Pilates is a form of exercise which focuses on breathing and core strength. It’s a technique which trains both the brain and body – what more could you want?
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Pilates is that class you join where you have to balance on a ball for an hour and pretend you aren’t actually dying? No thanks – I’m good.” And you would be right – sort of. Pilates has a lot more going for it than you might initially think and there’s so much more to it than an hour of long self-inflicted torture. Trust me.
Pilates is an exercise technique originally devised by Joseph Pilates. The technique is a series of physical activities that are designed to bring the body, mind and spirit into balance. He initially called the technique ‘contrology’, while the original name has less of a ring to it, it does emphasise what this exercise technique is all about: control.
Today, Pilates is a method which combines flowing poses, precise body movements and rhythmic breathing. This does more than help you get fit, it has a host of health benefits for strength and overall health and can give you long, lean, sexy limbs – yes please!
So How Does Pilates Work?
Pilates is essentially 50 simple exercises, used in different combinations and forms. The person performing the moves will repetitively complete the exercises to make your muscles tired. Pilates is recommended by so many people because the various moves can be adapted in order to provide either gentle strength training for muscle restoration. Or it can be a tough workout to get the heart rate going and calories burning.
The various Pilates moves are designed to increase muscle strength in all muscles (especially the core) and to improve flexibility, posture and balance. Pilates exercises are typically done on a mat and make use of a stability ball or your own body weight. The moves that are done are controlled by your body weight, the flexing of your muscles and breathing in order to produce controlled, steady movements.
The Best Thing About Pilates?
It is also said to improve your mental health! Joseph Pilates designed the movements which encouraged the use of the mind to control the muscles. Have you ever tried to balance on one leg and found you needed to concentrate hard in order to keep your balance?
Pilates works the same which is why many exercises are done on a stability ball. By focusing attention on the core postural muscles, Pilates helps you to keep your body balanced and provide support for the spine. This means that your brain and your body get a workout when you do Pilates.
Check out these hilarious ways NOT to use a stability ball:
Top Five Benefits of Pilates:
The stretches and moves done in Pilates help to elongate your muscles and increase your range of motion. The more often you do Pilates the more flexible you will become.
Your ab muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body) should be contracted and engaged during a Pilates workout. By keeping these muscles engaged, you become stronger.
One of the great things about Pilates, is that it helps you to be aware of your posture. Pilates requires you to pull your stomach in and push your shoulders down for good posture and spinal alignment. These exercises become a part of your daily life and help you to have better posture.
Physical and Mental Control
In Pilates, all exercises should be as controlled and steady as possible. You use your bodyweight, core and breathing to control your muscles and maintain steady, smooth movements.
It helps to condition all muscles, which means that your body becomes fitter and better toned.
But wait, there’s more! Pilates also stimulates healthy hair growth. Find out more at Hair Loss Revolution.
Considering Becoming a Pilates Instructor?
Mignon van Zyl is a 25-year-old Pilates instructor, who discovered the health benefits of Pilates first hand. If you’re wondering whether or not becoming a Pilates instructor is for you, check out what Mignon has to say about it.
What made you decide to become a Pilates instructor?
I initially decided to get qualified as a Pilates instructor, because I needed an extra income to supplement my income as a journalist. With this supplemental income, I paid for an overseas trip!
Secondly, I have scoliosis and because Pilates is core focused I figured that it would be good for my back (because the back is part of the core. I always thought of the core as just abdominals but actually the back is one of the major parts).
What were some of the first benefits you noticed about doing Pilates?
I had only been taking Pilates for a month before the opportunity to train and become an instructor came up. I found that Pilates was making me stronger, teaching me about muscles that I never knew existed and it was an escape from life and work and everything else.
What did you enjoy most about doing Pilates?
There’s a quote that says ‘Pilates is the thinking man’s exercise’ and it’s true. You need to concentrate and really focus on the breathing and activate specific muscles in order to benefit from specific exercises. For example, when you engage your core, you’re not meant to ‘suck your tummy in’, you’re meant to activate the lower abdominals, similar to when you’re holding in a wee! Only then will your muscles start to work.
I love that you have to be fully present in order to benefit from it. I pretty much fell in love with it. I stopped going to the gym because I found it was mindless exercise in comparison to Pilates.
Any health benefits you noticed?
The immediate benefits of Pilates are awareness of the body, improved posture and ability to activate separate muscles (right glute, left hamstring, left oblique, right pec major, etc). These are also the first things you notice as an instructor – as people become more aware of their body and how it works, their posture improves, they get stronger and they feel more confident. That’s the best part, when a client not only improves but can identify where they have improved. They’re always so happy 🙂
Can Pilates be done by people with injuries?
The studio that I worked at was also very rehab focused so we had a lot of clients come to us who had knee/back injuries. We had to make very specific workouts for them that involved strengthening the weaker/injured muscles but also keeping the rest of the body in shape. It was very rewarding to see clients recover from injuries or weaknesses.
I had one lady who had very bad posture, her upper back was pretty much in a curve from sitting at a desk and working at a computer for so many years. With hard work and dedication to both the private lessons and classes, she improved within three months. To see her walking into the studio with her head held high was amazing!
Sign Me Up! Where Can I Become a Pilates Instructor?
If you’ve decided to become a Pilates instructor, eta College offers an instructing course.
The Pilates Instructor Certificate is an accredited qualification which is recognised by the Register of Exercise Professionals South Africa (REPSSA). REPSSA is part of ICREPS; an international confederation of registers for exercise professionals which operates world-wide, allowing members to work anywhere in the world.
The course takes place over a duration of 6 months. It aims to provide you with the conceptual knowledge and applied skills to work as a Pilates instructor. Once qualified, you can work in a range of facilities:
- Pilates studios or leisure centres
- Screening and assessing clients
- Teaching Pilates classes to individuals or groups.
You need to have successfully completed Grade 12 and achieved your National Senior Certificate with a minimum overall pass rate of 30-39%. It is assumed that you’ll be able to:
- Collect and use written information
- Communicate clearly with colleagues, clients or members of a facility
- Compile and write work-related reports.
If all the reasons listed above aren’t convincing enough to join a Pilates class or to pursue a career as a Pilates instructor – I don’t know what is. Movement is essential for life and by getting your body moving, you increase serotonin levels in the brain and boost endorphins (all happy making chemicals).
Remember all the times your mother told you to sit up straight and not slouch? It’s all about good posture, which boosts confidence and health, these are the principals that Pilates promotes.
If you’re keen to try a few Pilates movements, check out these easy and free Pilates workouts: