When I tell people I teach Pilates, the response is nearly always the same. “Oh wow. That’s really cool. Wait … What is Pilates exactly?” One common assumption is that Pilates is a stretching exercise for super-flexible women. “I can’t do Pilates. I am not flexible enough,” is a typical comment. Some people think Pilates is physical therapy, some think it uses torture devices, and someone recently asked me if Pilates was a form of dance.
Well, Pilates is not dance. It is not physical therapy. It is not torture. And flexibility is a goal but not a requirement. First and foremost, Pilates is a workout that was developed by a German boxer named Joseph Hubertus Pilates. Contrology, as it was originally called, is a form of body conditioning which encompasses over 500 exercises and is based on the principle that before working the peripheral parts of the body, like the arms and the legs, you must have a strong and stable center. The main goal of the workout is a healthy, well-aligned, decompressed spine; strong abdominal muscles; and a keen body awareness. Here are three more Pilates benefits you may not know about.
A longer shelf life: If you didn’t periodically take your car in for a tuneup, its reliability would diminish substantially and you may end up broken down on the Garden State Parkway. The same goes with your body — if you don’t maintain it regularly, it will fail you. Pilates exercises are a tuneup for the body. Pilates strengthens the smaller, deeper muscles and teaches us how to use our bodies correctly and efficiently so we can continue to bend to tie our shoes, lift our children, twist, extend and move freely without injury as we grow older.
Inner Strength: In Pilates we work from the inside out. In every exercise we are trying to access our transverse abdominis, which is our deepest abdominal layer. The transverse houses all of our intestines and internal organs. When we lift the powerhouse, we lift our organs up against gravity.
Increased Mental Focus and Multi-tasking ability: Pilates takes a lot of concentration and multi-tasking. You must coordinate the breath with movement, pay attention to your abdominals, shoulders, feet, neck, and all the little details. And then you are supposed to remember what exercise is coming next and what springs go with each exercise. All this effort, increases body awareness and the connection of the body and mind.