A few years ago, you couldn’t go a day without someone mentioning Pilates. The exercise was an out-of-control craze, attracting the rich and famous, the long and lean and everyone in between. If you were a dancer, you were doing Pilates. Sick. Pilates. Pregnant. Pilates. Alive. Pilates. Then yoga exploded on the fitness world, and Pilates faded into the background. It lost its fame, its lure and a little bit of its luster, but it shouldn’t have. So, let’s take a few minutes to bring Pilates back to the limelight.
Created by Joseph Pilates in an attempt to strengthen his own frail health, the exercise revolves around eight basic principles: control, concentration, centering, breath, fluidity, precision, relaxation and stamina. As such, it combines yoga, dance and gymnastics with your more common, everyday gym exercises. Most of the movements are isometric, focusing on empowering your core muscles. This means that you will often find that your torso remains stable while the rest of your body is mobile. An example being the Hundred. In this pose, you lie on your back, with your toes pointed. You tuck your chin and lift your head and shoulder blades off of the mat, followed by your legs. The center of your body remains static. This exercise and the ones that accompany it combine to create a routine surging with benefits.
The most obvious is of course strength. With each movement and repetition, you grow stronger; however, you don’t grow bigger. Pilates builds your flexibility and endurance without adding bulk. As a result, you look long and lean, and more erect. You have, thanks to the continual focus on your spine, considerably improved posture. And as an added bonus, you’re calmer. Like yoga, Pilates relies on a mind-body connection that slows your heart rate, relieving stress. Therefore, at the end of a Pilates class you have not only bettered yourself physically but mentally as well.
What are you waiting for? Make room for Pilates in your yoga-loving life. You’ll get just as many benefits with a little variation.
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