History and origins of Pilates
The method was created in 1920 by Joseph Pilates in New York, who defined it as “the complete coordination of thought, body, and mind”. It is a method made to strengthen the deep muscles, which are responsible for posture (this includes the abdominals, the pelvic floor and the back muscles). They are considered as the “energy center” of the body, and strengthening them makes you stronger and more stable. On the other hand, Pilates also aims at real awareness of the body and how it works.
The principles of Pilates
The method is now known all over the world, and is based on 6 fundamental principles:
- Breathing: In a Pilates class, the teacher always guides breathing. It must be deep (inspiration through the nose, exhalation through the mouth) and in coordination with the movements.
- Concentration: Being concentrated allows you to become aware of each movement of your body.
- Centering: All movements have to start from the energy center of the body: the abdominal strap. It is the pivot around which the movements are carried out.
- Control: You must control each movement by associating the breath and the mind.
- Precision: You have to look for the quality of execution of the movement, not necessarily the quantity: the goal is not to simply move from one position to another, but to rather feel each posture.
- Fluidity: Each exercise must find a natural extension in the one that follows it. This principle reflects the fact that posture is also a dynamic process because the body constantly adapts to counterbalance the forces exerted on it.
Pilates is a gentle activity, which is suitable for almost everyone (people who are not very athletic or in a convalescence period, pregnant women, and even the elderly). The movements are slow and controlled, which helps the muscles to stretch smoothly. Whatever your level and your physical abilities, this method can be adapted to anyone, and that is why it quickly became one of my favourite workouts!
Among many benefits of practicing Pilates and those that I have noticed myself, there is an improvement of posture and gradual strengthening of muscles. It will also slim down your body and with the exercises being particularly focused on the abdominal strap, tone up the belly, and strengthen the abs. The last big positive point of this practice is the fact that it helps fighting stress, and teaches you how to relax by controlling your mind and body.
What about you? Did you ever try a Pilates class, and what are your thoughts on it?