Sunday, 4 February 2018

Pilates - An Overview and Why I Love It

If you had seen this, this and this post, you would have known that I was undertaking a Pilates teaching course late last year and two weeks ago, I got my test results and I passed! I definitely stretched myself a little too much towards the end of last year to the point that I could only find time to sit for the Pilates theory test on Christmas eve (I had completed the practical application test earlier). Hence why my result was slightly delayed due to the Christmas - New Year holiday season.

With this new qualification, I decided to add another category to this blog - Wellness - to bring more topics to the mix because I often find the blogs that I enjoy reading the most are the ones that cover a variety of topics. I hope the broad genre covered on this blog will appeal to wide range of readers, as there is a little something for everyone. I also believe the word 'Wellness' is sufficiently broad to cover myriad topics including fitness, healthy eating, self-care and mindfulness as an avenue to share my thoughts on these topics as I progress through on this journey myself.

To mark the debut entry, I thought I'd start with what Pilates is. Although Pilates has hit the fitness industry by the storm, I still get asked what is it, not to mention that many still think it purely aims to strengthen the core/abs. This post is just an overview and not a detailed breakdown of all things Pilates.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) and it started off as a form of rehabilitation exercise. Joseph Pilates initially created the exercise programme to help wounded soldiers recover from the injuries they suffered from the World War I. Eventually, the method flowed through to dancers, athletes, and physical therapy patients to stay in top form to achieve optimum health.

Pilates is a mind-body exercise as the philosophy behind it is 'A sound mind in a sound body'. When you are in a Pilates class, very quickly you will come to realise that it is almost impossible to execute Pilates movements without thinking about what you are doing and which muscles you should be engaging. This is because Pilates exercises favour quality of movements over the number of repetitions. As a result, it is very common to hear the instructor says phrases such as 'you should feel..' or the work should come from...' as part of the cues. It is also about personal best based on quality, not quantity. Therefore, the emphasis is work with your own body, your centre, your alignment, and your own range of motion because our body is unique to ourselves. There is no place for FOMO or comparison with the person next to you in a Pilates class.

Pilates can be done on a mat or using specialised equipment such as the Reformer. One method is not better than the other, in fact, they complement one another. Pilates exercises done on mat relies on body weight, flexibility and builds on core strength and control. Specialised equipment builds on these strengths by adding resistance to the repertoire.

I first heard the word Pilates back in the early years of 2000 but didn't know anything about it. My Pilates practising journey started in 2012ish, on the mat, in general Pilates classes at the gym. I have now progressed to the Reformer and started doing a more dynamic version of Pilates (with weights added to the mix etc) in Pilates studios. As a person who was never into fitness and certainly wasn't into sports or exercise, the Pilates method resonates well with me, and I've stuck with it over the years, and I certainly have seen its benefits.

Firstly, a strong core and let's address the misconception of what 'core' means. Often people associate core with abs or six-packs. In Pilates, the core goes beyond the abs; it is everything that is in the centre of our body starting from the bottom of the diaphragm to the lower spine, the obliques and the pelvis. A strong core is achieved by integrating all these elements into movements when you are executing pilates exercises.

Poise and long and lean muscles is another benefit of practising Pilates. Gym workouts tend to build short and bulky muscles - which is absolutely fine if you are into those. I personally have always been a fan and admirer of the body of ballerinas and rhythmic gymnasts. This is why the Pilates method resonates with me. Pilates elongates muscles which makes you feel and look taller and leaner. It also strengthens and improves muscles elasticity, resulting in a balanced and flexible body. A flexible body could reduce injury not only when you are exercising, playing sports but also in your day to day lives. Simply think of a simple act of picking up something off the floor. When your body is flexible, you could do it with ease (even gracefully if you want to), but if you're not flexible, a tiny wrong move could lead to a muscle pull. I am sure we all have experienced that at some point and how unpleasant it feels.

Thirdly, no matter how cluttered or stressed my mind is, I always come out of a Pilates class feeling more mindful with improved mental clarity. This is because Pilates exercises connect the mind to be in tune with the body. By emphasising proper breathing and correct body alignments, Pilates exercises require concentration which 'forces' us to be in the moment, which can sometimes feel like a privilege in this day and age of 'busy-ness'.

If you haven't discovered Pilates yet, I hope this overview will spark your curiosity and interests. As always, if you're new to any form of exercise, consult your GP and physician in the first instance. For me personally, it has been a very enjoyable and self-discovering journey and I can't wait to spread more Pilates love further! ❤️

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