I fell in love with Pilates the first time I did it.
It felt good, it felt like the right way to move and it felt like something that could allow endless progression. I also had an excellent teacher who challenged me. I practiced Pilates under several teachers for around 4 years before I gained my instructor qualification. Becoming a teacher has given me a whole new level of appreciation for the wonder of Pilates and the benefits everyone can gain from it.
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the mid-1900s and proved very popular with the dancers of the New York Ballet who were looking for conditioning and injury-prevention exercises. Pilates has grown and grown in popularity and seen a huge explosion of styles, methods and uses.
“In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.” Joseph Pilates
There are so many reasons why you should do Pilates and I will explain them below, but first things first, I want to debunk an idea that I often hear as an excuse for not doing Pilates.
You don’t have to be strong and flexible to do Pilates, you do Pilates because you want to improve strength and flexibility.
This is the same problem that comes up over and over with yoga too. The misconception is that when you see someone placing their body in a position that you can’t attain that they are somehow better than you and they have always been. They are not better than you. They just have a different body, different posture, different joint mobility and have probably been practicing for a lot longer.
Pilates was influenced by yoga and both encourage you to move your body in sync with your breath to create a mind-body connection that helps to soothe both. A key difference between Pilates and yoga is that Pilates will never require you to achieve the sort of pretzel-like positions you may see in yoga. And it’s worth bearing in mind next to you’re on Instagram, these positions may sometimes only be attained by people because they don’t have a healthy posture. So don’t be put off by your idea of what you’re suppose to look like, trust that a good teacher will be able to give you feedback on your body positioning that will allow you to address your postural imbalances. Who cares if you look different to the next person? It is a deeply personal process and there’s no benefit in comparisons.
Pilates aims to provide a balance between flexibility and strength and the ultimate aim is always good form. In the long term, Pilates is designed to improve your posture so that your body can move naturally the way it is supposed to. A lot of people are also put off because they think it will be boring but Pilates is something you should do alongside higher intensity exercise so that you can prevent injury by developing your postural awareness.
Here’s some scientific evidence of the efficacy of Pilates:
- Practiced regularly Pilates can help to develop core stability (K. Pumpa, K. Dzialdowski, M. Stiffle, L. Gavran. 2015. Pilates: Effective for Developing Core Stability, but Limited Sessions Have Limited Global Benefits. Journal of Fitness Research Volume 4).
- Pilates is as effective as conventional pelvic floor exercises (and in my opinion, less awkward) (Pedriali FR, Gomes CS, Soares L, Urbano MR, Moreira EC, Averbeck MA, de Almeida SH. 2016. Is pilates as effective as conventional pelvic floor muscle exercises in the conservative treatment of post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence? A randomised controlled trial. Neurourol Urodyn.)
- Pilates reduces postural imbalances and reduces risk of falls in older people (Laís Campos de Oliveira, Raphael Gonçalves de Oliveira, and Deise Aparecida de Almeida Pires-Oliveira. 2015. Effects of Pilates on muscle strength, postural balance and quality of life of older adults: a randomized, controlled, clinical trial. Journal Phys Ther Sci.).
- Pilates can help people with chronic lower back pain (Wells C, Kolt GS, Marshall P, Hill B, Bialocerkowski A (2014) The Effectiveness of Pilates Exercise in People with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE .)
Finally, if you find you don’t like Pilates I recommend you try different teachers. I’m young, strong and posturally aware and so an older teacher who is geared towards teaching older populations doesn’t really suit me. You might be out of shape, have an injury or just fancy something gentler so these teachers may suit you better. If you find the teacher for you you might just find it opens up a world of enjoyment. Don’t be put off by the idea you can’t get strong doing something that’s low intensity- I have gained my upper body strength from yoga and Pilates and I can do more press ups than most girls I know! And if you don’t enjoy it, well I guess you can’t win ’em all!
“Through the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind, and spirit can ever be attained. Self confidence follows.” Joseph Pilates