Most of us have heard of Pilates. The word conjures up a mix of associations: it’s like, some alternate form of yoga, right? Or, isn’t that the class my mom takes in her gym? Maybe you’ve taken a mat Pilates class once or twice, or bought an on-sale dvd workout, but did you know that Joseph Pilates created the Pilates reformer work in order to prepare the body for his mat program? Or, that he created this system way back in World War 1 as a method for rehabilitating injured British soldiers? Reformer Pilates, using a machine called the reformer invented by Joseph Pilates, has been a popular conditioning choice of athletes and dancers for decades and is just now gaining wider popularity. People are catching on to what the dancers always knew about Pilates; it provides an unparalleled workout which lengthens, strengthens, and balances the body, gets you using those tiny didn’t-even-know-they-were-there muscles, and is just more fun.
Is that a torture device?
One of the first questions people have when they step into a Pilates studio is, “What the heck is that machine?” The Pilates reformer can look daunting, yet in fact it is a brilliant invention which uses resistance through springs of different weights to provide a deep, dynamic workout that can be modified for any body. Joseph Pilates himself overcame Polio as a child through his own conditioning method, and after a career as a professional boxer and circus performer used his expertise to rehabilitate bed-ridden soldiers. Thus the reformer was born, a transformation of hospital beds from bed springs and a sliding carriage into the versatile machine we now use. In a reformer Pilates class there is no part of the body that is not challenged; a flow of exercises takes the body through a wide range of motion with an emphasis on core stability as the foundation for efficient movement. Over the course of a class, you can expect to feel a major burn, work coordination, flexibility, and strength you didn’t know you didn’t have, and break a sweat from the challenge of a balance alone. Much of the intensity of a reformer class comes from its emphasis on integrating breath, intention, precision, control, and alignment: Pilates provides an opportunity to work on our entire selves, not just go through reps. Joseph Pilates described his method as “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit”. In this way, it enables deep focus through ongoing practice which allows us to find greater balance and stability in all parts of our lives.
Is it only for rehab?
Many people discover Pilates when they are injured: a doctor, physical therapist, or friend suggests they try Pilates for rehabilitation and they become hooked long after their initial injury has healed. While Pilates is renowned for rehabilitation, if only they knew about Pilates before they got injured in the first place! Most of us realize we may not have the *best posture, or our lower backs sometimes (almost always) ache, or our balance could be better, but do we really know how good we could feel if we dedicated just a bit more time to helping our bodies function as they were meant to? Students almost always comment after their first reformer session that they feel “longer, stronger, and more balanced” and often look in the mirror to see if they actually got taller. I should probably be marketing no-surgery spine implants by this point, such is the reliable success of Pilates to create length and space through the whole body. Because working on the reformer demands such concentration and precision, Pilates heightens body awareness, body control, focus on alignment and muscle activation which will improve any person with a human body’s life. Whether you are a pro-athlete or it’s-March-and-I-still-haven’t-used-my-new-gym-membership, Pilates should be viewed as an investment in your body feeling and working better, experiencing less pain, and preventing injury before it happens by increasing balance and stability.
In the words of Joseph Pilates, “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body.”
Ok, I’m in. This stuff sounds great.
Wonderful! See you in class!!
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