Why You Should Be Doing Pilates

Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Stefanie Johnson


Some people dismiss Pilates as a fad, or as something only actresses and models do, not the average person.  Really.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.


Pilates provides a great workout for many different kinds of people, and there are many benefits to doing it. You should be doing it, too.


It’s true that, compared to many other forms of exercise, Pilates is relatively new.  Fr example, it lacks the ancient roots, the mysticism of yoga or tai chi.  Yet, even without that, practitioners of Pilates tend to be very passionate about the method and its principles.   And they have good reason to be.   


Pilates was created in the early 1900’s by Joseph H. Pilates.  As a child, Joseph was very sickly.  It is said that he dreamed of ways to improve his health.  He spent 20 years perfecting his method, first using it to help the injured be rehabilitated.  Later, he opened a studio in New York, which drew many famous dancers and athletes of the day.  Reputedly in excellent health even into his 80’s, he tragically passed away from a fire at his studio.


There are over 500 movements and variations in Pilates, all based upon six guiding principles: Breathing, Concentration, Control, Centering, Precision, and Muscle Development.


Though excellent for whole-body fitness, Pilates is more about resistance than aerobics.  It develops strength and creates long, lean muscles without bulk.  It tones and tightens everything, but especially the core area.  When fused with yoga, it also speeds the heart rate up.  Pilates is wonderful for establishing grace and balance.


Pilates looks deceptively easy, yet when it is done as intended, it is incredibly challenging.  At the same time, it’s versatile enough to be adapted to a variety of goals and needs.  It’s not just for ladies either- many professional male athletes do it as an alternative to weight lifting.  It can also help to rehabilitate injuries, though of course it’s important to discuss that with your doctor if it’s a concern for you.


Pilates, with its focus on self-awareness, focus, and control, may even help to prevent injury.  The hypothesis is that if you are more aware of yourself and what your body can do, you’re less likely to lose control of the situation and hurt yourself.  It’s also excellent for improving posture, self-confidence, thus enhancing your appearance.  After pregnancy, it can help you regain your pre-baby body.


Pilates is low impact and gentle on the joints, and different workouts are available for beginner, intermediate, or advanced fitness levels.  It utilizes mat exercises, standing exercises, specialized machines, inflatable balls, bands, and other assorted tools to maximize the experience. There are a variety of Pilates DVD’s you can purchase, but it might be best to take a class with a qualified instructor first so you can learn the breathing and alignment techniques correctly.  


There is also more than one way to do Pilates, and these days there are several different types of Pilates classes to choose from:


Classical (or just plain Pilates): The original movements, as conceived by Joseph Pilates himself.


Fletcher Pilates: Heavily focused on breathing techniques, excellent for relaxation.


Power Pilates: More energetic and challenging than some other forms.  Better for those with more experience/higher fitness level.


Winsor Pilates: Has dynamic, fast paced sequencing, and thus is more aerobic than other forms.


Rael Pilates: Has a cutting edge approach, very established and respected.  Many certified courses and the literature and training for those courses are based upon this form.  Good for beginners and intermediate.


Stott Pilates: Is based off of modern principles and exercise sciences, this form of Pilates focuses on the spine and back.  If you have back problems, consider trying this form.


Pilates is a great way to firm up, center your awareness, and become more healthy and vigorous.  So why not give it a try?  You should be doing Pilates!  


“[Physical fitness is] the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”

-Joseph Pilates         


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Posted on 10 February, 2009 in Balance, Fitness & Health
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