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Building Your Powerhouse with Pilates

Are you bugged by muscle aches lately? Have you been experiencing back pains all the time? Muscle aches and constant back pains could be signs of muscles cramping up due to fatigue and stress. If you’ve had enough of these, we suggest you try a peaceful way of slowly, but effectively, ridding yourself of unwanted stress: Pilates.

Ninety Years of Proven Exercise “Pilates was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate returning veterans of World War I in the United States (U.S.),” says Robert Baranda, fitness training manager at Slimmers World International. At that time, Joseph Pilates worked with patients in hospitals, helping them recover by assembling the springs of their beds to enable the patients to exercise against resistance. Later on, it was this technique that led Pilates to create his equipment.

In testament to Pilates’ effective exercise method, in 1918 an influenza epidemic struck England which killed thousands. Yet, none of those who trained under Pilates died.

In 1926, Pilates moved to the U.S. and opened his studio in New York City. However, it was only in 1964, when the exercise became a phenomenon. Among the first supporters of Pilates and his system were ballerinas of the New York City Ballet. The success of Pilates in New York was mentioned in an article written in the 1964 New York Herald, which says, “in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as a pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.”

However, even with Pilates’ popularity abroad, Baranda says that it took awhile before it was recognized and adapted in the country. But today, the Philippines has also hitched on the Pilates bandwagon. “Pilates has
attracted those who want to break the usual gym routine and still want to get that dancer’s body, great posture, and still be able to manage their stress,” Baranda says.

Today, almost 90 years since Pilates developed this system, millions are reaping the benefits. Not only does it help promote long lean muscles and a limber body, it has also become a way of helping people de-stress.

Getting to Know Pilates
With various exercises available today, such as tai chi or even yoga, Pilates remains to be one of the most sought-after forms of exercise. “Its objective is to develop functional muscles such as the muscles of the core. It encourages one to focus on the use of specific muscles,” says Baranda. “Pilates uses breathing pretty much how we use breathing in our regular exercise programs,” he adds.

Lucy Lucas, a Pilates and yoga instructor at Slimmers World International says that the program targets the core or the abdominal area, or the “powerhouse” as Joseph Pilates coined it. “Pilates is more of abdominal exercises, although you will notice as you go on with the exercise, it’s really total body exercise also. This is because you’re using the other parts of your body to keep you stable, as a result, you get to use your muscles more,” she says.

The use of slow and controlled movements, enabling more muscle use, is what makes Pilates more beneficial compared to other exercises, adds Lucas. “In other exercises in the gym, they do their abdominal exercises fast and jerky. In Pilates, we use slow and controlled movements, so you’re using more control and you’re working harder because it’s more difficult the slower you do it,” she explains. “It’s a mind-body exercise. It teaches you how to control your body, and to concentrate on everything that your body’s doing,” Lucas says.

What’s more advantageous about Pilates is that it can be done anywhere. With Pilates home videos available in
music stores, you can manage to practice the exercise in the comfort of your homes. However, “it’s better to be with a trainer who can check your alignment and movements. At home you can follow the exercise, but you’re not sure if you’re doing it properly,” Lucas cautions.

Pilates: The Safe and Effective Way
Not only does Pilates help you achieve those long, lean muscles you’ve been dreaming of, it also has other benefits. According to a website dedicated solely to Pilates, some of the known benefits of the exercise include:

  • A refreshing mind-body workout
  • Builds strength without “bulking up” (where you get to gain long and lean muscles and flexibility)
  • Develops a strong core (with flat abdominals and a strong back)
  • Creates an evenly conditioned body and prevents sports injuries
  • Teaches efficient patterns of motion

Lucas suggests that in order to achieve these results, it would be better if Pilates is done two to three times a week. However, it can also be done in short 20 minute exercises in a day.

Like any gym exercise, Pilates also uses certain equipment to aid in proper movement and to provide more resistance, which gives the exercise a twist and a challenge. “The most commonly used Pilates machine is the Reformer due to its versatility. Other equipments are the Wunda Chair, Trapeze Table, and Barrels. These machines give resistance training just like ordinary gym equipments but don’t bulk you up. Pilates equipments will also help you complete a movement that is otherwise impossible for you to do,” Lucas says.

Also, Pilates works to everybody’s gain because anybody who wants to do the workout can do it. “It can be done as long as there really isno injury. If you had an injury or an operation you have to check with your doctor,” Lucas explains. She also adds, “If you have any lower back problems or pain which is normally a result of weak abdominal muscles and tight hamstrings, Pilates is really good for it. Actually my back became better when I did Pilates.”

Summing up the advantages of Pilates for stress relief, Lucas says: “It’s the workout itself, because Pilates involves stretching also. So the circulation, the workout itself, and all the stretching release the tension in your body and relax your muscles.” And since Pilates is a mind-body exercise, concentrating on every movement can surely help you take your mind off life’s daily stresses.

Although it will not take one lesson to get stress out of your system, constant joining in Pilates classes will make you feel the effects and the difference it can make to your body and your stamina. Quoting Joseph Pilates, “After 10 sessions you’ll notice a difference, after 20, others will notice… After 30, you’ll have a whole new body.”

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