As most of you know, my background is in yoga and meditation. These modalities have helped my body, mind, and spirit for several decades – so when my stepmom kept talking about having similar benefits from her Pilates practice, I got curious.
The first Pilates class I took seemed too much like the group fitness classes that I used to take at the gym when I was in my early 20s. To be honest I didn’t love it, so having my mind made up – from that singular experience – I decided Pilates wasn’t for me. I know that’s a pretty narrow-minded way to approach things, but that’s how I used to operate. In retrospect, I now know that it was the teacher and her teaching style, not the actual methodology of Pilates, that I didn’t vibe with. The Pilates Method and its principles are something I’ve since discovered are totally worth giving another chance.
Originally called Contrology, Joseph Pilates came up with the method that was renamed Pilates after Josephs’ death in 1967. Born in Germany in the late 1800s, Joseph Pilates was considered a frail boy who suffered from several ailments including rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever (a disease that occurs if strep throat or scarlet fever aren’t treated properly, affecting the joints, skin, brain, and heart). His desire to overcome these conditions ultimately led him to create this method of exercising.
In the 1920s Joseph and his wife, Clara, opened up their Body Conditioning Gym in New York City. Clara became the first official teacher in their studio, and through the years she helped train many other teachers in their tradition. Since then, hundreds of Pilates studios have been created worldwide, helping thousands of people gain strength and connect back to themselves.
So let’s talk specifics. In a Pilates mat class – which is the type you’ll find within the Taday Wellness membership – a huge focus is on the core. If you’re like me, I used to think of the “core” as being just the abdominal muscles. I was wrong. While the abs are a part of the core muscle groupings, other muscles lumped into this group are the front upper legs, the glutes (your buttocks muscles), and some back muscles. Some experts even include your diaphragm and pelvic floor into this grouping. Check out this graphic for a nice visual…
During a Pilates mat class, you’ll use whole body movements to re-educate movement patterns, build core muscle strength, and focus on spinal alignment. The exercises coordinate the movements and breath together, much as we do in a yoga class. And, again like a yoga practice, Pilates helps to develop functional and sustainable movement patterns within the body while remaining a low-impact form of exercise.
Having core strength is vital to our overall health and well-being. It’s a key factor in decreasing hip and back pain, improving posture, and building full-body strength. In addition to its core-strengthening benefits, the Pilates method also improves balance and circulation, boosts the immune system, reduces depression, fine-tunes neuromuscular patterns, increases bone density, and improves cognitive functioning. I don’t know any of us who doesn’t need more of all of these in our lives.
Because Pilates is low-impact and totally modifiable, this means that just about anybody can do the class. As long as you can get up and down off of the ground, you’re good to go. Have knee issues? No prob. Let your teacher know, and she’ll give you options to stay safe and happy. Weak core? Grab your mat and join the class. Got some back issues and feel uncomfortable during the class? Same here. So we’ll either discontinue that movement or tweak it to make it feel better.
It won’t take long for you to see and feel the dramatic results of your Pilates practice. As with just about everything, the hardest part is actually showing up. And since we make that oh-so-easy for you – just a couple of clicks on your device and you’re in, baby! – there’s really no excuse here.
We’re fortunate to have an incredible Pilates instructor on the TW team, and that’s the amazing Kristen P. You can check out my interview with her here, a breakdown of Pilates (and Barre) here, and even check out a video from the TW Video Vault here. And if you’re ready to take a live class – which I’d absolutely recommend – you can join Kristen’s class on Tuesdays at 9:30a Pacific Time.
Don’t let your mind talk you out of this type of movement. Just like yoga, Pilates will make you feel strong, healthy, and vibrant!