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Pilates is a form of full-body activity that requires strength and balance. Different to yoga, Pilates is mostly performed on a mat. It works all or multiple muscles at the same time being different to isolation exercises as well.

If you want to enjoy a gentle exercise that could still strengthen the body, then you may want to consider Pilates.

This uses the idea that it is possible to strengthen the body using simple motions. There are several basic principles to Pilates, which include breathing control, concentration, centring the body and flow of movement.

These principles, when combined together, help to build core strength and enhance the balance and power of the user’s form.

There are some health benefits that can be gained from doing Pilates, and there is also a general increase in fitness which is generated by the building of strength in the shoulders, back and hips.

Pilates and Breathing

One of the most important principles of Pilates is that of breathing control. It is essential to the Pilates method, and is believed to cleanse and invigorate the mind. The method of breathing is to forcefully exhale, pushing out as much air as possible, and then fully inhaling.

The breathing method focuses upon the lower ribs, and is sometimes known as posterior lateral breathing, where most of the breath is focused upon the sides and back of the rib cage.

The exhalation is also used to improve the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. In many ways, breathing is the main focal effort of Pilates, and it is important to get this method right.

  • Encourage proper breathing – breathing right cannot be understated when it comes to exercise and the right Pilates routine.  You’ll learn how to master breathing in a Pilate’s class and put it to work in all aspects of your life.
  • Improve balance – Pilates will improve the balance in your life, both physically and in the spiritual sense.

Pilates and users

One of the main benefits of Pilates has been shown to be the benefit to those suffering from lower back pain, but Pilates can also be performed by all ages, regardless of fitness levels and ability. The user can choose to simply make use of a yoga mat for the exercises, or they can purchase some of the more advanced Pilates equipment which uses pulleys to provide resistance and support to the user while they are exercising.

  • Gently work out – a Pilate’s routine is gentle on your body and your mind but it still helps get you into shape.  This is a low impact exercise that is good for those who can’t tolerate a workout or heavy exertion.
  • Strengthen your core and bones – a Pilate’s routine strengthens your core with low impact tenacity.  Through weight-bearing Pilates you can also build bone strength which is helpful as you get older.

Pilates and recovery

One of the biggest reasons that athletes and other fitness fans choose to use Pilates is that it benefits their recovery times, and can help them to recover from serious injury or illness through the use of gentle, repetitive exercise. There are many suggestions about the different benefits of Pilates on those suffering from aches and pains, or those who have had injuries that require long recovery times. While most of these claims have not been put out to the scientific community, there are many reasons why you should be able to generate great benefits in posture, balance and muscle tone.

  • Shorter recovery times – since Pilates is a low impact workout you’ll have less time in between for recovery.  This is also a great workout if you’re limited in just how much you can handle in terms of physical exertion.

Pilates and weight loss

Although Pilates may not have any direct claims to being able to help you slim, in many ways it can be a very useful tool. Pilates can help to tone the body, and will strengthen the core muscles which can make working out much more comfortable. Combined with a suitable diet, you could successfully lose weight on Pilates by becoming more generally active.

Pilates is characterized by ‘flow’ a certain tempo for the movements. Flow is influenced by strength, experience and even breathing.

Pilates studios

Pilates practice is normally tied to Pilates studios or gyms. The sport is performed in group classes. A typical Pilates class can have as little as 5 participants and as many as 30 participants. The sport is either seen as physical activity on its own or as a complementary sport for those who want to focus on other types of training apart from fitness.

Pilates memberships

Pilates memberships offer limited or free access to Pilates studios and classes. Memberships are paid similarly to those at the gym per month or training session. Many studios offer packs of 5 Pilates sessions. Other studios offer a limited number of access to classes per week. Full membership offers unrestricted access to all Pilates classes in each month.

Pilates workouts

Pilates workout is split into various exercises. From leg circles to the pendulum, Pilates exercises are among the ideal movements for complete full-body workouts. Pilates classes are also held online for those who can’t make it to the studio.

