Pilates was originally termed Contrology by its founder Joseph Pilates. It is a system of movements that are intended to strengthen the human body and mind. Pilates is an art form through which we realign posture by correcting asymmetries throughout the body, effectively re-sculpturing the human form.
Pilates can be categorised into Reformer work and Mat work. The reformer is an apparatus that provides an external resistance to the exercises whilst during mat work you rely solely on your own body weight. Both are extremely beneficial for your overall health but due to the expensive nature of reformer work, it is mat based Pilates that you are likely to find yourself involved with.
As discussed previously in the article titled A movement based approach to psychological well-being, controlled movement in the body helps to enhance the attentional systems of the brain. Pilates helps to strengthen the pathways connecting the brain to the body, which in turn results in a much improved ability to move our body in an efficient manner.
Pilates much like Osteopathy is based on the belief that the body and mind are interrelated. In order to achieve a perfect harmony between the two the system of Pilates is practiced with the following six principles in mind :
Concentration – The exercises in Pilates demand a huge amount of concentration. The time spent focusing solely on mind-body awareness helps to develop a strong pathway between the two.
Control -Pilates encourages you to do each exercise slowly with a high amount of precision, as opposed to rushing through with incorrect form and posture.
Centring – Ensuring that the centre of the body (core) is well developed and able to support the rest of the body is of paramount importance to the Pilates system. Each exercise is designed to teach you to use the body as one integrated unit.
Breathing – The breath is treated as the engine of the body. Each movement is performed with correct breathing technique. The significance of this can be found in the article The Importance of Breathing.
Precision – This is the principle that makes the art of Pilates unique. It teaches to understand which muscles are required for which movements. This enables optimum movements and control in the body.
Flow – The ability to move gracefully during Pilates is a skill which is developed over time. It is the final component when striving for perfection in controlled movement. A master of Pilates will have what is described as “flowing motion outward from a strong centre.”
Now more than ever, Pilates can be used as a fix for everyday aches and pain. A large proportion of modern work involves prolonged periods of sitting still. This results in a constant state of oxygen deprivation and disproportionate muscle development. We all know that getting up to get a cup of tea or a short stretch feels good, this is because you are feeding your body with its natural instinct to move. Moving around causes an increase in muscular contraction which leads to more oxygen being pumped into your body and brain. The best way to keep your body healthy is to move it, so why shoot yourself in the foot?