Pilates has gotten much attention in the past few years. This form of exercise, which just a decade ago was relatively unknown to most, is now the new craze, attracting men and women in droves to classes around the country.
Pilates is a well-rounded exercise routine, incorporating mind and body awareness, developed by Joseph Pilates early in the 20th century. Originally named "Contrology", then later named after its creator, a Pilates practice focuses on strengthening the core, improving postural alignment, and breathing and focusing on movement.
Each movement should be focused, precise and controlled, benefiting not only the core muscles, but strengthening from the core out and bringing awareness to the mind and body while performing each movement.
Students will find many benefits of practicing Pilates regularly. Some of the top benefits are:
- A toned physique. Pilates will strengthen the core muscles with each exercise. The core muscles are the muscles that support the abdominal muscles, lower back and pelvic floor. The movements not only focus on the core, but work from the core out, strengthening the shoulders, chest, glutes, arms, and legs, creating a strong body and a well-rounded workout.
- Increased flexibility. Pilates incorporates many stretches as part of the practice. Stretching will relax the muscles, improve range of motion for the joints, increase blood flow, and reduce the chance of injury. Stretching also removes the lactic acid build up that accumulates during exercise, thus eliminating, or at least lessening, muscle cramps that typically occur after exercise.
- You will look leaner. As your posture improves with the strengthening of the core muscles that support the spine, and the stretching that is involved in the practice, you will develop a longer, leaner appearance. Pilates creates long, supple muscles without the bulk.
- Increased energy. Exercise stimulates the muscles, gets the blood flowing and endorphins pumping. Add in the deep breathing involved with Pilates and feel the boost of energy flowing into the body.
- Available to all fitness levels. Whether you are new to exercise, recovering from an injury, or an elite athlete, your practice can be tailored to suit your needs. There are different levels of modifications for every move, which can make the move more challenging or less intense. People of all fitness levels will benefit from the core-strengthening, the focus, the breath and the mind/body approach.
It is always a good idea to begin a Pilates practice with a trained instructor. Once you are comfortable and understand the basics, there are many different avenues one can take to continue the practice. Classes are easy to come by, videos can be viewed and information can be read in books and online.
There are basic mat classes and there are classes that involve props, such as the stability ball, the ring, the roller and the strap. There are also mixed classes that may incorporate weights or yoga. Try different types of classes and find what appeals to you most. Whatever type of class you choose, remember to appreciate the time you are taking to strengthen your mind and your body.
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