EVERYONE can do Pilates

How To Do Pilates

My own pic.

The Benefits Of Pilates

There are numerous benefits to be had from practicing any form of Pilates. Some of the main ones are stronger muscles, more flexibility of the muscles and increased mobility of the joints. This all leads to less risk of injuries and aches/pains. People who practice Pilates tend to 'feel' stronger in their bodies. Pilates helps create a lean shaped body (although everyone's body is it's own unique individual shape) and you will notice you become more toned.

Most noticeable of all is the improvement in core strength (abs, back muscles, gluts) and the most important benefit of all for a lot of people is the great reduction in back pain and stiffness most people experience when they start practicing Pilates.

A lady who attends one of my Pilates classes reported that for the first time in ten years she didn't need pain relief for her back.

Neutral Standing Position

When you do Pilates, whether you are doing a standing, sitting or laying exercise, it is important that your body has the correct alignment and that you are able to adopt the 'neutral' position. This will mean that your torso is in alignment and your core muscles are engaged (being used), also your pelvis, spine and neck are in the correct alignment, and you have good posture.

When you are standing this looks like having your feet at hip distance apart and standing with your feet on two train tracks. Have your knees soft NOT locked out. Stand tall with your chest open and your shoulders back and relaxed down away from the ears. Your arms and hands hang naturally by your sides with your thumbs pointing forward. You feel like you have a long spine and your tailbone sinks gently underneath you to give you the correct pelvis placement.

When you are standing correctly you should feel that your core muscles are engaged and your torso is a rectangle. The picture below shows what this looks like.

Neutral Standing Position

For your standing exercises

Pilates Neutral Standing Position

My own video.

Neutral Lying Position

For Matwork

When you are practicing Pilates mat exercises you need to work from the neutral lying position.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your feet and knees should both be hip distance apart. Take a moment to gently rock your pelvis backwards and forwards. You want to find your neutral pelvis position and this will feel like your lower back making contact with the floor and your abs and core muscles engaged (switched on/tensed). Your spine and neck should be in alignment with your head on the floor and chin away from your chest.

You can see what this looks like in the picture below. 

From the neutral lying position you can do a whole range of mat exercises, which will be detailed in the Pilates DVD that you choose to follow. Some of these include ab curls, roll ups, leg circles, scissors, rolling like a ball, and many more. These exercises are excellent for working the core and toning the muscles. You can also do several stretches from this position.

Neutral Lying Position

For matwork

Pilates Neutral Position Lying Down

My own video

Different Types Of Pilates

There are many different variations of Pilates. Pilates was originally created by a German called Joseph Pilates in the 1930's. He devised it from various fitness regimes that he had followed in his lifetime. It was later developed into Stott Pilates which is one of the main types still practiced today. Stott Pilates usually uses machines to assist with the workout and so is normally found at dedicated Pilates centers.

However there is another, more widely available form of Pilates called 'Fitness Pilates'. This is the type that I teach and is suitable for the general public, and those who want to practice at home. It is aimed at relatively healthy people (people without any significant health problems that could be aggravated by exercise).

Below is a video showing a typical standing exercise that you might do when following a Pilates DVD at home or doing a Fitness Pilates class.

Pilates Moves

Basic Pilates Moves

Importance of the Core

Using Your Core Muscles Correctly

When we say core, people immediately think of their ab muscles. Whilst these are ann important part of the core, there is a lot more to the core. Your core includes your abdominals, obliques (the muscles that wrap around the sides of your waist), your lower back muscles and your gluteus maximus (bottom) muscles. Ideally ALL these muscles need to be engaged when you are working out. They form your 'powerhouse' and will help keep your body in alignment and ensure that you get a proper workout and the best toning results. Using your core muscles also helps a lot with posture.

Start Doing Pilates

Pilates for Beginners

If you have decided that you would like to take up Pilates, you can either look for a local class or you can purchase a DVD and do it at home. If you are interested in trying Stott Pilates which is an intense and dedicated form of the exercise, and often takes a while to learn, look for Pilates Centers near you which have the required machines. You can ask them when you ring up or drop in.

If it's Fitness Pilates that you are after you will find classes at most gyms and often taught out in the community too. Be sure to explain that you are a beginner and the gym or teacher can advise you about which class is suitable. Gyms often split Pilates groups into different levels according to ability.

If you go for a community class be sure to check that the teacher is registered on the Register of Exercise Professionals (UK) or a similar governing body in your country. If you decide to practice Pilates at home, choose a suitable DVD (there are some good ones recommended in this article) and be sure to carefully follow the safety instructions.

Pilates Moves

Doing Pilates At Home

10 Minute Solution: Pilates
Amazon Price: $9.98 $5.59 Buy Now
(price as of May 23, 2013)
I like this Instructor and also the way the workouts are broken down into short slots, so that you can easily fit them into a busy day. You can choose a 10 minute workout, or two or three of them, to target different parts of the body.

Pilates At Home

Fitness Pilates is a good choice of exercise to do at home. Especially if you have previously attended a class or if you have a good Pilates DVD to follow. I suggest some good DVDs below.

You will also need a mat. A yoga mat is fine.

More Pilates Moves

A Good Pilates DVD For At Home

Pilates Workout for Dummies
Amazon Price: $19.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 23, 2013)
The way that this lady describes how to work the core is really useful. And I like the exercises, with different alternatives given for people different fitness abilities.