Back in the 1920s, trainer Joseph Pilates introduced Pilates to America as a way to help athletes and dancers recover from injury and maintain their fitness. Years ago I practiced Pilates and loved how it made me feel and how it changed my body. I had been thinking of getting back into Pilates for a lot of last year and in January I finally took the plunge and dove back in. At my very first class I felt such relief and joy that I knew this is what my body and soul had been asking me for.
Pilates requires concentration and focus and it lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in your body in a balanced way. Since starting, I have reduced head, neck and shoulder pain which was becoming quite problematic (thank you Larry the metastatic brain tumor). I also notice my concentration has improved. Even though I religiously practice daily meditation, I find that the focus and concentration required in class, without access to my phone or the distractions of life, is unbelievably rejuvenating.
Just a few of the numerous health benefits of Pilates include:
- improved flexibility
- increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
- balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
- improved posture
- improved physical coordination and balance
- relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back
- improved concentration
There are a few ways to practice Pilates, but the classes I attend use the “reformer”, which is a sled that allows you to push and pull against spring loaded resistance. It is important to find a studio and teacher that you feel comfortable with. Anyone of any fitness level can participate, and finding a teacher that can help you modify the exercises to your level is key. Remember that we all start somewhere – do not let your fear of “not being good at it” stop you from trying something new.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent van Gough