Introduction to Pilates

PilatesYou may have noticed the increasing popularity of Pilates in your gyms and in popular media. In fact, one of the reasons behind Pilates popularity of late is that many Hollywood celebrities have embraced the exercise and hey…what’s good for the celebrities is good for us as well…isn’t it :-)

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates around 1914. Joseph was living a very active life as both a boxer and a performer when the first World War began. During the war, Joseph was placed into an internment camp due to his German heritage. In the camp, he began to show his fellow bunkmates some techniques of exercise that he’d been working on for the past twenty years. His program incorporated both techniques that he had created, as well as drawing upon fitness regimens that were used in ancient Rome and Greece. It was believed that he also drew inspiration from wrestling, Yoga and Chinese Martial Arts.

As the exercise routine gained followers, Joseph worked hard to train new instructors to ensure that people were getting the proper benefits from the exercise.

Pilates is a system of over 500 different types of exercises that draw upon both the body and the mind. The exercises are designed to help make the body more flexible and strong and hence, many of the exercises are focused on building ‘the core’ of the body.

Pilates practitioners refer to ‘the core’ when they are speaking about the muscles of the abdomen, the back, and the pelvic region. Pilates incorporates the use of non-high-intensity routines so that one may feel even more energetic after performing the exercises. Practitioners tend to report a gain in strength as well as added flexibility and a better sense of balance.

Pilates can allow the individual to gain better posture and increased circulation of the joints through its many exercises. A participant can choose to practise Pilates exclusively or add on Pilates to their other fitness routine.

In addition to the positive effects Pilates has on the body, the mind can benefit as well. You’ll find yourself to be more aware of your body and Pilate can also prove to be an efficient method of stress relief.

The average pilates participant should practise between two and four times per week to achieve optimum result. If you’re interested in Pilates, you can do it either on your own through the use of books or videos to guide your practice or you can participate in group sessions in which you learn to enjoy pilates amongst others.

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Pilates and Yoga – What’s the difference?

Yoga poseAt an initial glance to a beginner, pilates and yoga seem to have a lot in common. They are both mind/body conditioning routines that rely on smooth, precise movements and measured breathing. In fact, the similarities between pilates and yoga work are not entirely coincidental. Joseph H. Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method, studied yoga and martial arts extensively and sought to integrate the mind/body aspects of these practices into his new body conditioning exercises and routines. Hence, it is not surprising to find the influence of Yoga in Pilates. Now, if pilates and yoga have so much in common, what are the major differences between these two very similar mind/body conditioning routines?

Perhaps the most obvious difference between pilates and yoga is that yoga is an ancient mind/body practice that originated in India over 5,000 years ago while pilates is a relatively new phenomenon. Pilates was developed and popularized by Joseph H. Pilates and his wife Clara in the early to mid-twentieth century. Pilates created his famous method while working as a nurse during the First World War in Great Britain. He developed his series of exercises and routines to help rehabilitate injured and immobile soldiers. Pilates was inspired by the ancient asana (movements and postures) of yoga, and tried to incorporate this aspect of yoga into his own routine.

Another main difference between pilates and yoga is the underlying philosophy of each. Although they are both described as mind/body exercise routine formats, pilates is generally considered to be more of an exercise than lifestyle choice. Yoga is not meant to operate merely as a simple exercise and body conditioning routine but instead as an entire lifestyle philosophy. Pilates was first adopted as a physical conditioning routine by professional dancers and gymnasts. Like yoga, pilates also seeks to unite the mind, body, and spirit but does not delve into the meditation and relaxation aspects like yoga does.

Another main difference between yoga and pilates has to do with the strength training aspect of pilates. Pilates focuses strongly on building the core strength of the body. The core of the body refers to the deep abdominal muscles, also referred to as the torso area. Pilates has long been known as a powerful tool for building core strength and for lengthening the spine. Some of the specific goals of pilates are to improve postural symmetry, increase circulation, improve posture, and create long and lean muscles. Yoga, on the other hand, is not promoted as a strength training or body conditioning practice. Both yoga and pilates do indeed help participants deal with stress and cultivate relaxation, although only pilates is geared specifically toward building all-over body muscle and tone.

Pilates also has a strong rehabilitation component that yoga practice does not. Another functional difference between pilates and yoga is the way in which breathing is treated. Both practices place an important focus on breathing. However, breathing is more fundamental in yoga practice than in pilates. In yoga, breathing is taught as an important and integral part of practice and yoga generally instructs that participants breath primarily through the nose. In pilates practice, participants are generally taught to breath through nose and exhale through the mouth.

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Pilates exercise – move over aerobics!

Do you know what’s wellness and fitness exercise is hot with celebrities, yuppies and women today?

Yes, move over Yoga, boxercise and aerobics… the latest in-thing making the Hollywood and posh clubs round is Pilates. Huh….what exactly is Pilates?

Pilates (it’s pronounced pa-lah-teez) refers to a type of body conditioning exercise that used a series of controlled movements to strengthen the body and tone muscles. Pilates can help increase your range of movement, muscle strength, improve your mood and sense of well being, and provide you with greater flexibility and better posture. Pilates has been popular with gymnasts and professional dancers for many years.

One major reason for its popularity has to do with the fact that pilates can help increase strength, coordination, flexibility and endurance without adding bulky muscles. Pilates has lately become very popular among Hollywood actors as well because it effective in shaping and toning the body. Now, pilates has become popular among the general public precisely because of its reputation as an effective body sculpting and core strengthening exercise routine. In fact, most people who practice pilates on a regular basis report feelings of increased flexibility, tone, improved posture, mood, and overall better health.

It’s interesting to note that pilates has become popular with famous actors and athletes in light of its origins. Originally pilates was designed to treat immobile or otherwise bedridden soldier patients during World War I in Great Britain.

Joseph H. Pilates designed the pilates exercises. He was working as a nurse at the time and noticed a need for physical rehabilitation and therapy for injured and immobile soldiers. He designed the bulk of the movements and exercises that are still in use today. Pilates himself was born in Germany.

As a child, Pilates had been a sickly child. He was afflicted with asthma, rickets, and other childhood ailments that left his body weak and frail. He sought to make his body stronger by taking up several sports and becoming a dedicated athlete. Finally while working as a nurse during World War I, he developed the exercise regime that he would forever be associated with.

Like yoga and other mind-body exercise formats, pilates is linked to a philosophy of health and flexibility in both the mind and body. Pilates himself studied yoga and Chinese martial arts and incorporated aspects of these wellness practices into his format. Pilates made a strong connection between emotional and physical health and strove to produce a format that revolved around this fundamental principle. At the core of pilates is a strong philosophy centered on the attributes of focus, precision, concentration, control, breath, flow, and strength.

Like yoga, pilates is often practiced on a mat. Mat routines are common, and so is the use of various supporting accessories and tools. Mat exercises and routine are the most common way to practice pilates.

Training involves the use of various machines to strengthen and tone muscles. Most people who do pilates report that it can be difficult at first, but that the body slowly conforms to the practice.

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