
Inspired by yoga, you will notice some similarities in the movement practices and shapes made, but the more significant differences are in the how and why of the movements.
6 main principles of Pilates
Joseph Pilates believed that the key to physical health was proper breathing and repetitions of controlled, precise movements executed with mental focus and attention to alignment. Hence the 6 main principles:
- Breath: Pilates believed that most people did not know how to breathe properly so advocated co-ordinating breath with movement.
- Centering: Often interpreted as ‘alignment’, the aspect of centering physically while moving helps to correct imbalances in the body’s physical structure. The rolling and moving through the spine “vertebra by vertebra”, helps to even out muscular and/or structural imbalances.
- Concentration: Focusing on what and how you are moving is critical to the practice of Pilates. “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits.” Pilates is motor-learning that trains your neuromuscular movement patterns. You can’t learn new movement patterns if your neurons aren’t firing.
- Control: Every movement is meant to be executed with an element of control, knowing where your body is in space and what it is doing – otherwise known as body awareness or proprioception.
- Flow: The flow in Pilates is a way of connecting one breath to the next, as well as one movement to the next, creating a system that encourages efficiency.
- Precision: continues that thread of control and efficiency through doing movements that are small and controlled in order to build strength in end ranges of motion.
Pilates and the spine
Joseph Pilates said, “If your spine is stiff at 30, you are old. If it is flexible at 60, you are young.”
Many of the movements in Pilates are based on how to move the spine, which is why we think of Pilates as ‘core work’. However, the foundational work is about creating maximum uniform movement throughout the spine and then radiating out to the limbs. The focus on abdominal work ensures that we have the strength and flexibility to move our spine and limbs as a connected whole.