Pilates is a popular workout technique that has gained a reputation for improving posture, flexibility, and strength. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, the workout method focuses on specific movements and breathing patterns that target deep muscle groups in the body.
The Guiding Principles
To effectively do Pilates, you have to understand the fundamentals and philosophy behind the method. Joseph Pilates had a background in martial arts and therefore put many of those practices and fundamentals into the Pilates methodology.
Many other principles include Relaxation, Alignment, Coordination, and Stamina, however they all are very similar and provide the same outcome.
There are two main types of Pilates techniques;
- Mat Pilates focusses on using your own body weight as resistance and stability. There are areas where small equipment can be incorporated such as a Pilates ball, Pilates ring, resistance bands, and Pilates block (which is generally used more to assist with posture through the various exercises).
- Reformer Pilates focusses on the use of specialised equipment such as the Reformer, Cadillac, and Wunda Chair. The equipment can intensify a Pilates workout whilst also allowing to simplifying the exercise with the sue of the resistance.
Both forms of Pilates can strengthen and support your posture, aid body conditioning and strengthen your overall body.
How does Pilates work?
Pilates works by targeting the core muscles in the body, including the abdominals, lower back, and hip muscles. These muscle groups work together to provide support and stability for the body, which can help prevent injuries and reduce pain.
The Pilates technique involves slow, controlled movements that require a great deal of concentration and focus. The exercises are designed to improve balance, coordination, and posture, while increasing flexibility and strength. The movements are also designed to be fluid and rhythmic, with an emphasis on proper breathing techniques.
The Breathing Technique in Pilates
The breathing process is a core fundamental in Pilates along with correct alignment and core engagement. The breathing technique used in Pilates is called lateral breathing also known as intercoastal or lateral thoracic breathing.
The breath is full and deep and is achieved by inhaling into the ribs, so the ribs expand laterally. The breathing uses the back muscles, thoracic muscles and the rib cage, that support the upper and mid back section. During lateral breathing the lower abdominal muscles tend to be engaged the entire time. Again this supports the spinal muscles. As lateral breathing is not a natural breathing technique, it does require practice and attending a Pilates class can help support you in the technique as it is so important whilst carrying out your Pilates practice. The breath ensures the core engagement at the right part of the movement.
Why Pilates Is Effective:
Pilates is effective for a variety of reasons, including.
Improved Core Strength: Pilates targets the deep core muscles of the body, which provide support for the spine and pelvis. This can help improve balance, coordination, and overall strength.
Increased Flexibility: Pilates movements focus on stretching and lengthening the muscles, which can improve flexibility and range of motion.
Better Breathing: Proper breathing techniques are an essential part of Pilates, which can improve lung capacity, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being.
Reduced Pain: Pilates movements can help reduce pain and stiffness in the body, particularly in the back, neck, hips, and knees.
Improved Posture: Pilates can help improve posture by strengthening the core muscles and aligning the spine.
The human posture does require mental awareness throughout the day. The daily activities that we carry out, being on the phone, working at a desk, reading a book, simple daily activities like these can impact our posture negatively, so requires mental check ins with our body to make slight adjustments.
Different Posture Types
There are a variety of posture types, and ou may notice this in yourself or others, some having a very slight variation of this whilst others having a significant difference.
Kyphosis / Rounded Shoulders
Kyphosis or rounded shoulders tend to be very common for most people. The kyphosis posture is where the shoulders roll inwards. This could be a variety of reasons from working at a desk all day, to more medical of Scheuermann’s disease, fractures, or osteoporosis.
Lordosis / Excessive curvature of lower spine
Lordosis is the term used when the curve of the lower back goes beyond the body’s natural alignment. Some degree of lordosis is fine, but when your hips an pelvis is further forward than the natural posture, it might be good to seek support. Similar to kyphosis there is no real reason why someone might get lordosis, it could be due to environmental factors, health, or genetic.
Swayback does tend to be confused with lordosis. There is definitely some similarities, however there are differences which cause them to be very different in the approach if trying to reset the body’s neutral alignment. Sway back when the pelvis tilts too far forward, causing the spine to curve excessively inwards, which in situations can mean that the person is likely to suffer from kyphosis as well because of trying to counterbalance the forward movement os the pelvis to then the rounded inward movements of the thoracic spine.
Scoliosis is where the spine twists and curves into the sides, rather than having a straight spinal cord. The person will tend to have a visible curved spine, could be leaning to one side and have uneven shoulders. There is the possibility of having back pain as adults, but generally young children tend to have scoliosis with some measures are put in place such as a back brace to ensure the spine doesn’t get worse as they grow.
Overall, Pilates is an effective workout technique that can help improve overall fitness and well-being. With regular practice and proper technique, Pilates can provide a range of physical and mental health benefits for individuals of all ages and fitness levels.