Many people ask me why I chose Pilates and what the difference is between practicing this and Yoga.
For me Pilates has changed my life dramatically from my movement, strength and even to the core shape of my body.
However when I first heard about Pilates many years ago, I wasn’t immediately sold – as I thought then, as many people still do, that Pilates is a gentle stretch and tone workout mainly for women and dancers. As I prefer strong, power and strength in my workouts I thought Pilates could never provide this.
My first Pilates class was a wakeup call for me, as not only did it highlight to me many of my physical imbalances, but it also showed that though physically strong I could not do most of the exercises.
So I researched and found that Pilates was started by a man for men, and his clients were mainly boxers and gymnasts, and other hardcore athletes. Pilates was originally taught as a tough workout.
The more classes I took, the more physical changes I noticed and the stronger I became. I was hooked.
As I embarked on my journey as an instructor and mentor for other Pilates students, I decided to approach all of my classes with the same power and strength as it was originally taught.
One of the main benefits of Pilates is that it focuses on lengthening to strengthen your body. The exercises focus on muscles that we already have and uses them, in many cases correctly, for the very first time. Yoga in comparison stretches to strengthen.
To highlight this, I often use the analogy of a small tree growing. As it first grows, it leans over, although it is very flexible and mobile (this is what Yoga gives you), it cannot stand unassisted, as it has no foundation. If we put a stake next to it, then it can stand up. To me this is what Pilates does; it gives your body support and strength. It lengthens and therefore strengthens muscles such as those in your abs, between your vertebrae and hips providing you support. In fact it works all the muscles that ensure your movement health as we age.
So it is important to remember that flexibility does not mean strength. So while Yoga gives you flexibility it doesn’t mean that you will have support and strength
Pilates also reminds the body how to move correctly and in sequence and in fact improves movement in all activities and sports including yoga.
This is a reason that now most professional athletes now incorporate Pilates into their training regimes. Following Pilates training, as a tennis player serves for instance, his spine and ribs will follow one after the other like a string a pearls in order to maximize his movement. Injury often results when this sequencing is not undertaken.
I have also found that Pilates changes your body in a very short period of time. Obviously if you start using various muscles correctly then they will strengthen and simple changes like tightening around the waist become very noticeable in a short time. For me after years of hardcore training, various aches in my lower back, knees and shoulders all started to go away.
I actually feel that everyone should be undertaking some Pilates work in conjunction with whatever other training that they do. Apart from all the benefits that I have mentioned, more importantly it will provide the basis for a healthy body as we age. Most of Joseph Pilates original students, for instance, were still practicing Pilates both on the Mat and in the Studio well into their 80’s.
Should I be doing Pilates?
For me the answer is simple. Yes. A little test.
If you are doing any sports or activity, or even if you are not, if you cannot answer YES to the following questions, and don’t engage them in your life or as you do any current activity, then you should definitely be doing Pilates.
Do I know my correct body stance and alignment? Do I know the position for my neutral pelvis?
Do I know the position of my neutral spine?