While yoga has seen a meteoric rise in popularity during the last decade, it seems that Pilates has never quite reached the same peak.
Though many yoga studios – and there are a lot of them, with an estimated 6,000 in the United States alone – offer Pilates classes, this gentler form of exercise is frequently overlooked in favor of its more energetic cousin.
The benefits of Pilates are extensive and in some ways quite specific and different from those offered by a yoga practice.
Whatever your fitness level, age, or health condition, practicing Pilates can provide you with the strength, encouragement, and relief you need to feel your very best.
With that in mind, we’re providing you with all of the information you need to know about what Pilates is and the benefits it offers.
What is Pilates?
Pilates’ history is both fascinating and inspiring. In the early twentieth century, it was developed as a “system” by a German named Joseph Pilates.
He became determined to strengthen his body and improve his health as a child after suffering from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. This determination led him to pursue a career as a gymnast and bodybuilder.
As a teenager, Pilates studied anatomy and sampled as many different types of exercises as he could, recording the results as he went. He studied both traditional Western methods as well as Eastern practices such as yoga, tai-chi, and martial arts.
During World War II, I was a German living in the United Kingdom. His knowledge of anatomy and exercise helped him get a post as a nurse, as well as a job as a teacher of wrestling and self-defense, and it was during this time that his Pilates method began to take form.
He experimented by attaching springs to the hospital beds and developed a series of exercises that were intended to help tone and heal wounded soldiers.
In 1923, Pilates immigrated to the United States and opened his first studio in New York. There, he began to build his own equipment for use in his practice, which he dubbed the reformer.
These reformers, which were shaped like sliding beds with springs as resistance, are still in use today for Pilates.
Joseph Pilate’s method became an instant success among dancers, who found his method – initially called “Contrology” – to be the best way to both recover from injuries and prevent new injuries from occurring.
The popularity of Joseph Pilates’s method – and his reformer – spread across the country.
Socialites followed ballerinas into Pilates’ studio, and his approach gained a wider following. His technique still emphasizes proper alignment, control, breathing, fluid movement, and concentration.
Pilates focuses on precise movements that emphasize technique and control over repetition, believing that the mind and body are intimately connected.
Pilates thought that the core was the body’s “powerhouse,” which is why every Pilates class focuses on the core, which includes everything from your transverse abdominis to your back muscles to your pelvic floor.
It only is health a normal condition, but it is our duty to not only attain it but to maintain it.” – Joseph Pilates
1. Pilates for Injury Rehabilitation
Pilates’ technique was initially utilized to aid in the rehabilitation of troops injured in war, then dancers with injuries, so it’s no surprise that it’s beneficial to individuals recovering from injuries.
Pilates can help people with injuries heal more quickly and reduce the risk of re-injury, whether it’s regaining strength after a broken bone or establishing a new sense of balance following an amputation.
Pilates may be both low impact and somewhat weight-bearing because many of the movements are performed in a reclined or sitting position. As a result, it is a safe type of physical treatment, and it is frequently used as part of a rehabilitation program in physical therapy clinics.
compared to other standard treatment methods
The program may be changed to suit how the patient feels on any given day, based on their abilities, comfort level, and the degree of their injury.
One of Joseph Pilates’ initial motives for developing his method was his worry that a “modern” lifestyle, poor posture, and ineffective breathing were the fundamental causes of ill health.
The Pilates Method emphasizes proper spine and pelvic alignment, which makes it extremely useful for people who suffer from backaches and other spinal issues.
2. Pilates for Asthma
Another of Joseph Pilates’ main concerns, and a very personal one for him, was inefficient breathing. He battled with chronic asthma as a youngster and being an asthmatic myself, I understand.
One of the 6 essential principles of Pilates was to use a very full breath in all of his movements, and Joseph Pilates stressed this. He advised that we should conceive of our lungs as bellows and that we should utilize them to forcefully pump air into and out of our bodies.
As a result, making excellent use of each breath and breathing properly is an important element of the Pilates workout.
Those who are familiar with the advantages of yoga may recall the concept of ujjayi breath, often known as ocean breath.
It entails totally filling your lungs and inhaling through your nose while gently constricting your throat. Instead, Pilates focuses on lateral thoracic or intercostal breathing. The breath is drawn upward and out of the low belly with this method, with the focus on redirecting the air towards the back of the body and the sides of the ribcage.
Because the objective is to suck in a lot of fresh air and then clear the lungs of every bit of stale air with each breath cycle, this form of intercostal breathing is extremely useful for individuals with asthma or other breathing issues. Asthmatics have a tendency to take shallower breaths, which can lead to shortness of breath.
