What is Pilates, Anyway?
It’s a question we get often, and one we’re more than happy to answer! Pilates is a form of exercise that builds strength, increases flexibility, increases endurance and improves posture – all without placing any stress on the joints.
History Of Pilates
Originally called Contrology, Pilates was created by a man named Joseph Pilates to help WWI prisoners of war recover from their injuries. After moving from Germany, he settled in New York and began training ballet dancers to help improve their overall performance. Joseph placed great emphasis on the linking of mind and body through breath work and sequential movements. Each exercise stemmed from deep within, strengthening the smallest of muscles that serve the biggest purposes within the body. Today, Pilates is still deeply rooted in its origins. With time and research, it has grown to adapt to all body types, spinal mobilities, and levels of flexibility. What was once reserved for the most elite is now accessible to all.
What Makes Pilates Different
Pilates targets what is commonly referred to as the “powerhouse” – your abdominals, pelvic floor, the muscles surrounding the hip joint and your back muscles. Each exercise is initiated from the core, even those performed by the extremities. In a typical gym setting, many people execute bicep curls by picking up a set of weights. They then proceed to bend and stretch their arms at the elbow joint. With Pilates, bicep curls take a little bit more prep work. We first begin by stabilizing the core, the pelvis, the rib cage, the shoulder blades, and the head. The bicep curl is then initiated with a stabilizing breath – allowing the body to stay in correct form while performing the movement. This careful execution prevents injuries and ensures that the entire body is involved.
Who Can Practice Pilates?
Pilates can be modified from exercise to exercise to suit each individual who walks through our door. While no exercise system is perfect for every single person, Pilates can be adapted ad infinitum to accommodate almost every body type. The STOTT Pilates method practiced at Body First places a strong emphasis on proper alignment and optimal muscle activation, utilizing various props to ensure that people are moving from a place of safety. Each class, you’ll find our teachers running from one end of the room to the other to reach each individual. While it may look like they’re getting their cardio in for the day, they’re actually racing to correct each client’s position to ensure that everyone is properly executing each exercise.
Purpose of Pilates
We often hear “when is this going to get easier??” This is frequently stated after a particularly difficult exercise. Much to their dismay, our teachers answer pointedly: never. The better you become at Pilates, the harder Pilates seems; however, don’t let that deter you! In fact, it should be a statement that motivates you. The more you practice, the greater your mind-body connection becomes. This connection sharpens your ability to focus on each minute muscle, teaching you to turn off the larger muscles. You’ll learn to hone in on your stabilizing muscles, helping you to increase your strength and decrease your ability (read: willingness) to cheat. While Pilates may seem to get more and more difficult, you’re actually just becoming more and more proficient. That’s something that we love about Pilates. No matter what your level, length of practice, or overall goals, there is always room to grow.
Benefits of Pilates
After just one class, many often find that they sit and stand taller, move more gracefully, and have an even clearer sense of their bodies in space. This new awareness begins to follow you everywhere, in the most loving way. You’ll find that you stroll through the grocery store with less back pain, you can pick up your child with a straight back, you may even notice your knee pain has vanished when you bend down to weed your garden. It’s hard to really know how much you actually need Pilates until you start.
All Are Welcome
Many studios have multiple levels and require you to do three private pilates sessions before joining their studio. At Body First, our teachers are skilled at integrating you into our classes on day one. Most of our students have no idea what Pilates is until they see our sign out front. Whether you are an avid Pilates-practitioner, or simply starting out on this new journey, we would love to see you. Our classes are open to people of all experience levels, including those with zero previous experience.
For more information about classes at Body First, simply click here.