Imagine an exercise program that improves strength and flexibilty while leaving your body svelte and your mind serene. The Pilates (pul-LAH-teez) method of exercise does all this and more and can be done right at home.
Pilates, founded by Joseph Pilates, is a method of exercising that involves strengthening and stretching. It develops and tones muscles, improves posture and flexibility, focuses on the mind & body relationship and reduces stress and fatigue. Aesthetically speaking, Pilates produces long, lean muscles like a dancer's body. Although Pilates is the exercise rage of the moment, true followers have been doing it for years.
Brooke Siler, owner of the re:AB studio in New York City, wrote the book The Pilates Body as "the ultimate at-home guide to strengthening, lengthening and toning your body without machines." Although hi-tech apparatus is a part of Pilates, since it was originally based on mat work, it can be easily done at home.
The mat work principles are based on:
- Concentration: Connect the mind and body. When you are working on an area, focus on that area.
- Control: Control your movements. NO sloppy movements. This is how injuries occur in other exercise methods.
- Center: The center includes the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks. This is your powerhouse. When performing mat exercises you should be constantly lifting up and working from the powerhouse. This helps protect your lower back.
- Fluidity: A focus on grace of motion is emphasized over speed. Eventually your movements will feel like the Waltz!
- Precision: Every movement has a purpose. Every instruction is important to the success of the exercise.
- Breath: By inhaling and exhaling fully, you are expelling stale air and replenishing your system with fresh air to revitalize your system. Use your breath to create a natural flow of movement, like a dancer. Often we tense up while exercising, hold our breath and push to the point of strain to achieve our exercise goals. This is what Pilates DOES NOT want you to do!
- Imagination: We can spur our bodies to action through creative thought.
- Intuition: Listen to your body. Do not force what is not natural.
- Integration: This is the ability to see your body as a whole. You will never isolate certain muscles and ignore others. Isolation creates an unbalanced body.
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