Have you heard about Pilates but aren't exactly sure what it is -- or how to pronounce it? Pioneered by a man named Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, Pilates (pronounced pill-ah-teez) is a mind-body discipline comprised of over 500 exercises performed on a mat or specially designed apparatuses. One such apparatus, called 'The Reformer,' is a bed-like structure with a sliding platform that moves when you pull on straps or push against a bar with your hands or feet.
For years, professional dancers have embraced Pilates' work. Now, his system is catching on at fitness and rehabilitation centers across North America. Many fitness facilities offer mat classes as part of their group exercise schedules. Some personal trainers provide one-on-one training. And you can find studios devoted exclusively to Pilates work on mats and the apparatuses in most major cities.
The Purpose of Pilates
Pilates is well known for creating a long, lean appearance because it strengthens and tones muscles without adding bulk. But aesthetics are minor compared to its other advantages.
'Pilates makes you think,' says Rena Shields, a post-rehabilitation Pilates practitioner and owner of The Method Center in Vancouver, British Columbia. 'You have to become really acquainted with your body.' For example, you can repeatedly perform the same move, but if you don't concentrate on holding your core stable, you won't experience the full benefits of the practice.
Proper breathing technique is also an important hallmark of this mind-body discipline. 'Holding your breath during the movements increases tension,' says Shields. Learning how to breath in a controlled, consistent way assists the body in facilitating the movements correctly.
What to Expect from Pilates
With its fusion of strength, flexibility and neuromuscular training, Pilates teaches physical awareness, fosters a mind-body connection and improves posture. The abdominals, low back and buttocks act as the body's 'power house,' so conditioning these areas takes precedence.
'The premise of Pilates is to bring balance back to the body,' explains Shields. That's why Pilates routines, like the ones you can find on the TheraGear site, emphasize movement in various positions such as seated and on your back, side and stomach.
Make a Commitment
Like any fitness activity, Pilates requires more than an occasional visit to the studio — you have to commit. To reap its many benefits, most Pilates instructors recommend at least two to three or more sessions per week. Individuals who are dedicated to long-term fitness, instead of just a 'quick fix,' will find Pilates the most rewarding.
Finding the Right Instructor and Format
Like their students, instructors must also be committed. The training required to become a fully qualified Pilates teacher can take thousands of hours of regular practice and apprenticeship to complete.
Since mat classes attract people with various fitness levels, 'all instructors should provide different progressions as they increase intensity,' says Shields. She also suggests that mat classes work best for healthy, recreational exercisers, but can be too difficult for someone rehabilitating from an injury. If rehab is your goal, Shields recommends finding a Pilates practitioner who works in consultation with a licensed physical therapist.
To check out a Pilates program you can do with your Theragear equipment, https://www.theragear.ca/product/yoga_pilates.php
Amanda Vogel, MA
The Mind-Body Connection With Pilates