What is Pilates?

Picture:  Pilates class kneeling on machines rowing

Pilates is a method of exercise that improves muscle control, flexibility, coordination, strength and tone through physical and mental conditioning. It works on the deep muscles of the spine, the most important structure in the body and the source of the nervous system. It is a fitness regime that combines stretching and strengthening exercises designed to work the entire body in fluid movements. Pilates work is concerned with the process itself. It works by building strength from the inside out and re-balancing the body. Through continuous involvement in the process of movement, the goal is reached by a natural evolution, in contrast to a forced result.

Pilates aims to create a balance in the body and is designed to cater to the needs of the individual. It is not just a series of exercises but a complete approach to developing body awareness and an easy physicality in day to day life. It requires commitment from both the teacher and the client as it takes time to improve and change the body's postural and alignment habits, and to develop the body's "center" in order to create a stable core for all types of movement. Through the process of regular classes, the body's structure realigns and a balance is achieved within the musculo-skeletal system. Eventually the body will move with maximum efficiency and minimum effort. As studio classes are generally small (2-5 people), a high level of personal attention ensures almost one-on-one training, maximizing a person's potential without risking injury.

Pilates is gentle yet focused exercise, with the potential to become aerobic in its advanced form. Pilates training stretches and mobilizes and is often used to rehabilitate injuries, making it popular with athletes, dancers and anyone who wants to develop their individual physique and physical potential. Pilates is an all-encompassing mind, body and spirit exercise - a whole approach philosophy that is often shared with other techniques such as yoga.

A class in a studio will involve working on specially designed equipment, primarily using resistance against tensioned springs, in order to isolate and develop specific muscle groups. Mat work utilizes a repertoire of exercises on a floor mat only. A mat work class should also have a small number of people in it. This type of class has become very popular in Health Clubs and gyms and is often compared to other forms of body conditioning. In fact, the Pilates mat exercises are generally more subtle than most conditioning classes.