What is Pilates? 

So what is Pilates? A question that gets asked so frequently – people even suggest it’s the ‘same as yoga’. Not in my opinion! In my own words:

“Pilates is a body weight conditioning class focusing on mobility and core strength/stability. It is mostly mat/floor based, is low intensity and thoroughly works your internal muscles”. 

As I mentioned in a previous post – read here, about my journey on becoming a Pilates Instructor. Well, now at the end of April I have completed my first weekend and am now competent to teach as a student teacher in Basic Mat Pilates. The weekend was insightful, engaging, challenging and I learnt a lot. I wanted to write this post to answer some basic and really commonly asked questions…

What is Pilates? What are the benefits? Can I do it? Can I just do Pilates?

  • What is Pilates?

Pilates was originally thought out by a man named Joseph Pilates who originally named the method “Contrology” and was mainly focussing on the art of a controlled movement in order to overcome injury.

Wikipedia states “If practiced with consistency, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength and develops control and endurance in the entire body. It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, developing a strong core, and improving coordination and balance. The core, consisting of the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and hips, is often called the “powerhouse” and is thought to be the key to a person’s stability.”

I think this is a really well rounded way of describing the method. Pilates is low intensity and focuses on using the muscles you’ve already got in a controlled manor – which differs to more modern types of exercise such as plyometric and HIIT training. Because of this, it is more suited to people with lower ability levels and older people also.

  • What are the benefits?

The benefits differ between individuals, we all work slightly differently. However, the types of exercises we work on aim to tone and define the muscles, build strength from within and promote your wellbeing. It should be a relaxing class leaving you feeling mobile and energised but worked! Most classes will include a stretch and relaxation at the end also. People with limited mobility can benefit hugely and flexility is a big focus of Pilates; this may help to rehabilitate injury following being signed off by your Physio (not for everybody). It’s also been stated that back pain can be helped as well – several of my massage clients are proof of this, but of course this doesn’t apply to everyone.

  • Can I do it? Will it work for me? 

Unless you have any severe medical issues or injuries then Pilates should be fine for you. It’s very low impact and low intensity – you shouldn’t get a sweat on or feel your heart rate lifting dramatically. The focus is on the control of your breathing and activating the correct muscles; it’s challenging but not strenuous. The same with all classes applies – you can only do what you’re able to and some things you will find easier than others. Safety is paramount so just ensure you tell the instructor any limitations you have. There may be alternative exercises you can do or some you may want to miss out.

  • Can I just do Pilates? 

By this, I mean is Pilates enough? Something that I’ve been asked already; in my professional opinion, no. Pilates is fantastic for what it does but it won’t help you lose weight unless you’re doing 3 hours a day, every day. All exercise has it’s purpose, I believe a well rounded weekly exercise schedule consisting of (an example) a cardiovascular workout, a weights based workout, a Pilates inspired workout, and whatever else you enjoy will be the optimum for maintaining a good level of fitness. If you do 6 Pilates classes a week, yes you’ll be really good at Pilates and probably have great core strength, but you wouldn’t necessarily be fit enough to walk 10k. Balance is key.

Hopefully this post can be helpful on whether Pilates is right for you or not. You can only try! Always tell the instructor that you haven’t taken part before and disclose any health conditions or injuries you may have, and hopefuly they will help you throughout the class. I found Pilates really enjoyable, and I hope you will too!

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I took this photo on the morning of my course – Langstone Hotel, Hayling Island.
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