Pilates gravitates

A blend of gymming and yoga makes pilates a preferred choice, writes Sheetal J Shah

Pilates is a popular fitness training regime that is designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. This form of exercise is neither exactly like gymming nor yoga, but it nicely complements the two. It is based on certain principles to condition the entire body: proper alignment, centering, concentration, precision, breathing and flow movement. It differs from most of the exercises out there because it is non-impactful and safe, and it really works on using the body as a whole. Pilates is done with the assistance and resistance of springs and pulleys.

Pilates is all about fitness training for strength, flexibility, alignment, and posture. It goes beyond the normal stretching and engages the muscles. One needs to focus more on standing straight to attain that grace and poise. This also helps in losing that extra bit of weight to add to the glow. It is particularly useful for people who complain of stiff joints/knee injuries, if any, and such other body aches. Apart from this, pilates improves lung capacity, blood circulation, bone density and joint health. Pilates calms you down and helps in energising and revitalising the body.

Pilates as a discipline teaches balance, control of the body and greater mind-body control. These virtues, when applied to other areas of life, can improve the quality of life drastically.

Pilates has also been diversified into multiple forms which include:

Mat pilates: As the name suggests, it is a training routine which involves practising pilates equipment-free, with only a mat for cushioning. Here, core muscles are developed through stretching and strengthening exercises. Other forms of pilates are however reliant on some equipment for support.

Benefits: The goal of a mat pilates class is to strengthen the body’s ‘powerhouse’, a pilates term that refers to the abdominals, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, hips and glutes. Through a series of floor exercises using resistance bands and rings, this workout helps build, sculpt and tone these muscles, giving the body a long, lean look. Mat pilates can aid in flexibility and improving posture, as stretching the body is a vital part of class. While low-impact, mat pilates burns fat during and after class, as the muscles continue to shed calories long after the class ends.

Reformer pilates: Most versatile piece of exercise, it provides full body workout for clients at all levels. Reformer pilates utilises equipment called the reformer, on which a wide variety of pilates is done to built length, strength, flexibility, and balance. The body is tested against reformer springs as most exercises involve methodical pushing and pulling, and holding the posture steady in the carriage during an exercise.

Benefits: The magic of reformer pilates runs much deeper than a flat tummy. Apart from working on getting toned abs, the body gets transformed from the inside. You will notice the difference in how your body looks and moves, improving your alignment, posture, strength and flexibility. The calming power of reformer pilates clears the mind, helping in de-stressing and relaxing the body. We only get one body in a lifetime, reformer pilates lets us get the most out of it. Trapeze table is useful for teaching beginners the principles of pilates and for working with clients with limitations. Trapeze provides a variety of functional and challenging full body exercises for the intermediate, advanced and super advanced student.

It’s a great option for the elderly and for those who have mobility issues as it provides more support than mat pilates, and it can work out multiple parts of your body with multiple purposes, including overall strength improvement, flexibility, core strength, stability and more.

Chair pilates: This variant provides an athletic workout and is useful for building upper and lower body strength, core stability, balance, and coordination. Barrels are used for abdominals and back extension strength, torso mobility and flexibility.

Benefits: It improves body balance whether sitting, standing, or lying on the chair. Improves the posture through pelvic and scapular stabilisation exercises. Improves mood and energy as it involves fun and invigorating movements.

MOTR pilates:  Movement on the Roller (MOTR) is a small, flexible piece of equipment that allows one to train anywhere while focusing on the key principles of alignment, balance, core control and functional movement patterns. 

Benefits: A roller is good for agility training. It adds fun to the strengthening element of pilates.

Working out on a roller is good for balance and control of the body. Besides providing a platform for stretches and exercises, it helps in core strengthening, abdominal workouts and leg toning. One can do both lower body and upper body work-outs as the foam roller gives support in many body positions.

They are lightweight and inexpensive and can be easily used at home. Rollers can be used for stretching, self-massage, body support and stability workouts.

(The author is founder, Core Pilates Studio)

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