While deep breathing isn’t always natural, I’ve found that performing a breath-focused activity like Pilates has increased my “breathing stamina”—allowing me to engage in previously unachievable kinds of exercise like jogging or running.
3. Pilates for Improving Sports Performance
Outside of the studio, Pilates can help people who aren’t asthmatics.
Weight-bearing workouts, such as boxing, jogging, lifting weights, doing push-ups, and other similar activities, tend to create short, bulky muscles.
Though it may appear to be a quick way to a fantastic body, this type of muscle is really the most vulnerable to injury. Conventional workouts, on the other hand, tend to repeat the same muscle parts again and over, meaning that although strong muscles become stronger, weak muscles get weaker.
This is referred to as muscle imbalance, and it is the most common cause of injury and persistent back pain.
Pilates, on the other hand, focuses on conditioning the entire body, including the ankles and feet.
Its “whole body” approach ensures that no muscle area is over-or under-trained, resulting in a musculature that is evenly balanced and conditioned. This balance is not just important in Pilates, but also in everyday life.
Working on your entire body allows you to enjoy daily activities and sports while also improving your performance and reducing your chance of injury.
Rather than producing short, bulky muscles, consistent Pilates practice lengthens and develops your muscles, increases their elasticity, and improves joint mobility.
A stronger and more flexible body is less likely to be injured, which is why so many sports teams and Olympic athletes use Pilates in their training regimen.
4. Pilates for the Pelvic Floor
Pilates is likely most useful for women in terms of keeping their pelvic floor muscles in good shape.
The pelvic floor muscles stabilize the pelvis and support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity, forming the basis for the core of the body (like the bladder and uterus).
The pelvic floor muscles, combined with the deep back and abdominal muscles I discussed before, make up what Joseph Pilates referred to as the body’s “powerhouse.”
The pelvic floor may be thought of as “a network of interconnected muscles, tendons, and ligaments that form a supporting hammock at the base of the pelvic bowl,” according to VeryWellFit. The integrity of the pelvic region is jeopardized if the pelvic floor muscles are weakened or injured.
The usual culprits for causing weakening or injury to the pelvic floor muscles include childbirth, aging, persistent coughing, and inactivity. Incontinence, decreased sexual pleasure, and, in the most severe cases, a drop of the organs into the pelvic muscles can all be symptoms of a compromised pelvic floor.
Pilates is useful and necessary for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
The muscles of the pelvic floor provide natural muscular support during regulated movements. To support the muscles of the stomach and back, we draw the pelvic floor in and up, and it is this strong and prolonged tugging that serves to raise, strengthen, and support the pelvic floor.
Exercises to support the pelvic floor should be done by everyone!
Consider getting an Elvie Kegel trainer if you need extra help outside of the Pilates studio. It’s a fun, engaging approach to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles that just takes 15 minutes each week.
5. Pilates for Mental Health
Joseph Pilates rapidly recognized the link between mind and body. Patients in Pilates’ first New York studio practiced “Contrology,” which he coined to describe the use of the mind to regulate the muscles.
Pilates is a beneficial workout for both your mental and physical health for many of the reasons we’ve already mentioned.
Focusing on appropriate breathing promotes awareness, allowing you to stay in the now and provide meaning to your body’s actions.
Medical experts frequently “prescribe” Pilates as a technique to decrease and cope with stress. Exercising has been shown in several studies to reduce stress chemicals such as cortisone.
As a result, Pilates may enhance your capacity to respond to and manage stress triggers as well as your stress resilience in the future.
Pilates has been found to increase memory and brain training while also exercising the body.
Pilates, unlike treadmill jogging or stationary cycling, demands you actively engage both your body and mind at the same time. Your brain is pushed to acquire a new skill, whether it’s a whole new exercise or a tweak to an existing one, keeping your mind active at all times.
Last but not least, the great bulk of studies on the role of exercise in improving mental health focus on the advantages of Pilates for those who are depressed or anxious.
According to a 2015 study for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, exercise “should be consistently incorporated as an essential component in rehabilitation from mental illness,” according to a 2015 study for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
Pilates can help with depression and anxiety by allowing people to socialize, affecting the amounts of specific chemicals in the brain (serotonin, cortisol, and endorphins), giving a distraction from negative thoughts, lowering stress levels, and improving mindfulness.
Joseph Pilates once said that: “Every moment of our lives can be the beginning of great things.“
Starting a new habit, particularly an exercise regimen, might be intimidating at first.
But, like with most things in life, once you get started, you won’t look back. There are several reasons to try Pilates.
Step ahead toward a healthy mind, body, and pelvic floor today, whether from the comfort of your own home or in a studio near you.