Exercise is seen in two ways, as a task or as something you enjoy doing in your free time. This goes without saying that exercise generally fatigues your body as you are doing an activity that requires increased physical effort.
If you see exercise as a task, you don’t have to. There are many forms of exercise that are both beneficial and fun. If you’re really looking to target your deep inner muscles and strengthen them with a routine that requires you to hone in on your mind-body connection, Pilates is the exercise of choice.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that requires you to utilize your mind-body connection, making slow and controlled movements that target your muscles for strength and toning.
Pilates can be beneficial when it comes to creating lean, toned muscle. People who do pilates benefit from strong pelvic floor muscles, decreased lower back pain, better posture, improved performance and better mindful thinking when it comes to mental health. The overall goal is that you are strengthening your muscle groups by improving their stability, strength and flexibility.
How Does Pilates Strengthen Your Muscles?
The core is often highlighted as the main muscle group targeted during Pilates, but Pilates targets other muscle groups as well such as your lower back muscles, lower body, upper body (shoulders, arms, back) and pelvic floor. The amount of muscles pilates targets make it a well-rounded and beneficial exercise choice.
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support and stabilize the organs surrounding your pelvis. It can often be weakened by heavy lifting, pressure and pregnancy. The pelvic floor muscles aren’t a popular group of muscles to target, but maintaining a strong pelvic floor can be beneficial when it comes to improving your sex life, reducing lower back pain, maintaining healthy bladder control and reducing cramps.
How to Pair Pilates with an Overall Healthier Lifestyle
If you’re looking to establish a better and healthier mind-body connection while strengthening, stabilizing, and toning your muscles, Pilates is the exercise to consider. Physically, you will notice leaner, sculpted physic, but just like any other form of exercise, results come not just from exercise but from a healthy relationship with food too.
Many individuals might also consider yoga, with the main difference being that yoga offers a more meditative and spiritual experience, which might be of greater interest to some individuals.
Where and How to Do Pilates
When it comes to technique, there are two main ways to do Pilates. You can use an exercise mat or you can use a machine called a reformer.
When using a reformer, you are under the supervision of an instructor (if you don’t own one at home), and they will guide you through intense movements at a greater level of resistance from the machine. Oftentimes, more advanced levels will utilize the reformer, but contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t make it better than the mat.
The mat offers benefits, as you can control the intensity by choosing to use your own bodyweight or utilizing equipment such as workout bands, weights and a Pilates ball. It’s all up to the individual and how he or she chooses to work out.
Some movements that Pilates focuses on are creating a C-shaped curve during certain workouts which will improve the flexibility and stability of your spine. It is also common to imprint the spine, which involves flattening your belly button in towards the spine so that the back is flat and the rib cage is down, allowing for greater lower back support and more engagement of your obliques.
Footwork is important for slow, controlled and effective movements. Pulsing and curling movements are often utilized when targeting the arms. Hundreds are one of the most common pilates movements which focus on controlled breathing in and out while stabilizing your core.
When doing Pilates, you can go to a gym that has a reformer, or you can do it at home with a mat and guidance from an instructor on Youtube. On Youtube, Lottie Murphy, Move with Nicole and Blogilates are well-known channels.
If you try out pilates, let us know what you think @VALLEYmag on Twitter