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A Beginner’s Guide to Pilates

Pilates is a method of exercise developed by German born Joseph Pilates in the early twentieth century as a means to heal his own body, which was ridden with illness. He learned that by integrating the breath, mind and body by what is referred to as “contrology,” participants could improve their state of health.

The original Pilates workout consisted of 34 exercises designed to target the core muscle groups, otherwise known as the body’s powerhouse. These exercises range from beginner to advanced and were practiced as a set series. Classic Pilates follows the original routine, while the modern version of Pilates allows for modifications to adapt to a variety of ages, abilities and needs. In addition, Pilates exercises have evolved to incorporate the use of equipment such as the Reformer and Pilates Cadillac.

Whether a beginner or advanced practitioner of the classic or modern Pilates method on the mat or on a machine, the benefits of this mind-body activity are extensive.

Such benefits include but are not limited to:

Improved Posture

Each exercise is carefully designed to balance the muscles of the core, which help keep us standing up straight. In today’s world, many of us spend a lot of time sitting or hunching over a computer, which can lead to poor posture. The Pilates method is an effective way to counteract improper posture habits. As an extra bonus, when we stand up straight, we look slimmer!

Reduced Back Pain

Good posture equals a healthy back. The more time we spend standing up straight the less time the muscles of our back spend overworking to compensate. With a strong core and a supple spine, we can manage to avoid nagging lower back pain.

Increased Energy

Joseph Pilates called the core the “powerhouse” for good reason. It is from this so-called powerhouse that we generate a lot of our strength and endurance for the activities we engage in. A strong core assists us in accomplishing some of the most daunting physical tasks; and this means we can get more done, workout longer, run farther, etc., before fatigue sets in to get the best of us. When we do more, we burn more, according to the quintessential weight loss equation (calories in minus calories out).
If you are ready to try Pilates for the first time, the following is a helpful guide that will give you an idea of what to expect in your first class.

Finding Your Core

It is important to understand how your core works with relationship to the rest of your body, for maximum results. Your Pilates instructor will help you “re-learn” patterns of movement to enhance your awareness of your powerhouse. This often takes more than one class to master, and is consistently reinforced throughout each class.

Breathing Method

As with any type of exercise, breathing is a huge component. In weightlifting for example, the exhale is during the exertion. In yoga however, the inhale is with the lifting and rising. In Pilates, you will learn how to breathe in such a way that supports and boosts core integration.
Results

A consistent Pilates practice results in many benefits, however one of the most pleasing benefits is a slim and slender waistline. Coupled with a healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise, Pilates tops the charts as one of the safest, most effective workouts practiced today.

Also read:

11 Benefits of Pilates

Yoga vs. Pilates: What is the Difference

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Lower Abs

View Beginner's Guide to Fitness Slideshow

March 9th, 2010

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