Pilates clothing

Clothing for Pilates needs to be fitted. Loose clothing might also work for some participants, but form-fitting fitness clothes are ideal to see your body’s movements correctly.

  • Tights – Tights are ideal for Pilates. Polyester and spandex are the main materials used in tights for Pilates. These materials are moisture-wicking and highly stretchable.
  • Tanks – Tanks are ideal tops for Pilates. They offer the level of stretch and freedom needed to perform all types of routines. These tanks can be swapped from Pilates to yoga for maximum versatility.
  • Sports bras – Sports bras are made with breathable materials with a fitted cut. They can be worn with athletic clothes such as tanks or elastic T-shirts.
  • Shorts – Shorts are the ideal alternative to tights in Pilates. Since participants don’t wear socks to Pilates class anyway, shorts can be considered as an alternative to keep your legs cool even with the most complex exercises.
  • Pilates gear – There aren’t too many other products to purchase when practising Pilates. Studios typically provide all the gear participants need to get and stay in shape. However, some women prefer to practise Pilates at home. Here’s the minim gear for a Pilates setup.
  • Sitting gear – The sports is mostly performed on the floor. Therefore most products needed for Pilates are made to offer cushioning for sitting on the floor.
  • Mats – A Pilates mat is thicker than a yoga mat. It offers better cushioning and enhanced comfort with long workouts (30 to 45 minutes of training).
  • Reformer – A reformer is also used in Pilates studios. It’s a must-have purchase when doing Pilates at home. The reformer is a sliding platform. It adds complexity, resistance, and variation to your exercises. It also improves core stability since it slides across the floor.
  • Wunda chair – Designed with expandable handles, the Wunda chair is another option for Pilates gear at home. This versatile chair mostly supports suspended Pilates exercises.

The Main Benefits of Pilates

Pilates involves both the body and the mind. Controlled movements characterize the practice, and its benefits can be summarized as follows.

  • Improved fitness

Constantly working your muscles up to a few hours per week comes with improved fitness results. Pilates has the potential to help practitioners get in shape. From toning the body to getting very strong core and ab muscles, Pilates can be considered a viable activity for those who want to be fitter.

  • Better posture

Constant muscle control backed by respiratory system control makes Pilates ideal for posture. People practising Pilates can see posture improvements from the first sessions as they learn to understand the correct positioning of the body better.

  • Enhanced balance

Bringing in legs and arms together as well as controlling them at different angles requires good balance. Pilates practitioners are known for having excellent balance which might help make daily activities easier.

Common Mistakes in Pilates

Pilates might be a growing sport or physical activity. It has its fans, but beginners are often unsure of what to expect. It’s also beginner practitioners that tend to overlook breathing and even go with momentum instead of using their muscles to control movements and get fit while doing it. These are the main mistakes beginners make in Pilates.

  • Overlooking breathing

Controlled breathing is the foundation in Pilates. As in yoga, it’s almost impossible to perform a routine correctly when breathing in or breathing out at the right time. Pilates also strongly focuses on core activation. This includes breathing, ab muscles, and even the stomach in various movements. The more complex the movement is the more attention to the core and breathing technique is required.

  • Expecting results in 5-10 sessions

Pilates takes months and years to master. Specialized Pilates studios work on a membership basis that requires participants to attend classes for at least a month. Many beginners tend to give up on Pilates only after a few sessions. This is not sufficient to go through some of the main movements and exercises. Just mastering breathing techniques can come with a long learning curve.

  • Going with the motion

Going with the motion or with momentum is not characteristic of Pilates. Participants can’t follow a part of their body into a certain movement due to gravity. They need to control each movement. This is called ‘Contrology and it requires constant muscle activation.

Pilates is a complex sport combining the physical, mental, and often spiritual side of fitness. It doesn’t require too much fitness equipment which makes it ideal to practice both at home and in studios or gyms.

You can join Pilates communities online with a simple mat and comfortable fitness clothing. The rewards are often high resulting in better balance, enhanced fitness, and better mind-body communication.

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