Pilates – what’s it about?

Pilates is an exercise methodology named after the founder Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s. Joseph originally called his work “Contrology.” He considered this to be a body-mind-spirit approach to movement. There are 6 principles applied to all movements. I have listed these in a section below called “Pilates – The 6 Principles of Exercise”

Yoga or Pilates?

I often get asked “should I do yoga or Pilates? which is best?” My answer is that yoga and Pilates compliment each other and there is some overlap but there are also many differences.

Many Pilates movements can trace their origin back to yoga poses. In Pilates we tend not to hold poses like we do in yoga – although sometimes we might! Pilates exercises are more dynamic and repetitive but we do also flow from one pose to another in yoga. With the classic mat based Pilates most exercises are done sitting or laying down. In yoga I always use standing postures and then come down to the mat for seated postures. Having said that I also build leg work into my Pilates classes as it is essential to maintain good knee stability and balance. Pilates has a larger focus on the core than yoga – but yoga still works the core! Overall I would say that Pilates is more accessible if a person has not exercised for a long time. If you are a regular exerciser then it comes down to a personal preference and what you are looking to achieve. Have a read of the Yoga page under the heading “Yoga – what’s it all about?” to get a flavour of yoga. Why not try both?

In Pilates we sometimes use props to assist an excise and make it easier or used in a different way to make an exercise harder. Expect to use a small soft Pilates ball, small weights, resistance bands, belts and blocks.

Pilates – Benefits

Pilates brings many benefits similar to yoga. Joseph Pilates once said ““In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body”. He was referring to students coming in 3-4 times per week so expect to do some homework outside of class to get the changes you are looking for, if you are only coming to class once per week.

Expect to strengthen and lengthen muscles. You will move joints through their full range of motion to keep joints healthy and lubricated. You will build a mind body connection to understand how your body works and where you have weaknesses and stiffness as well as where you are strong and getting stronger.

We work on balance, strength, fine muscular control and flexibility. We will weight bear through the upper body to help maintain bone density. Pilates helps to build focus and concentration. Potential for injury is reduced when joints are strong and stable and muscles strong yet flexible, bones strong and balance is good.

Through correct technique and improved posture you will learn to engage the correct muscles to protect the spine in everyday movements for example lifting (think shopping bags in the boot of the car), twisting (reversing the car), reaching for the top shelf, bending to pick something up.

By working on flexibility and core strength Pilates is a great addition to any sports program. Stability through the core is crucial in everyday movement but even more important in sport when huge forces are used to power a swing, throw, stroke, or leap (by core I mean the entire trunk; back, front and sides). Maintaining stability through the core helps to deliver more power to the swing, peddle stroke or throw; less power is lost through wobble and sideways movements.

Pilates – What to Wear and Bring

Pilates is traditionally done bare foot. Grippy Pilates/yoga socks can be worn but normal socks are not recommended as the feet can slip on the wooden floor or inside the socks during some exercises.

Please wear comfortable clothing with stretch that allows your joints to move. We will be bending, stretching, laying down on front, back and side and rolling, so avoid zips. Workout/running leggings and a t-shirt or workout top are a good option.

Please bring a water bottle and stay hydrated during the class.

How much is it?

Group sessions – max 6 per class: £14 each bookable in termly blocks (normally 6-12 weeks per block depending on term dates)

Missed sessions can be caught up during the term at one of the other sessions by arrangement.

One-2-One session £65

Buddy sessions: 2 per class £40 each, 3 per class £27 each.

Pilates – The 6 Principles of Exercise

1. Centering: This concept is defined as physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, the powerhouse area between the lower ribs and pubic bone. Cues given are “zipping up“, “center yourself”, “engage your powerhouse”. I often break it down into separate instructions to “breathe in, pull up on pelvic floor and pull navel to spine”. Each movement starts from this centering and you should rest for a breath when you feel those muscles tire. Performing exercises without correct centering is to be avoided as it can result in injury and training your muscles in the wrong way.
2. Breath: Joseph Pilates advocated using a very full breath in his exercises. He spoke about thinking of the lungs as a bellows, using them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. In Pilates we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath. Different breath patterns can be used to change the difficulty of an exercise. We never hold the breath in Pilates.
3. Concentration: Each movement has a lot going on. We have to concentrate and keep a part of the brain on the center, a part on the breath and a part on the moving limbs. Without concentration you lose the method and the benefits. Full attention and full commitment to each exercise gives the best results. 
4. Control: We aim to complete every Pilates exercise with complete muscular control. Each part of the body has a role, either to stabilise and remain still or to move with fluidity and precision and it’s all being controlled from the mind using your concentration. 
5. Precision: In Pilates there is an appropriate place, alignment and angle for each part of the body within an exercise. I often give cues encouraging the attention to various areas to help students achieve correct alignment and understand when they may be fatiguing so that precision and therefore benefits are being lost. I call these “ precision markers” If you reach a point where you lose the precision marker cue please stop and rest for a breath or two then rejoin. It’s quality over quantity every time!
6. Flow: Once we have mastered the first 5 principles we aim to flow the movements. This takes great concentration and muscle control as well as strength and flexibility to achieve. Flow is our goal for each movement and may not be achieved in your early sessions as it takes time to master the other 5 principles which underpin it.