This practice is not new, but it is more current than ever. An ideal training method for those with back pain or poor posture, Pilates turns out to be the fastest solution for tonus, mobility, mental balance and physical shape. Let’s investigate the subject!
The first Pilates studio was opened on 8th Avenue and was actually called Contrology, as the method was originally named by founder Joseph Pilates. Since the early 1960s, Joseph Pilates, along with his wife Clara, the co-owner of the studio, have been hosts of many celebrities, the training system becoming a success. Martha Graham, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, George Balanchine, and many others went there, training under Joe’s observation and guidance. Countless dancers and ballet dancers practiced Pilates’ technique. He used to train the young ballet dancers of New York City Ballet. Pilates has always had a connection with the world of dance, the ballet dancers being the ones who carried on teaching Pilates’ technique after his death. Ron Fletcher, a dancer in Martha Graham’s troupe, brought the technique on the West Coast, introducing it to many actors. The dancers Carola Trier and Romana Kryzanowska(ex-dancer and Joe Pilates’s pupil), brought the technique and its benefits in Europe. This technique has evolved over the years, and today it is practiced by more than 20 million people.
This system of mind and body exercises can be practiced by anyone who wants to strengthen and tone their body without overloading muscle, encouraging the use of mind to control the muscles. It is a good system to relieve the back pain and to correct the posture, ideal for counteracting sedentary, which affects us more and more. Pilates increases muscle tone, but also bone density and the ability of the immune system to protect us. Harmonizes muscular asymmetries and carves the silhouette. If you’re looking at a Pilates instructor, you would like to have started … yesterday!
Besides that, the well-being and the fast body reactions following the exercises, give you hope and desire to go to Pilates. You stretch and tone your muscles, you feel younger and more energetic. Ana Dumitrescu, instructor and co-owner of Movement Studio, tells us that “the training system improves circulation, flexibility, coordination, reduces stress, brings mental balance and, very important, corrects breathing. The technique can be practiced by pregnant women to teach them to breathe properly and to prepare their body for birth, as well as by new moms for a faster recovery after giving birth”. Pilates sessions take place under the supervision of a specialized instructor, the training being tailored to the physical needs of each practitioner. It does not matter if you are a beginner or well trained. Pilates, by the nature of its exercises (the technique is considered to be the form of motion closest to the human nature), can be practiced by anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.
Breathing. The basis of the Pilates system is the breathing, the mind-body binder and the one that is connected to any movement we make. “All exercises are created in the rhythm and dynamics of breathing and heartbeat, which you learn from the first hour of Pilates, as it is its starting point,” says Raluca Vornicel, co-owner of Movement Studio and Pilates instructor. Thus, the body is oxygenated optimally, the blood circulation is improved, and muscle tension is eliminated.
Center. “The core” and “the powerhouse“terms are part of the Pilates alphabet and represent the starting point of all Pilates movements, namely the center of the body: the pelvic muscles, the abdomen, the scapular belt, the back muscles and the diaphragm. Strengthening a stable center is an essential feature, as the energy of the body and all the movements of this form of training flow from it. That’s why the abdomen of those who practice Pilates is flat and very well-outlined – one more reason to appeal to this technique!
Control. It is a basic principle of Pilates technique. The name that Joseph Pilates originally gave to this method was Contrology. Nothing is happening by accident, control of the movements being in very close relation with concentration, precision and center. Having control in Pilates means being aware of what you are doing and keeping your position and correct posture during an exercise. In the Pilates book, Return to Life Through Contrology, Joseph says that each session “has to be more like a workout, not as a relaxing therapy.” The results will surely show up, but with a little bit of effort. The good part is that from the very first Pilates class, you will feel that what you do is useful to your body and mind. As you progress, the difficulty of the training increases and it is constantly adapted by the instructor to your abilities. Anyone can practice these exercises either on the mat, with different accessories, or on the Reformer – an advanced and versatile Pilates device.
Concentration. The mind determines the actions of the body by working together. In Pilates, the goal is to do the exercises correctly, with care and concentration.
If your mind wanders away, it’s best to quit the session and get back when you can concentrate on what you’re doing. That’s what the theory says. Based on my own experience, I would say that it’s hard to think of anything else, because the nature of the exercises implies your 100% presence.
Precision. Pilates requires accuracy and quality, not quantity. “Precision is the result of combining concentration, control, center and keeping a constant frequency in training,” says Raluca Vornicel.
Rhythm. The session is done by following the inner rhythm of each practitioner. The fluidity of our own body helps us to make smooth, harmonious and functional movements that combined with deep breathing, reduce body tension.
Relaxation. There must be always a balance between effort and relaxation, the latter installing after few Pilates classes, when you pass by the emotions of the unknown and start to feel comfortable. Plus, just by stretching movements (tension-relieving movements), you feel better and have a clearer mind!
If at its beginnings it was practiced only on the mattress and with the help of few specific Pilates tools (roller, ladder barrel, spine corrector, circles, etc.), now, “Reformer” appliances are also used. I recommend that when you subscribe to a Pilates studio, make sure they have Reformers, because you will surely want to use it. The device can work the whole body (advanced) or segmental (beginners) and, thanks to the springs it is equipped with, an exercise provides both stretching (elongating the muscle fiber) and tonus (strengthening the muscles), unlike the same exercise done on the mattress that is either toning or stretching your muscles. As a matter of fact, if you just do Pilates and nothing else, it’s good to do it three times a week, and if you practice other forms of exercise, it would be ideal to have six or eight sessions per month. Of course, if you have time, you can practice Pilates daily, like yoga, but it does not seem realistic to me, to be honest. Pilates is a safe technique (it is also used as a recovery method after an accident) and has results in all aspects – physical, spiritual and mental. As Joseph Pilates even said, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 sessions you will have a different body.” And it is true! Beyond the effects on the silhouette, Pilates loads you with positive energy, stretches you, corrects posture and relaxes your body and your mind. If you have not tried it before, now it’s the time!
SOURCE OF THE ARTICLE: ELLE / April 2015