Downward Dogs, Parakeets and Fluffy Handcuffs!

Pilates - Downward Dog

What do Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, Meghan Fox and Cameron Diaz have in common (other than hot bodies and A-list status)?

They all credit Pilates!

Pilates is brilliant! It can truly change your body! It will help you with yoga, running, cycling, tennis, not to mention your love life! Pelvic floor strengthening and upper body mobilisation. Go girl!

Pilates strengthens and elongates your muscles, shapes and tones your body, and can give you killer abs like you’ve never thought possible. If injured, Pilates can be adapted to your needs, can improve your strength and flexibility and help your recovery. It is a great introduction to fitness for fitness-phobes, or for those just getting back into it. And it suits most people: young to senior; athletes to pregnant women; and anywhere in between.

What is Pilates?

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s, whilst working as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, during World War I. He discovered that by attaching springs to beds, he could mobilise the limbs of bed-ridden patients, providing them with much needed movement and exercise. He continued to develop his technique after the war, until his death in 1967. Since then, his method has grown: inspired by yoga and patterned after the movements of animals such as swans, seals and big cats!

Pilates exercises the whole body through a range of mat and equipment based movements, re-balancing muscle use throughout the entire musculoskeletal system. Low repetition, low impact stretching builds the body’s core and improves posture. Conditioning exercises develop muscles without adding bulk.

Whilst Pilates exercises multiple muscle groups, it does target the body’s ‘powerhouse’; the band of muscles that wrap around the spine just below the waist: The Core!

In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body. – Joseph Pilates

5 Pilates methods for you to try:

The fitness world constantly evolves, as does Pilates. Today there are many variations: classic style to fusion methods. Here are 5 to try…

1. Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates will teach you all the core basics of Pilates, its movements and breathing techniques. The exercises will target your whole body, but most of the moves will require you to sit down or lie on the floor. A mat class will take you through a sequence starting with a warm up, engaging your core muscles and pelvic floor. It then works your abs, legs, inner and outer thighs, hamstrings, glutes and back (Legs, Back, Bums and Tums). The movements are focused and often have fun and descriptive names like The Swimmer, Hundreds, Teaser, The Cat and Superman! A session will end with a stretching series, helping to release tightness in the body. Downward Dog does wonders for the hamstrings.

The exercises allow you to progress: as you become stronger and more advanced, the basic moves are evolved and your body is pushed further. You will be surprised at what your body can do, and what it can’t do! This is one sure way of developing body awareness.

2.  Equipment Pilates

Pilates Equipment can look a little 50 Shades of Grey: beds with large frames, cables, springs, pulleys, bars and fluffy handcuffs! The Cadillac, The Reformer, The Wunder Chair and The Ladder Barrel are the most common types of equipment. They provide resistance or assistance to the exercise. The movements continue to be focused, as with mat classes, but adding an extra little something helps isolate and target specific muscles. Equipment classes tend to be offered in private, semi-private or very small groups. This is partly because of the space required, but also because more attention is required by the instructor. You don’t want to be left dangling on a Cadillac when attempting a Split Parakeet!

3.  Anti-Gravity Pilates

This is a fun and challenging form of Pilates. It makes use of a low-lying (hip height) sling or hammock suspended from the ceiling. The hammock provides support to the body during each move and pose and allows the body to lengthen and deepen into a stretch. This form of Pilates helps decompress the spine and joints during a workout, so you feel taller and lighter after a session. In true Pilates form, the hammock forces you to use your core muscles for each movement. And there are plenty of opportunities to get tangled up into a little ball!

4.  Yogalates

You’ve guessed it … a Yoga and Pilates fusion, where East meets West. Yogalates incorporates exercises and poses (asana) to cultivate strength, stamina, stability and flexibility. Particular attention is paid to building tone in the deeper postural “core” muscles. Equipment such as blocks, resistance bands (which replicate the resistance of the Pilates machines), weights, fit balls and foam rollers may also be used to enhance strength and balance. In Yogalates the eight limbs of yoga are implemented bringing balance and unity to body, mind and spirit. As a form of exercise it is excellent for developing tone and fitness, whilst also encouraging a connection with your spiritual side; aiding relaxation, instilling inner calm and overall wellbeing. Ommm!

5.  Power Pilates/ Cardio Pilates

Another fusion, but this time combining cardio training with Pilates! In this form, the combination of precision movement and higher intensity exercise helps burn fat faster and tone the body more efficiently. There are many ways to combine these two forms of exercise: adding some cardio exercises to the beginning of a session; incorporating more repetitions of each exercise; or higher intensity with shorter rest periods between each set. Don’t be surprised if equipment is used to get your blood pumping. This form of Pilates will make you sweat.

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