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Welcome to Pilates

Pilates is a mindbody practice of physical exercise with an inwardly directed contemplative focus (IDEA Mind-body Fitness Committed 1997-2001).  Early in the 20th century, German immigrant Joseph Pilates developed this system of exercise in an attempt to rehabilitate soldiers returning from the first World War.

pilatesBy mid-century, it had gained popularity among dancers and athletes, not only in aiding recovery from injuries, but for the development of flexible strength and    improved posture without bulk.  The slow, controlled, distinct Pilates movements, which are coordinated with the breath, demand concentrated internal focus.

Like yoga, Pilates requires synchronizing the breath with the movement.  However, unlike yoga’s deep abdominal breathing, in Pilates, the breath is thoracic with the inhalation through the nose and the exhalation through the mouth—as if fogging up a mirror.  The exercises may be performed either on a mat or standing (like the ones often used in ballet barre warm-up), or on Pilates equipment like the Reformer, the Cadillac, and the Wunda Chair.  A variety of props may be used such as physioballs, medicine balls, bands, or the “magic circle”.

Pilates exercises focus on “the core” including all the abdominal muscles,  especially the transverses abdominus which is often neglected by more traditional abdominal exercises like crunches.  In fact, new research published through Auburn University’s department of exercise showed three basic Pilates moves required 25% higher activation of ab muscles than crunches.  Joe Pilates called abs the “girdle of strength” because they wrap around the torso.  He called the combination of these muscles including muscles of the back, buttocks and hips, “the powerhouse”.  He labeled his system “contrology” saying, “You don’t build a brick house on sticks”.

The focus during Pilates is on precise, controlled form coordinated with breath.  Regardless of which exercise is being performed, mastering “the scoop” is key:  while maintaining a neutral spine, inhale and expand the ribs outward, then, during the exhale, flatten the lower belly by pulling the navel toward the spine and upward towards the rib cage.  Joe Pilates taught that 5 – 6 perfectly performed  repetitions were all that were needed to create the desired effect.  The body is trained to work more efficiently, emphasizing quality over quantity.

Like any form of exercise, there is risk.  Be sure to let your instructor know immediately if you feel any pain.  After you have mastered the basics, you can increase the intensity of the workout by performing more challenging variations of the exercises and/or by adding the use of balls, bands, etc.

If you have any questions or need additional help, please notify your instructor:

Contact Linda about her Yoga and other classes at (410) 827-8324 or linda.healingbridges@gmail.com