Saniya: After having taught Pilates in Singapore and Myanmar, moving to Sydney as a Pilates instructor felt extremely exciting and rewarding. I was impressed to see the popularity of Pilates in Sydney, particularly Reformer Pilates.
Just like many in Australia, you have probably heard of Pilates and its amazing benefits, and maybe even have tried a class or two. However, knowing in your head and knowing in your body are two very different things. Like any tried and tested discipline it takes time and effort to truly learn the Pilates method.
I hope the following benefits (you may or may have not heard about) will convince you to give Pilates a chance, and truly understand the philosophy and see the results of this wonderful fitness method.
(Saniya is a resident Pilates instructor at Leap Health and Wellbeing. She is currently on maternity leave having her first baby! We hope to have her re-join the Leap studio in the near future.)
‘You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions.’ – Joseph Pilates
1. It is accessible to everyone.
EVERYONE. Being a low impact workout that focuses on musculoskeletal alignment, Pilates offers tremendous benefits not only to women and people with injuries but also professional athletes who need to complement their physically demanding exercise routines.
I would like to especially mention Reformer Pilates, where machines offer a great deal of support, and provide proprioceptive feedback to even the most clueless of us.
The springs on the Reformer machine deliver assistance when needed and provide resistance for those who want more challenge. Therefore people with physical limitation could find Pilates suitable for them and it could give them a big sense of achievement.
2. Trains flexibility in a safe way without compromising strength and stability.
Flexibility allows us to achieve greater ranges of motion, and enjoy movements without pain or restrictions.
Sometimes pursuing flexibility without the right strength and stability at the joints could lead to injury. Pilates helps to train flexibility in a very safe way making sure that small stabiliser muscles provide appropriate support during movement.
3. It is great for prevention and treatment of lower back pain.
Pilates is a great tool used by many physiotherapists to manage lower back injuries.
Most musculoskeletal injuries of the lower back, shoulder joint and neck are related to tightness and a lack of mobility in the thorax (mid section of the spine and the ribcage). Many Pilates exercises focus on segmental movement of the spinein all three dimensions, there is greater mobility achieved in the thoracic spine, which in many cases helps to lessen lower back pain or eliminates it altogether.
Another reason why lower back pain may be relieved is improved strength of the deeper core muscles. Deep core muscles help to stabilise the spine during movement and prevent injuries from occurring. Every single Pilates exercise – be it supine (lying on your back), prone (on stomach), side lying, seated or standing – is performed with that deep core awarenessand should be done only once the core is engaged.
4. It is both a body and mind discipline.
Pilates can help to create lean and strong muscles, washboard abdominals, improved posture and alignment. However, it is so much more than that.
Pilates is also about the positive energy and joyful attitude one leaves the class with. Many a time, people feel taller, stronger, confident and happier after a class. Pilates is as much about the mind as it is about the body.
With the right movement strategy and efficient distribution of forces, your whole body works in harmony. You might not necessarily feel your muscles burning, but instead perform exercises with ease and lightness, agility and suppleness.
You might notice your Pilates instructor giving you many detailed instructions to what seems to be a simple exercise at first. With time and practice you might be able to apply those instructions to your movement and differentiate between less efficient and more efficient movement patterns, which will allow you to achieve greater results and feel more energetic.
‘Our body moves as our mind moves. The qualities of movement are a manifestation of how the mind is expressing through the body at any moment…movement can be a way to observe the expression of mind through the body, and it can also be a way to affect changes in the body mind relationship.’ – Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
5. Less is more.
One of the rules of thumb in Pilates is: as much as necessary; as little as possible. We often tend to overwork our bodies; overloading one part of our system and overlooking the other. Pilates encourages you to work both hard and smart.