What is Pilates: An Introduction For Beginners
Discover why we love Pilates and why we think you will too in this blog all about you guessed it, Pilates.
An Introduction to Pilates For Beginners
If you have bought our ethical activewear or follow us on social media, it’s more than likely that you will know we are big fans of Pilates. However if you are new to Pilates we have written this handy guide to teach you all about it.
Although yoga has become more and more 'popular' especially with the rise of social media, we want to tell you the many reasons we love Pilates and why we think you will too.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that improves postural alignment whilst increasing flexibility and strength. It targets the core although the whole body is tested during a session.
A Pilates class is usually between 45mins to an hour long and involves slow, precise movements whilst controlling the breath. It can be practised with or without equipment and it benefits all aspects of your body and your life - so really what's not to love? Let's go into a little more detail...
Who Founded It?
Pilates was founded in the 1920s by physical trainer Joseph, you guessed it, Pilates. Joseph Pilates was born in Germany and began his journey working as a circus performer, boxer and self-defence instructor.
During the war, he worked as a physiotherapist helping those who struggled to walk, to get back on their feet often using unheard-of and innovative techniques to get things moving. In the early 1920s, Joseph and his wife Clara moved to New York City where they opened their first body-conditioning gym in 1926.
Much of the studio featured equipment once used in Joseph’s rehabilitation work and the studio became popular with dancers and Broadway stars such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine.
Gradually word spread about Pilates and his method which soon became known as 'Contrology' described by Joseph as mental and physical conditioning often quoting the German philosopher Friedrich Schiller: ‘lt is the mind itself which builds the body’.
Joseph went on to publish books on his methods and train several apprentices in his practice known as 'The Pilates Elders' to share, teach and spread his technique around the world, from generation to generation. It wasn't until Joseph's death in 1987 did 'Contrology' become known as Pilates, named in his honour.
The Health Benefits of Pilates
There are so many reasons to practice Pilates, it is a great way to exercise and keep fit, but unfortunately, people often stumble upon it after an injury or as a last resort. Pilates has some incredible benefits that we think you should know about.
Pilates can help to:
- Improve flexibility, posture and stabilisation of your spine.
- Increase muscle strength.
- Improve flexibility, mobility, balance and co-ordination.
- Relax the upper back, shoulders and neck (particularly important for those of you who are at a computer all day).
- Increase lung capacity and circulation through the breath.
- Manage stress and increase mindfulness.
- Increase body awareness and concentration.
- Have positive effects on rehabilitation and the prevention of injuries.
- Can be used with a spine corrector to restore the natural curvature of the spine.
- Attending a group class can be a great way to meet new people and socialise.
- Can improve mental health and wellbeing.
- Treat lower back pain.
- Improve core strength, stamina and fitness levels.
The six guiding principles of Pilates
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last… above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” - Joseph Pilates
Like in yoga, the breath is an essential part of Pilates. Not only does it focus on the breath in each movement, but it shows you how to breathe properly. Pilates teaches you good postural habits and shows you how to breathe better and stronger using the diaphragm and the deep core muscles to get maximum effects.
“Pilates is complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit.”- Joseph Pilates
The slow, controlled movements of Pilates mean that concentration is of the highest importance. Joseph Pilates believed that focussing completely on the technique allowed for a better quality of movement and a deeper sense of self. We today know this as 'mindfulness'.
"Never slouch, as doing so compresses the lungs, overcrowds other vital organs, rounds the back, and throws you off balance." ~ Joseph H. Pilates
Centre refers to what Joseph Pilates coined, 'The Powerhouse'. The Powerhouse is the centre of your body starting from the bottom of your ribs to the bottom of your pelvis and this is where the magic happens. Training these muscle groups is a vital step in ensuring you are moving and breathing correctly with strength and stability and it is a fundamental technique of any Pilates practice.
“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.” - Joseph Pilates
There is a strong emphasis on control in Pilates practice. From controlling each movement to controlling the breath, but most importantly to Joseph it was the importance of controlling the mind. This allows students to re-establish the mind-body connection and for those who are injured, it helps to acquire new movement patterns that will eventually stick.
“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour.” - Joseph Pilates
Unlike yoga or other forms of exercise, Pilates is very precise, and it is for this reason that we design our ethical Pilates clothes so that you and your teacher can see how your body moves in each posture. Precision is key in the Pilates technique as it enables you to move correctly and from the right part of your anatomy so although it may seem tedious there is a reason for the repetition and perfectionism of Pilates.
“You're only as old as your spine.” - Joseph Pilates
Most importantly Pilates was created to help the body move with fluidity and ease. Moving fluidly from movement to movement is the goal and you should carry this with you wherever you go.
How can you practice it?
There are two types of practice for Pilates exercises one requires Pilates equipment and the other is mat work that you can do using just your body weight.
This type of Pilates is practised with bodyweight only. Its main aim is to condition the muscles to improve posture, balance, coordination and strength.
Equipment based Pilates
You may have seen a reformer machine before. If not, it looks like a bed on a movable carriage and allows you to load up on weights and other equipment to offer resistance and target deeper muscle groups.
Both types are great and it's your personal choice over which type to practice. Please note if you have injuries speak to your teacher first to find out which is most suitable for your needs.
What should you wear?
As Pilates is all about small precise movements, we suggest a more fitted outfit so you and your teacher can see how your body is moving.
We started designing our bamboo Pilates clothes because we couldn't find anything comfortable and flattering to wear for a class.
This is why all of our bamboo Pilates leggings come with clever, flattering details so that although they are more fitted, you still feel confident and comfortable wearing them. If you are practising a reformer or machine-based Pilates class this is even more important as you don't want anything to get trapped in the moving parts.
For the perfect Pilates outfit we would suggest our Flow with it or Move It Pilates leggings and either our Balance Pilates bra or you could try our Bend It Tree or our bamboo Conquer Cami all made with you and your practice in mind.
Pilates is suitable for everyone of all ages and is a practice that team Asquith swears by. You can find out more about some of our favourite Pilates teachers to practice with from home, our ethical Pilates clothes and more of our live-streamed classes here...
We used images of the lovely Elisa Withers, Founder of APPI in this blog. You can find out more about Pilates with Elisa and physiotherapy and Pilates education courses here...