Saturday 15 March 2014

Why everyone should practice Pilates!


I have been practising Pilates for quite a few years now, it was only when I stopped doing it that I realised what the benefits of it are.  We often laugh in our classes, that if anyone just happened to look through the window they would think that all we were doing was lifting our legs up and down, and not doing much at all!  But if they looked even closer they would see the pained expressions on our faces and if they came into the room, they would hear the grunts of pain (good pain!) as we engage the deep core muscles.

Practising Pilates is giving your body what it wants, your skeleton wants to be correctly aligned and your muscles want to support the skeleton in it's goal!  All to often in modern life we are bending our bodies into positions that they are not designed to be in - think bent over a computer, lounging on the sofa in front of the tv or driving a car.

Just look at a toddler bending to pick something up - they do it properly, bend from the knees rather than the hips and extend up.  Children have great posture, they haven't been subjected to sitting for hours in one position, slouching in chairs and generally learning bad habits - they still run about, jump and generally do the things that humans are designed to do.

What are our bodies designed to do?  

Looking at our anatomy - we are designed to walk upright (think how many animals have gluteals (butt's) like humans?), we're beautifully designed to run, jump, throw, climb, push and pull heavy objects - all of these things your body is perfectly adapted for to enable it to move in a number of ways.  Think of our big muscle groups;

- the quadriceps designed to hold your pelvis upright whilst contracting to pull the leg forward.
- the hamstrings - opposite of the quads, pulling the leg back
- the gluteals - big muscle group designed to keep body upright and move the leg
- the biceps - strong arm muscles to enable throwing action or lifting action
- all of the big back muscles (trapezius, latissimus dorsi) all designed to hold your spine upright whilst helping the limbs move

How much correct movement do you actually do during your average day?

Probably the average person will do a bit of walking, maybe a bit of lifting (bag or baby), some carrying, perhaps a bit of pushing (the vacuum?), bending to get in the car - not much really, when you think what the body is designed to do.  Also have a think about when you're actually doing this stuff, how much of it is with the body in it's correct alignment?  So think of carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder, carrying a baby on one hip - think about what that's doing to your body, putting extra pressure down one side, pulling the pelvis out of alignment.  So even when we're doing the good stuff - are we actually doing good stuff for our bodies?

Why Pilates?

When you first start practising Pilates you will feel a couple of things;

1. Going to a class will feel like having an anatomy lesson!
2. Your teacher will be obsessed with your alignment (be prepared to be pulled and pushed).
3. What you probably think is good body alignment is actually not!  (If you've never practise any discipline where alignment was important - dance, martial art, a technical sport - then you will probably have no idea when your body is correctly aligned). This will feel very strange at first.
4. There are too many things to remember - pelvic floor engagement, pelvic stability, engaging the transverse abdominus (see what I mean about anatomy?), correct alignment and BREATHE!!  It will feel like learning to drive again, and that's what you are doing - you're learning to drive your body.
5.  The time will fly over - this I promise, you'll be too busy trying to remember all of the above, whilst actually trying to do the exercise that you will forget all about your worries, stresses and the time.  Hence why Pilates is a great mind/body workout.

So give Pilates a go - your body will thank you for it, and soon you'll start feeling the difference - you'll be walking a little taller, thinking about your posture (and therefore improving it - 'where the mind goes the body will follow' - Joseph Pilates) and as a by-product getting some strong core muscles and some serious muscle tone.  The changes are subtle, and it's only when you stop that you realise the benefits.

Let me know the benefits you've experienced through Pilates, your comments are welcome.


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