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Pilates and A New Year

Happy 2015!!! As we dive in to this New Year, we find the latest exercise trends to reach our fitness goals, appearing in many forms. During the month of January, media seems to overwhelm us with options, specials, and a never ending list of what to try next. Pilates has been around for some time, and in the past decade it has boomed in popularity. There seem to be a few common questions many people have, so I present a Q & A format on Pilates.

What is Pilates, and is there a difference between Pilates and Yoga? Pilates is a form of whole body movement that stabilizes and mobilizes each joint throughout the entire body. Core stabilization is one of the many emphases along with breathing, alignment, coordination, and spinal mobility. It addresses the body as a whole, as a sum of its parts. We work towards an efficiency of movement in Pilates, which can have profound effects in all aspects of life: from sitting at the computer to skiing down the mountain. Pilates is not just exercise. It is meant to enhance your mind, body, and spirit. This is where Pilates and Yoga are very similar. Yoga comes in many forms, and the focus is one of a mind-body connection. In my experience, Pilates looks more closely at the quality of movement to improve overall strength in a different way than Yoga. Yoga will utilize breathing for relaxation purposes, where in Pilates, breathing is more often to enhance movement. Both have value, making it worthwhile to try each and see which works better for your body and individual needs. How can I benefit from Pilates? If done consistently, Pilates will result in an economy of movement to help you not only avoid wasting energy, but also improve your efficiency in anything from daily activities to high level sports. It will help you develop long lean muscles that have both strength and endurance and increase your body awareness (think balance and coordination which we all could use a little more of, especially as we age). Our body can be broken down in to two muscle systems, a local and a global system. Our local muscles are small and are responsible for joint stabilization. Our global muscles are larger and cross multiple joints and are responsible for creating movement. Pilates specifically targets those local muscles aiding in injury prevention. These muscles not only help stabilize the joint, they also send signals to our brain to tell us where we are in space. This especially becomes important when doing sudden or unexpected movements, i.e. dropping your phone, tripping on the stairs, chasing after your kids, landing a jump, avoiding obstacles on ski hills; the list is endless. Waking up these muscles through Pilates can only enhance any activity you do on a regular basis whether it be sports, exercising, or sitting behind a computer. The benefits are limitless. What should people look for when searching for a Pilates class/instructor? Do some research before you go to a class. Find out what type of training the instructor has had to teach Pilates. Unfortunately, there is no regulating board that limits or monitors who can market or offer Pilates. Seek out a Pilates studio if one is available in your area and watch for CPT-PMA (Certified Pilates Teacher) behind the instructor’s name as that indicates they have completed a national certification exam with the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA). Many companies offer ‘certifications’ but the PMA is a national professional association and certifying agency for Pilates teachers. They offer a certification that ensures appropriate knowledge and skill level of instructors from a variety of training backgrounds. Are Pilates classes expensive? Mat classes tend to be more budget friendly and often are easier to find as they don’t require any equipment. They do generally attract larger class sizes. Equipment classes will cost you more and are often smaller in class size which can allow you more one-on-one attention from the instructor. You will generally have to find a Pilates studio to take an equipment class where as mat classes are often offered in other locations like gyms, community centers, and other fitness studios. You can certainly make gains both with mat and equipment based classes. If you do have access to a Pilates studio, I would highly recommend one or two private sessions with an instructor so they can individually assess your body and identify any specific areas to focus on and go through proper form.

Is it true that in order to perform Pilates you need special equipment? No, you do not need equipment to perform Pilates. Many exercises are mat based and can easily be performed in the comfort of your own home. We also use equipment in Pilates, which can vary from small props such as a foam roller, to A Pilates circle, or to large apparatus equipment such as the Reformer or Trapeze Table. But rest assured you can make benefits with or without the equipment, making Pilates versatile. How many times a week does one need to do Pilates in order to see results? Joseph Pilates said ‘in 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference, and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.’ Pilates could easily be done daily but at least twice per week is what you will need to see results. As with any exercise routine, consistency is the key.

“Constantly keep in mind the fact that you are not interested in developing bulging muscles but rather flexible ones. Bulging muscles hinder the attainment of flexibility because overdeveloped muscles interfere with the proper development of underdeveloped muscles. True flexibility can be achieved only when all muscles are uniformly developed.”

-Joseph Pilates

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