Pilates Q and A
What is pilates?
Pilates is an exercise method that challenges the mind, body and core. The exercises emphasize core strength, focused breathing patterns and body awareness stressing quality over quantity of movement. It combines the breath with fluid movements that relieve tension and stress while building long, lean and flexible muscles. The exercises strengthen the body without building bulk or placing stress on the joints using non-impact resistance.
Mat exercises are performed lying on the back (supine), lying on the abdominals (prone), lying supported on one side, and sitting vertical on top of the sit-bones. A complete pilates session will include exercises that incorporate flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation of the spine in order to work all the major mobilizing and stabilizing muscles of the body. In a session, you will perform a variety of dynamic movements that may include arm and leg circles, spine articulation, leg kicks and extensions, and even rolling like a ball on the mat. Pilates incorporates stretches and fluid movements into the strength exercises to increase range of motion in the joints and muscles.
Who created Pilates?
Joseph Pilates, a performer and boxer living in England, created Pilates during World War II as a means to heal his own ailments. He spent his time in internment camps creating matwork exercises and rigging springs to mattresses to create movement resistance equipment for the bed-ridden. He and his wife, Clara, continued to fine-tune their movement repertoire, which they originally called "contrology", and carefully trained instructors who would carry on their ideas and methods into the next millennium. Dance pioneers Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among the first to reap the benefits of Pilates. Since it was introduced, Pilates' work has branched into many methods and schools and continues to evolve.
How will I benefit from a Pilates workout?
Those who practice Pilates regularly are likely to enjoy increased lung capacity, improved circulation, pain relief, flexibility, balance, control, and joint health and improved posture. No form of exercise is appropriate for everybody, but Pilates is safe and effective for most people. Most of the exercises can be specifically modified for anyone from rehabilitation patients to professional athletes.
How much will it cost?
Pilates is most effective when taught by a qualified instructor in a one-on-one session. These sessions generally range from $35 for a trainee to $100 for a master or instructor trainer. Of course, you can also train with a friend of similar ability as a cheaper alternative. Pilates studios and health clubs often offer group mat and equipment classes for around $10 to $20. To get the most out of your workout, it is best to schedule a few private sessions with an instructor before joining a class to learn exercise modifications that are appropriate for your body. Because Pilates programs are designed based on a client's postural deviations, goals and fitness level, it is best to begin with an instructor who can identify muscular and flexibility imbalances and create safe exercises based on individual needs and goals. Private sessions, therefore, are recommended until you have gained the strength and coordination to perform the exercises correctly on your own.
Where can I find it?
Local health clubs and organizations such as park districts often offer mat classes as part of their group fitness program. Some employers even offer Pilates mat classes on-site during lunch breaks or at the end of the work day. Instructors who offer private sessions work in gyms, in Pilates specific studios or in-home. For more details on Pilates, you can visit websites such as www.stottpilates.com or www.pilatesmethodalliance.org .
Remember, strength and flexibility training are anaerobic and are most effective when used in conjunction with cardiovascular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet. Always obtain clearance from your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.