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What is Pilates, and why should I be doing it?

Pilates is a form of exercise, designed to improve the overall health of individuals, to either prevent injuries or help recovery following them. It’s also a great way of maintaining health in someone who’s already fit and healthy.

Pilates specifically targets the smaller stability muscles throughout the body, which often becomes weak or inactive through our daily lives, leading to poor postures and an increased likelihood of injury. Re-awakening these muscles and improving their endurance can be hugely beneficial in improving sporting performance and movement efficiency. Pilates also aims to provide mental focus and relaxation, promoting an overall sense of wellbeing.

Pilates doesn’t judge or have prejudices. It’s hugely flexible and adaptable, and can easily be tailored to suit individuals of all walks of life and skill levels to provide a huge range of great benefits. In other words, you have no excuses!

The principles

Joseph Pilates established 8 key principles that he applied to all areas of his work, and are part of what makes his methods so unique and effective.

1. Concentration

“You have to concentrate on what you’re doing all the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body for smooth movements.” – Joseph Pilates.

In Pilates, concentration is hugely important to ensure proper technique whilst exercising, so that the correct muscles are targeted to help correct any imbalances throughout the body.

2. Breathing“Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”– Joseph Pilates.

Breathing technique forms an integral part of Pilates teaching and exercising. As a rule of thumb, it is encouraged that you breathe out during the most difficult portion of any exercise, and to breathe in during the easy bit. This helps your diaphragm and stomach muscles to work most effectively in their role of providing stability for your spine whilst you move other body parts.

3. Centering

The centre of the human body is the focal point for the Pilates exercise approach and is often referred to as the powerhouse. It is built on the idea that in order for your limbs to move freely and naturally, they must stem from a strong and supportive base of operation, similar to the branches of a tree stemming from the trunk. You would be hard pressed to find a healthy tree with branches that were stronger than its trunk!

4. Control“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.”– Joseph Pilates.

Through an application of the concentration and centering principles, Pilates teaches you to be in control of every aspect of every movement, with your muscles constantly working to counteract gravity, as well as any extra resistance applied by various apparatus.

5. Precision“You will gain more strength from a few energetic, concentrated efforts than from a thousand listless, sluggish movements.” – Joseph Pilates.

Pilates aims for you to focus on completing one perfect and precise movements, rather than many half-hearted ones, and for this practice to eventually carry over into everyday life to help improve the efficiency and economy of the way that you move.

6. Flowing movement

Once precision is achieved, the different exercise movements are joined together in a sequence to build strength and endurance, all whilst maintaining a strong and controlled centre, with seamlessly integrated breathing.

7. Integrated isolationOnce precision and flow are mastered, you will be able to identify isolated components of movements, and analyse where you may be going wrong, before working on correcting them.

8. Routine

Repetition of the first seven key principles is what helps drive ‘muscle memory’ changes, that then helps you carry over your newly found precise and flowing movements into your everyday life or sporting events, to help improve your movement efficiency and economy.

“In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference and in 30 in you will have a whole new body.” Joseph Pilates.

Physiotherapists that have been trained by the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) not only use their skills in teaching exercise classes or for one to one sessions, but also in helping their patients that they see in general practice, whether to reduce pain, aid recovery from injury or to help prevent one or to help improve flexibility and mental wellbeing. With its flexible and adaptable nature, Pilates is a common and popular choice of exercise-based treatment for physiotherapists working in rehabilitation settings around the world.

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