Pilates was founded in the 1920's by an individual named Joseph Pilates (hence the name Pilates). In addition, the original intent of Pilates was to assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners of war.
Pilates is not simply a method of physical fitness that is popular amongst the Hollywood elite or the rich and famous. In fact, the prevalence of Pilates among celebrities is simply a broader reflection of its growing popularity throughout the world.
Millions of individuals are discovering the vast physical and mental benefits that regularly performing a Pilates routine can bring to not only their quality of life but also, their overall levels of health, fitness, and mental well-being.
The practice of Pilates has grown in popularity for good reason - because it really works and it offers a proven way to improve an individual's overall health (both mentally and physically).
In addition, consistently performing a Pilates exercise routine, with a reasonable level of regularity, will increase your overall level of fitness and wellness through performing a physical activity that is new and fresh to many individuals.
In many ways, Pilates is somewhat similar to Yoga in that several of the types of movements that are performed, the series of poses, and the "centering and calming of the mind" aspects overlap between the two. More specifically, a typical Pilates workout routine includes exercises that target virtually all primary muscle groups, especially the core muscle groups, focus on breathing techniques to calm and center the mind, and improve overall flexibility, balance, and coordination.
Regularly practicing Pilates can actually assist in lowering elevated blood pressure levels back to normal levels. In support thereof, a clinical study performed in 2004 revealed fantastic benefits. More specifically, a group of 25 individuals with an average blood pressure of 142mmHg (systolic) and 86mmHg (diastolic) participated in a Pilates routine for 11 weeks. At the conclusion of the study the average blood pressure of the group had dropped to 126mmHg (systolic) and 75mmHg (diastolic).
Mental and Physical Benefits of Practicing Pilates
There are a large number of mental and physical benefits associated with practicing Pilates. Additionally, many of the health benefits are similar to the benefits obtained through the practice of Yoga and meditation.
While many individuals tend to think of Pilates as a stand alone form of aerobic exercise, the truth is that many of the poses, positions, series of movements, and approaches to achieving good health are similar to Yoga or movement based meditation. Below are a few of the health benefits associated with practicing Pilates:
- Increased Mental Focus, Concentration, and Clarity: By allowing your brain time to relax, regularly practicing Pilates has the ability to greatly increase your focus, concentration, and cognitive function. By practicing Pilates before undertaking a large project or physical activity, you can be assured that you will more able to perform the functions of the activity more effectively and with a greater level of focus.
- Improved Feeling of Emotional Stability: The majority of individuals that consistently participate in a Pilates workout routine, with a moderate level of frequency, have been shown to be less likely to experience anxiety, stress, mood swings, minor depression, insomnia, and other mental related type conditions like bipolar syndrome.
- Increases in Cognitive Function and Memory: By relaxing and calming the mind, Pilates has often been shown to increase memory function and cognitive capacity in the participant. In fact, early medical tests have shown promising results in the use of Pilates, along with prescription drugs, to reduce or delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer's.
- Improvements in Overall Structural Strength: Many of the poses, positions, and series of movements performed within a Pilates routine are designed to strengthen virtually of soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons). In addition, many of the movements require that multiple primary muscle groups be engaged simultaneously.
Furthermore, several of the poses that are performed are static (a position that is held for an extended period of time with no movement) and require that the individual utilize multiple muscle group to maintain the position. By performing exercises of this type, the entire structural frame is strengthened as a whole.
- Increases in Core Strength, Stability, and Explosiveness: May of the positions, exercises, movements, and series of movements are designed to target the muscles of the core area (lower back, gluteals, hips, abdominals, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps) of the body.
This being the case, most individuals see a fairly significant improvement in core strength, stability, explosiveness, and a reduction of excess body fat within a reletively short period of time.
- Improvements in Flexibility, Balance, and Coordination: Similar to Yoga type workout routines, many of the positions and movements are designed to relax and lengthen the muscles that are engaged when performing the exercise. This, in turn, will improve soft tissue and joint flexibility.
Additionally, several of the exercises performed within a Pilates routine are intended to target improvements in balance and coordination as they require multiple muscle groups be engaged when entering into a position that requires balancing on one leg, balancing on one hand and one foot, and so on.
Deciding Whether to Attend Pilates Classes or Perform them at Home
The large majority of individuals choose to initially participate in instructor led Pilates classes. Taking this approach is a great way to initially learn how to perform the various types of poses, positions, movements, and series of movements, correctly because it provides a social aspect to the practice and allows for expert assistance in ensuring that the individual is performing the movement with the correct form and breathing technique.
However, this being said, there are a large number of individuals who also choose to initially begin their Pilates workout routine without the assistance of an instructor led class or personal trainer.
Individuals that choose to learn how to perform the various Pilates poses and positions on their own often purchase Pilates VHS tapes, DVD's, or other forms of media to assist them in learning how to execute the exercise correctly while others are able to perform the movements by simply viewing graphical representations of each of the poses and positions.
This being said, when deciding on whether to perform your Pilates workouts at either a Pilates or fitness center or at home, there are several "pros and cons" to each approach. For example, the Pilates studios, or fitness centers that offer Pilates classes, are specifically designed to provide you with the proper training on how to perform the various movements correctly. In addition, many individuals find that performing their workout routine in a class setting to be beneficial in that it is motivational, supportive, and structured.
Conversely, performing your Pilates routine at home provides a few benefits as well. For instance, individuals can perform their workout routine on the days/times that are convenient for them. In addition, individuals that are performing their Pilates routine at home can freely modify, shorten, extend, or combine various Pilates and non-pilates exercises into a single workout.
Furthermore, if you are unsure of your technique or form and could benefit from some assistance, a Pilates center could be your best option. However, if you are uncomfortable exercising around other individuals or do not feel ready to perform your Pilates routine with other individuals present, you may consider working out at home.
What You Will Find in Our Pilates Section
The remaining articles under this section of our website are specifically intended to outline the various approaches to successfully incorporating Pilates into your daily lifestyle.
The practice of Pilates places a high level of emphasis on both the physical and mental aspects associated with performing each specific pose. The actual practice of Pilates revolves around six major principles that will be explained in detail throughout this section. These principles, if followed, are designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the practice.
The practice of Pilates, as it was intended, is designed to bring about both physical and mental stability. It is our intent to place an equal emphasis on both of these elements so that you are able to achieve the maximum level of physical and mental health benefits alike. A number of other items will be covered within this category including a detailed description of the many benefits that practicing Pilates can bring to one's life.
A description of the various resources and equipment, such as mats and resistance bands, will also be discussed. These tools are a necessity in many cases and should not be overlooked. By truly understanding the art of Pilates you will be able to best tailor a fitness program that is directed towards achieving your personal physical and mental health goals.
This being said, Pilates is an excellent exercise type and, when performed regularly, will provide a vast array of both physical and mental benefits. In fact, it is our belief that Pilates, or some style and type of Yoga should be included in all comprehensive and well designed fitness routines.