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Pilates exercise was the brainchild of Joseph H. Pilates. During the First World War, he observed in an English hospital that the injured and bedridden soldiers could not exercise. So he created a machine and designed a method of exercise, which would assist the soldiers in rehabilitation, to help them get stronger and regain their strength. Pilates is also an acronym - Proximal Integrating Latent Agile Toning Exercise System. In 1926, Joseph Pilates moved to New York and brought along this method of exercise, which he termed 'Pilates'.
In 1945, Joseph Pilates published Return to Life through Contrology, which described his philosophical approach to exercise. Soon, some of his students began opening studios of their own and made subtle adaptations to the method and this led to the popularity of this exercise pattern. Pilates are followed by millions worldwide, from ballet schools to local gyms. Celebrity followers of the Pilates philosophy are Martina Navratilova, Sharon stone, Pat Cash and Jennifer Aniston. Find out how the Pilates exercise system works and some of the equipment that is used to add another dimension to the process.
Goal of Pilates
Pilates emphasize body alignment and correct breathing while focusing on the lower and deeper abdominals on the one hand and the mid-back and part of the shoulder muscles on the other. The ultimate goal of Pilates is to provide an understanding of postural alignment during movement of the human body in the three dimensional planes. Controlled movements, proper biomechanics and flow of movement help in achieving this. Pilates works by combining breathing techniques with special stretches.
It is more dynamic than Yoga because it pushes the body through stretching and targets flexibility, posture and strength. By using the Pilates machine, individuals have to go through systematic and natural movements, whilst holding their torsos in place and moving their limbs in different directions. This movement strengthens the individual's balance and flexibility
Some simple Pilates exercises
The Ballerina Arms
1. Sit cross-legged
2. Straighten the spine as though resting against a wall
3. Bend the elbows at a 90 degree angle to protect the shoulder in its socket
4. Take the arms back to connect the shoulder blades
5. Take the arms down so the shoulder blades slide down your spine
6. Raise the bent arms above your head
7. End with arms as first started in front of you
The Roll Up
1. Lie on your back with legs straight and arms stretched above your head and shoulders down.
2. Keeping your back flat on the floor, slowly lift your arms toward the ceiling as you breathe in.
3. As you breathe out, slowly roll forward, peeling your spine off the mat. head remains straight; eyes focused forward and stomach remains taut, not crunched.
4. Breathing in again, stretch out over your legs. Breathing out, slowly roll back down to the floor.
5. Do not pause, but as you breathe in roll up again and begin the second repetition. Do 10 repetitions.
Benefits of Pilates
Pilates are gentle and very effective and condition the body from head to toe with a new approach suitable for all ages and abilities. Pilates is an ideal workout for athletes recovering from injury, pregnant women and older people who may not have the capacity to do strenuous exercise. It requires patience and practice. Listed below are some important benefits of Pilates:
Assists in aligning your body
Engages the mind and enhances body awareness
Tones and builds long lean muscles without bulk.
Helps in rehabilitation of injuries and strains
Reduces stress, relieves tension and boosts energy through deep stretching.
Targets the abdominal area.
Enhances mobility, agility and stamina
When modified, Pilates are ideal for pregnant women
Brings about weight loss
Improves overall well-being
Increases energy levels.
Offers relief from back pain and joint stress.
Improves strength, flexibility and balance.
Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat on the floor. There are a few specialized Pilates equipment and smaller accessories that can add a whole new level of interest and intensity to the Pilates exercise schedule. Some Pilates equipment offer spring resistance whilst others offer support. A variety of unique exercises for the total body can be performed on each piece. The main Pilates equipment pieces are discussed below:
Pilate Ball is also known as Swiss Ball, Stability Ball, Gym Ball or Fit Ball. The round shell of a sphere is an unstable surface, so when we lie, sit or lean on it, we need to continually rebalance ourselves. These subtle steadying adjustments help isolate and activate the deepest muscle layers in the body. This tool helps:
Establish and reinforce balance
Activate deep abdominals
Develop postural alignment
Support and stretch the body
The larger inflatable Pilates balls come in 55 cm, 65 cm and 75 cm diameters to accommodate a range of body sizes. They cost around $25 to $40 and are available at almost any general fitness store.
Pilates Resistance Band
The Pilates Resistance Band is also known as the Flex-Band or Thera-Band. It is simply a stretchy strip of latex that adds an element of light resistance to a Pilates workout. This tool helps to:
Lengthen major muscles
Target the upper and lower body
Enhance joint mobility
The Pilates Resistance Band is versatile and can be used for stretching, toning and sculpting from ankle to wrist. It is also economical and portable. The cost of the band ranges from $5 to $10 depending on the strength of resistance
Resembling a stylish little stool, the Pilates Chair is a versatile exercise machine. Pilates exercises are performed seated on top and pressing down on the step/pedal with feet. Other exercises entail lying on the floor, standing straight up, lunging forward or doing push-up like moves with the arms. More than 75 exercises can be performed on the Chair. The price of a basic Pilates Chair starts at around $700 upwards to $1200 and beyond, depending on the make and model.
The other Pilates exercise equipments available are