“The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors.” ––Joseph Pilates
Pilates is an incredible exercise system which builds strength, stability, and flexibility in your core and spine while also developing mental focus and clarity. Before we dive into three reasons why you should consider incorporating Pilates into your fitness regime, we wanted to share the fascinating history behind the method originally called Contrology.
Joseph Pilates was considered a radical in his native Germany because of his teachings on the importance of physical exercise and mental discipline. He created an exercise program during World War I and he helped injured soldiers rehabilitate. In the 1920s, Pilates worked with boxers in Berlin to help them develop endurance and stamina until the Nazis approached Pilates to train the German military police.
Pilates chose to immigrate to America and opened his Pilates Universal Gymnasium in New York City. He created the Universal Reformer and other apparatus like the Wundachair and Cadillac. Famous dancers like George Balanchine and Martha Graham studied with him to rehabilitate their injuries and build strength.
You don’t need equipment for mat Pilates classes, so they are great for a home practice. Pilates has six primary principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. Like yoga, it is a mind-body modality. Here are a few of the primary benefits:
1. A Powerful Core: The method focuses on what Joseph Pilates called the Powerhouse. In class, you’ll focus on effectively engaging the deep muscles of your core with precise, controlled movements. Most exercises are initiated from your center, which includes not just your abdominals, but your back and glutes. Pilates focuses on building and maintaining flexibility of the spine. It’s a great way to create excellent posture and prevent lower back pain.
2. Overall Balanced Strength and Flexibility: Pilates’ focus on posture and alignment help you develop a physique that is balanced, powerful, and limber. You’ll learn more about proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space), feel more graceful and comfortable in your body. Different exercises like the Double-leg stretch emphasize core stability, while others highlight strength and mobility, like the Roll-Up. Pilates works not just the large muscles like the hamstrings and quadriceps, but also the smaller accessory muscles which act like a girdle to streamline your limbs.
3. Enhanced Mental Focus, Clarity, and Calm: The emphasis on controlled movements combined with mindful deep breathing help create a clear, calm mind. Pilates emphasizes breathing synchronized with movement––inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. As a result, when you complete a Pilates class, you not only feel physically strong, but mentally sharp.
Pilates is a fantastic complement to your yoga practice. Ready to start? In addition to this week’s classes, we’ve got several Pilates classes and programs for students of every level. Check them out:
Quick Pilates Break - Claire Petretti Marti
Mad About Core - Jessica Oldfield
Pilates-Yoga Fusion - Cher Aslor
Tighten Your Core - Hayley Hobson
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