"Pilates is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work" - Joseph Pilates
Pilates classes help to build strength and flexibility, with an emphasis on lengthening the body and aligning the spine, rather than on building muscle mass.
The focus of Pilates is on the "powerhouse" region of the body which includes the muscles of the abdominals and the lower back. Because of its focus, Pilates has become popular not only in the field of fitness, but also in rehabilitation. It can be used to progress individuals through movements that represent their day-to-day activities.
The focus on strengthening the core/powerhouse muscles and improving postural awareness are especially well indicated for the alleviation and prevention of back pain.
Pilates follows principles based on a well-constructed philosophical and theoretical foundation. It is not merely a collection of exercises but a method, developed and refined over more than eighty years of use and observation. While Pilates draws from many diverse exercise styles, there are certain inherent ruling principles that bring all these elements together under the Pilates name. One interpretation of Principles: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breathing, and Flowing Movement.
Mind over matter
The central element of Pilates is to create a fusion of mind and body, so that without thinking about it you will move with economy, grace, and balance; using your body to the greatest advantage, making the most of its strengths, counteracting its weaknesses, and correcting its imbalances. The goal is this: to produce an attention-free union of mind and body, the method requires that you constantly pay attention to your body while you are doing the movements. Paying attention is so vital that it is more important than any other single aspect of the movements or the method.
Joseph Pilates believed in circulating the blood so that it could awaken all the cells in the body and carry away the wastes related to fatigue. For the blood to do its work properly, it has to be charged with oxygen and purged of waste gases through proper breathing. Full and thorough inhalation and exhalation are part of every Pilates exercise. Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation. “Squeeze out the lungs as you would wring a wet towel dry,” he is reputed to have said. Breathing, too, should be done with concentration, control, and precision. It should be properly coordinated with movement. Each exercise is accompanied by breathing instructions. Joseph Pilates stated, “Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly”.
Pilates called the very large group of muscles in our center - encompassing our abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks - the “powerhouse.” All energy for Pilates exercises begins from the powerhouse and flows outward to the extremities. Physical energy is exerted from the center to coordinate one's movements. Pilates felt that it was important to build a strong powerhouse in order to rely on it in daily living.
Pilates demands intense focus. For instance, the inner thighs and pelvic floor may be accessed when doing a standing exercise that tones the triceps. The beginner learns to pay careful attention to their body, building on very small, delicate fundamental movements and controlled breathing. In 2006, at the Parkinson Center of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland , the concentration factor of the Pilates method was being studied in providing relief from the degenerative symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Joseph Pilates built his method on the idea of muscle control. That meant no sloppy, uncontrolled movements. Every Pilates exercise must be performed with the utmost control, including all body parts, to avoid injury and produce positive results. It's not about intensity or multiple repetitions of a movement, it's more about proper form for safe, effective results.
Every movement in the Pilates method has a purpose. Every instruction is vitally important to the success of the whole. To leave out any detail is to forsake the intrinsic value of the exercise. The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Eventually this precision becomes second nature, and carries over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
Pilates mat exercises are supposed to be performed fluidly. There are no static, isolated movements. Concentration and body awareness replaces the quick, jerky movements of other exercise regimes. Grace of motion is emphasized over speed; ultimately the movements are meant to feel as fluid as a long stride or a waltz. Uniformly developed muscles are then developed to compliment good posture, suppleness, and natural grace. However, with the usuage of the apparatus, clients will need to take at least some time to adjust their equipment settings and props.