It's the art of movement

NOT A FAD

Kareena Kapoor Khan swears by it. If there’s one magic workout that offers a sound foundation for life, it is Pilates, explains Anjali Sareen.

Pilates, a mind-body method of movement, is a popular programme offered universally in specialised studios and fitness centres. Much has been written, spoken and discussed about it. As is the norm, Pilates too has its share of believers and detractors. Recently, critics of Pilates have stated that it’s losing its popularity, being overtaken by other newer training programmes and fitness classes.

But truly, this work-out form is not meant to (and should not) be just another offering at fitness centres and gyms. Pilates should instead form the basis or platform from where all and any movement should begin, be it daily life activities or specialised movements. So what is it about Pilates that has me not only believing the above but translating the same into my work with my clients? Nothing comes as an ideal system or perfect solution. But the basis of Pilates – correcting postural imbalances and strengthening the core  so as to have a solid foundation for all movement in the body – seems a good enough reason for it to have a place in our lives.

When Joseph Pilates created this method, over 100 years ago and spent his lifetime refining it, I doubt his goal was to create a system of exercise that would keep people entertained or be used as another ‘type’ of class offering. He based his method on sound principles of alignment and posture, of efficient movement patterns created with correct muscular engagements. He was born sickly, and therefore had a strong desire to engage in varied physical activities. So he built a strong body for a lifetime of functional living based on strength and power. No wonder he was in peak physical condition right through his 80s!

Originally, Pilates has 34 mat exercises. These exercises have resistance training as their foundation. In recent times, with contemporary studies and research, along with sound biomechanics, this system has become further refined and even more relevant to current lifestyle-related concerns. Using the principles of this system, you can build strength and stability in your body. Pilates can help optimise your performance in regular day-to-day activities as well as in specialised movements such as for sports, athletics, dance and more.

It is very natural to relate Pilates to your daily life. Once you practise this form of workout, no matter how big or small a physical activity you do, you will always keep in mind the neutral, ideal alignments, and muscular engagements that minimise stress on your joints and body. Therefore, applying the elements of Pilates, as a foundation to improve whatever activity you enjoy doing - running, golf, yoga, dance, sports, athletics, or strength training - would be very effective. Through Pilates, you will learn how to stabilise the torso and the knees, keep the hips aligned as well as avoid the shoulder joint from being pushed into a compromising position. All this will help achieve more stability, strength, and strong and fluid movements.

Pilates is not an activity you engage in to simply spice up or create the variety craved by a regular fitness enthusiast. It is done so that your body can cope with the demands of various other fitness programs or activities that you may wish to include in your life. No wonder then that it forms a part of the training programmes of top athletes, performance artists (dancers, movement experts, actors, media personalities to name a few), and rehab specialists.

There are some who complain that Pilates is an expensive programme. If it’s possible to correct the way we move in our daily lives, we are going to be able to lead happier, healthier lives. We will enjoy a better quality of life. Not to mention the reduced pressure of doctors’ fees and related costs while trying to address a number of lifestyle-related problems such as lower back, knee, neck and shoulder pain and what not. Can you actually put a price on teaching the body to move and work in as stress-free and efficient a manner as possible? 

I am not saying that I only do Pilates, but that when I’m running or doing my tai chi practice or taking a high-intensity athletic conditioning class, I find myself keeping in mind neutral, ideal alignments and muscular engagements that minimise stress on my joints and body. I also encourage people to use Pilates ‘elements’ as a foundation to improve whatever they enjoy doing - be it their running, golf, yoga, dance, sports and athletics, or strength training.

Once you incorporate Pilates ‘elements’ into your daily activities or workouts, it is sure to help you achieve better results; not to forget, feeling energised as opposed to wrung out and exhausted.  And feeling energised and great about yourself is a good after-effect of a workout, right? 

(The writer is a fitness expert)

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