Pilates evolved from the principles of German-born Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s. This safe and effective exercise can transform the way your body looks, feels and performs whatever your age/fitness levels. Portia Page has taken the time to write this blog for our readers describing the benefits of Pilates.
The Benefits of Pilates
Pilates is something you can do a little of every day with amazing results. It is an exercise designed to elongate and strengthen the body by emphasising balance, alignment, proper breathing, core stability and strength. Its benefits are many:
- Creates body awareness
- Develops long and strong muscles
- Leads to easier and more agile movements
- Increases flexibility
- Strengthens the entire core
- Improves overall posture
These six benefits go a long way to developing a more fit and active body for activities of daily life or more intense athletic endeavours like sports; as well as a deeper connection with the mind and spirit.
Pilates is a method of exercise that connects the mind and the body as one and allows the body to move in a more efficient and easy way. This form of exercise uses your body to its greatest advantage, utilising your own strength, flexibility and coordination, this requires that you pay attention to your body throughout the movement. To help achieve this powerful mind-body connection, there are six principles to keep in mind: Breathing, concentration, control, centring, precision, flowing movement or rhythm. The first one, Breathing, is the one that brings together each of the other principles as well as connecting each movement together and calming and connecting the mind.
Controlling the breath and breathing correctly is extremely important to understanding Pilates and obtaining the fullest benefits from the exercise. Focused, controlled breathing will help maintain proper alignment as well as allow the contraction of the muscles that need to be contracted and release those that don’t need to be used. Breathing fully and correctly will also help with the flow of the movements and keep up the energy level. Breathing brings in oxygen to your system and clears the head, thus facilitating movement.
When we pay attention to our breath it also helps us turn our focus to the movement and this concentration and precision will help us connect the mind and body more deeply. This can help to calm our nervous system, release tension and prepare for more vigorous movement.
Practice at home
To start a Pilates session, prepare for something strenuous, release tension or just chill, try this simple breathing exercise. Find a comfortable seat on the floor or a chair. Gently close the eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Start by just recognising where you feel the breath most, how it affects your muscles and the pace of each inhale and exhale. After a few breaths, start to direct the inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth. Once you have a rhythm going, direct the inhales to lengthen your spine and create space for more breadth and length; and direct the exhales to pull in the abdominal muscles and create a strong foundation. Keep this up for 10 breaths; noting how you feel as each breath finishes. Open your eyes and continue like this for another 5 breaths; see if you feel a difference in your posture. Note how you are feeling, do you feel more relaxed? Centred? Calm? Or the same? Ideally, you will feel lighter, calmer, more focused and ready for whatever is next in your day or session. This simple exercise can be used anytime and almost any place.
Breath is the very foundation of Pilates movement, and Pilates can be the very foundation of any movement. By practising Pilates, you practice breathing and you start living more fully and completely. Enjoy, keep breathing and stand tall and straight!
Portia is in London on 21st April – 23rd April with Balanced Body Pilates on Tour. For more information check out pilates.com.
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