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The many benefits of pilates

We as individuals must take responsibility for our own bodies. We cannot expect to see change without any internal focus or effort. Pilates is fast becoming a trend all over the world and is certainly here to stay. Each and every exercise is built around eight basic principals:

  • relaxation
  • co-ordination
  • alignment
  • stamina
  • concentration
  • centering
  • breathing
  • flowing movements

What makes pilates so good?

Through the use of this method overall awareness of the body is achieved and can be taken into everyday life enabling us to move freely again without pain or tension. After working with the method for a period of time, a student will notice improved posture and alignment. Nevertheless, those who have tried or think that Pilates is not challenging enough have either yet to really master the technique or maybe they simply have not found the right path that helps them find that holistic mind body connection that Pilates can bring. Firmer buttocks, flatter stomach, improved posture, long lean arms and legs, has to be a good start for all of us, but the list is really endless.

The good news is that it can be practiced by anyone of any age or ability. No matter what your physical condition from the first time exerciser to the top athlete, from sufferers of back, hip or neck problems, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or pregnant women. The good news is that many people who suffer with remedial problems often find themselves pain free as a result of taking up Pilates.

Pilates creates a strong core

By working in the deep architectural structure of the body 'core stability' is achieved, and then maintained through increasingly complex movement sequences. The body becomes long, lean and strong. The body is slender, but with a hidden strength under a healthy muscle tone. We retrain the body to work efficiently with minimal effort and no tension. Stamina and co-ordination are improved. The body comes in to perfect balance and alignment, with the result that the immune system is stimulated and the level of general health very often rises because the internal organs can now sit and function correctly.

To give an example, some one suffering with a slipped disc in their lumbar region/spine would greatly benefit from Pilates. The intervertebral discs are comprised of a hard outer shell, and a jelly-like nucleus within. The water content of the disc decreases with age, increasing susceptibility to injury. Repetitive stress on a disc may result in the soft centre becoming distorted and bulging against the hard outer shell, or even bursting through it. This may give rise to pain in the lower lumbar region and, if the damage impinges upon a nerve in that area, pain can radiate along the course of the nerve to.

Pilates movements to be mindful of

There are certain contra-indicated movements that one should stay clear of or perform with great caution. Trunk flexion will increase the pressure on the discs significantly; combined flexion and rotation should be avoided. Under the careful eye of your Pilates instructor work would begin on slowly strengthening Multifidus, a deep stabilising muscle in the spine, which is activated through the pelvic floor. In conjunction, you would learn how to strengthen the Transverse Abdominals (our girdle of strength) that wraps around our trunk. This would all tie in with finding your neutral pelvis, the position the pelvis should be in where the pubic bone is level with our anterior superior iliac spine (hip bones); This is often tilted either forward or back. If the pelvis is level then the spine has a good chance of staying in alignment. If the pelvis is out then it is highly likely that the spine will deviate to counteract the body's balance. It is therefore important that we work on strengthening the 'Gluteals' (in particular Gluteus Medius), which stabilise the pelvis.

Pilates stops rounding of the shoulders

We cannot of course forget scapular stability. To prevent us from rounding our shoulders and poking our heads forward we must focus on Serratus Anterior and Lower Trapezius to hold our shoulders back and down. If working well that will also help alleviate any pressure on the spine, and at the same time release any tension from around the neck.

Moving down the body to the leg we would then need to work on Vastus Medialis (one of the Quadricep muscles) responsible for stabilising the knee.

Pilates can ease the pain

It is important to recognise that even though we may suffer one particular problem, whether it is in our spine, shoulder, neck, or legs the body needs to be looked at as a whole. A specific pain may not be the root cause of the problem, and may in actual fact be referred pain.

We should all make time to let pilates into our lives if not just to exercise but from a well being point of view too. Be prepared to learn new techniques and enjoy the challenges that pilates brings.

Courtesy of Body Control Pilates

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