Pilates… by now we all know what Pilates is and what it can do for our bodies. Gain coordination, flexibility, balance, core strength, build muscles with resistance and assistance, etc. 10 years ago trying to explain to people what I taught was a huge task, trying to get them to pronounce it correctly was a whole other ball game. :) Flash forward to now, teaching and explaining is definitely a lot easier but occasionally I will get people who have never heard of Pilates or its benefits. Only makes teaching a little more fun and a little more challenging but that’s why instructors teach to see the results they give their clients and students. To watch them grow and develop, to become more confident with their form and bodies, even to become pain-free.
But why should it be apart of everyone’s workout routine? Keep reading to find out! :)
Have you ever watched a baby suck on their toes, or a 5-year-old place their head on their knee effortlessly? How about a ballet dancer or gymnast contort themselves into the most pain-thought provoking positions you’ve ever seen and you still say to yourself I wish I could do that? Or how about an athlete or some one that has a Pilates or even Yoga practice do something as easy as bending from the waist and placing their hands on the flat to the floor without hesitation. (But you think to yourself “yea if I did that I’d rip a hamstring or there is no way that will ever happen! But I still wish I could do it!) :)
As we age through our life cycle, our bodies continually change from coming down the birth canal to becoming elderly. Each step in our life requires a body fundamental that is continually changing throughout the course of our lives and it goes along with what activities you decide to do from age 5 to age 95.
So lets start from the beginning as a baby and a child you naturally have the flexibility and pretty good balance because you haven’t developed any bad habits yet and your center of gravity is closer to the ground. Go to a child in 4th grade, now for the past 4-5 years you’ve been sitting at a school desk for a good 6 hours a day/ 5 days a week. The muscles that used to be in continual movement have now become stagnant and the muscles begin to shorten and tighten. Next look at a child in high school, now puberty has begun so you’ve added more years of sitting, growth spurts, hormone changes, maybe they’re not as active anymore with sports or activities and sitting more in front of the TV or playing video games. 20’s-40’s most people are driving cars with a lot of travel involved, sitting behind a desk 5-6 days a week, even sitting with computers 15-18 hours a day. The posture has now completely changed, causing us to have tighter hamstrings, low back pain, rounded shoulders, forward head, maybe an injury has caused a complete muscle imbalance throughout the whole body. See the pattern here…
Getting into middle age, we have wear and tear on the joints and muscles, making it more prone to injury, joint replacements, and surgery, menopause for women cause complete body changes from excess body fat and weight gain to muscle and bone loss, even multiple pregnancies can alter the bodies form as well. As we get older and even more elderly we face the every day challenge of losing our balance, lack of coordination, agility and flexibility go quickly, muscles and bones lose a lot of strength, and then injuries and falls often happen when these things start to fade.
So how does Pilates help from childhood till the day your body just says it’s done? By incorporating Pilates into your weekly routine you can reverse muscle imbalances, poor posture, develop core strength to increase balance and coordination. A strong core keeps you upright and center of gravity level so that you’re less likely to fall. Pilates is low-impact great for people with weakening bone density or osteoporosis because it’s weight-baring (You just have to know your limitations when it comes to having health concerns like osteoporosis. That’s why you always want to have a certified instructor before you jump into a class or sign up for any kind of workout)
Pilates can rehabilitate an injury, prevent injury, and it develops body awareness. Not everyone is built the same or have the same fitness levels. Pilates allows for a range of any limitation, injury, disease, or illness. It was designed for men but women tend to embrace it more. But men can achieve huge goals and levels through out their practice just as easily as women. Pilates can change and improve your abilities of any desired sports, activity, and every day functional movement.
Remember it is a practice, it takes time to reverse imbalances, injuries, improper muscle development. Muscles do have memory, they will go back to where they should but with Pilates it becomes a lifestyle something you have to continue to do, there is no quick fix, but there is change that you can see with in the first 5-10 sessions or classes you begin to take. So ponder the next time you’re the gym thinking about the Pilates class you’ve always wanted to take, or passing the window of the new studio right down the street from your house, don’t worry about the most flexible person in the class and if you’ll ever get to the point of putting your head to your knee again. Focus on feeling better, what goals you want to accomplish, living pain and injury free, as an active healthy person living a long life!