Balancing your body with Pilates
Developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s, Pilates or Contrology, as he used to call it, is much more than just a core and abs strengthening type of exercise. It’s a fusion of several different exercise type incorporating element from yoga martial arts, dance and gymnastic. It was clear from his books (Return to life through Contrology, and Your Health) that his work was based upon a well constructed philosophical foundation that intended his method to be a vehicle for the enhancement of the body, mind and spirit.
For this reason Pilates is not a quick fix type of exercise but a slow process of finding and then working from our centre with both our body and mind. The core of the method is in fact awareness of your own body. That’s why many practitioners do find their lives enhanced by it well beyond the physical side as it provides both physical and mental benefits.
As Joseph Pilates used to say in his own words:
“Contrology develops the body uniformly corrects wrong posture, restore physical vitality, invigorates the mind and the spirit”;
Each exercise is built around six key principles and by integrating all of these principles together you’ll get the balance, grace and ease that one can experience as a result of practising Pilates.
1- Concentration (centering the mind)
The mind body connection is at the base of Pilates discipline. Full body awareness is encouraged during each exercise and you need to concentrate, and be aware not only of the moving parts, but also what the rest of the body is doing.
2- Centering (core strength)
In Pilates all movements start from the centre of the body, located in the pelvis area, below the navel. That referres to the musculature located deep within the abdominal area and closest to the spine. By using the deep muscles surrounding your pelvis, spine and shoulders your limbs will move more effectively, without overworking the more superficial muscles, leaving you stronger and less prone to injury. Pilates poses a sequences of work that have proven to develop the body core and mobilise the spine engaging movement where the main energy flows, from the base of the spine to the top of the head, and these exercises are supposed to awaken this energy and release blockages.
Control is essential for the quality of movement. Overexertion of the muscles is not a principal of Pilates. Exercises performed without control can lead to injury, therefore each movement in Pilates is directed with mindful awareness, to have a proper, complete and safe muscle control.
Pilates like yoga require a complete a purposeful inhalation and exhalation, effective breath work is a major component that can be used when working on energy balance. Breathing properly, as well as oxygenating the body and massaging internal organs, allow the movement and direction of energy through the body and focusing on breathing correctly while exercising improves strength, flexibility, posture and coordination. Full breathing also assist in removing non beneficial chemicals that might be stored in the muscles.
Alignment of the spine is an important factor as part of healing and balancing. When practising Pilates you develop an awareness of your posture and body. It uses precise movements of specific parts of the body to increase the strength and flexibility of the entire body. Many injuries are caused by incorrect movements in the way people walk, bend, sit, or work. Such movements can create tears, strains or muscles imbalances. Pilates is just another way to mindfully align the body to increase the healing potential of the exercise.
6- Flowing movement
Pilates exercises are performed in a smooth and evenly flowing manner, with fluidity grace and ease. Each exercise should have a specific place where it begins and ends and the energy of the exercise should connect all body parts and flow through the body evenly. Working with the Pilates machines is a good way to check if the exercise is performed with flow and concentration as they will bang and become harsh if one loses the control of the flow. By combining breathing with core stability exercises while maintaining correct alignment the mind and the body will work together to perform progressively advanced flowing exercises which will be enjoyable and energising.
Simply Pilates is a total body conditioning system which offer the whole spectrum of people, from chronic back pain sufferers to trained athletes, a method of exercise which challenges you physically and mentally. You can integrate the principles of Pilates to enhance your performances in any other type of exercise or sports you do, or even into everyday life. By committing to this method of exercise you will see great changes in how you feel and how your body moves.
What makes Pilates a more unique form of exercise is also the fact that it makes the muscles slim, strong, more compact and free of tension rather than bulk them, by developing slenderness. The full range of movement in the joints is maintained and increased range of motion can help prevent injury, so you will have a well balanced body which is strong and supple. You’ll achieve the required balance between strength and flexibility, and that’s why Pilates is also chosen by most athletes as a complement to their weight training or as a primary method of strength training.
Furthermore by mobilising and releasing tension in the muscles the body fluids will circulate freely and endorphins will be released into the cells what will give you feel a sense of well being. By releasing stress and tension you’ll feel more vitalised relaxed and confident.