Although Pilates is more recognized as part of mainstream fitness compared to 10 or more years ago, there are many who still are unclear about its benefits. While it can be debated that different Pilates approaches or perhaps more to the point, different Pilates exercises, are more beneficial than others, there are a few gems amongst the many that Pilates can offer. Below are some that show how its stood the test of time and why it is such a wonderful method of exercise.
Pilates is a concentration of precise movement patterns, that focus on correct positioning and alignment. At first, the movement tends to stay in one plane – we’re either moving the torso forward or back, to the side, or through a rotation. Additionally, the Essential exercises tend to focus on moving either the arms or the legs, while keeping the torso more or less in a stable position.
But as the workout progresses (and with the foundation of precision, position and alignment under their belts), clients workouts will start to involve more complex movement patterns, that include moving the spine while moving the arms and legs. Not an easy task, to say the least, but achievable. And for those who are not used to moving in such ways there is a sense of accomplishment in their workout as they realize their ability to focus their mind, create new movement with their body and do both with balance, fluidity, strength and endurance.
With coordination, comes awareness of one’s body and without a doubt, Pilates enhances our proprioception; that is, our ability to sense where we are in any given environment, how we control our bodies within that environment and the extent to which we can manipulate the environment for our needs.
For example, on the Pilates Reformer the Side Splits can be challenged with a forward bend that requires keeping the carriage still. Balance, coordination, strength in the hip abductors (outside of the hips) as well as the abdominal muscles are all needed. But so are strong proprioceptive skills; to safely move our bodies maintaining alignment and balance while simultaneously controlling the equipment (our environment).
Think about how this can apply to other physical tasks. The idea that we are better aware of how to move our body in various planes through different positions while on a variety of Pilates resistance equipment means that we’re more likely to have a stronger sense of our body in other environments – stepping off sidewalk curbs, walking down stairs, riding a bike on a busy street. This makes the abstract movement patterns that can be found in Pilates applicable to everyday life.
In any given Pilates workout, the focus is never on the number of repetitions, but rather the quality of the movement that you do. Learning to do the exercises correctly achieves several things; it focuses your mind on what your body is (or isn’t!) doing; it requires you to think about how to achieve a more efficient movement pattern (in a sense, learning how to problem solve with your body) and most importantly it helps you to feel what a correct alignment, movement pattern and ultimately, proper muscle firing pattern feels like
Probably the most beneficial thing that Pilates can bring is a sense of achievement. First off, its only natural that some of the exercises will appear daunting and untouchable (particularly given the look of some of the equipment!). But a committed client will get to them – and when you do, there is an immediate sense of knowing that the workout you did is the result of a balance between a focused mind and strong body.
But secondly, and maybe more importantly, are the results of doing Pilates that are noticed outside of the studio. It is not uncommon, in fact its more regular than not, for clients to share stories of being measured as taller at their annual checkup or having more endurance in their spin or weight lifting classes. Or they’re able to stand for a longer period or walk a further distance without pain and discomfort…those are the true gems. And as instructors, they are why we love Pilates.