“The beauty of Pilates is that each exercise can be toned up or toned down, each can be done by a beginner or an expert,” says Vesna Pericevic Jacob of Vesna’s Wellness, Delhi. Really, Pilates has something to offer people of all ages and levels of ability and fitness, from beginners to elite athletes. It may sound intimidating, but once you give it a go, there’s no going back.
“It’s flexibility and strength all rolled into one powerfully dynamic workout. You basically use your own flexibility and your own strength to actually shape your body,” says Sanaa Vidyalankar, Founder of Soul to Soul, Delhi.
Pilates exercises can either be done on a mat or using special equipment, such as the Reformer, the Cadillac and Wunda Chair. With its system of pulleys and springs, handles and straps, the apparatus can provide either resistance or support, depending on your needs. Pilates urges you to focus on your breath and your body, and how they move together (most importantly). Pilates mainly targets your core, your upper legs to help engage your core and glutes to stabilise it, and is in fact named after Joseph Pilates who developed the exercises in the early 1900s.
Here are 9 reasons you need to try Pilates immediately:
1. Eases Back Pain
Pilates focuses on stabilising and strengthening your back as you strengthen your abs. The slow and controlled movements put minimal impact on your back, and help stabilise the spine. And if you’re using the Pilates Reformer, that’s even better. The padding of the Reformer is supposedly as thick as 10 yoga mats, taking the pressure off the back and even knees. After just 2-3 weeks of doing Pilates, my lower back pain stayed away for months and I experienced more relief than when I visited a doctor. (True story). A stronger core equals a better back.
2. Tones You Up
Pilates is classed as a muscle-strengthening activity and can help you maintain a healthy weight. “There is no such ‘weight loss’ in Pilates, but there is ‘inch loss’. Since Pilates concentrates on the core muscles, the stomach and abdominal area are the first places you tone up. It’s a great way to sculpt your body, and if you compliment Pilates with Cardio, you will be able to see results in just 2-3 sessions,” explains Dr. Namita Agarwal, Fitness Fusion.
3. Strengthens Your Core
Pilates hits your core unlike any other workout. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. It’s also amazing for your abs. “Pilates basically concentrates on strengthening your core muscles. Once the core is strong, all the other unwanted fat around the body sheds away. If you want to get a flat belly, I recommend all functional pilates in the upright position to increase your heart rate,” says Vesna Pericevic Jacob of Vesna’s Wellness, Delhi.
4. Improves Sports Performance
When you start focusing on your core, you realise that all of your muscles are connected through your core. Try doing lunges without your abdominals – you’ll crumble over. With a stronger core, you can actually run faster, and the rest of your workouts improve.
5. Increases Flexibility
If you think you can’t do Pilates because you’re not flexible enough?Know that that’s why you should be doing it. The gentle stretching releases muscle tension, joint tension and stiffness, thereby increasing flexibility.
6. Increases Muscle Strength
It lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. With Pilates, your entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, helping you enjoy daily activities and sports with greater ease, better performance and lesser chance of injury.
7. Boosts Brainpower
Joseph Pilates referred to Pilates as “the thinking man’s exercise”, and it could very well be. Chinese researched measured changes in women’s brain activity post 10 weeks of Pilates training, and they found an increase in the brain’s alpha peak power, which is related to memory performance, concentration and other cognitive functions.
8. Improves Body Awareness
With Pilates you become acutely in tune with your body by emphasising on proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentrating on smooth, flowing movement. You actually learn how to control the way your body moves. Pilates helps you execute movements with efficiency.
9. Reduces Stress
Pilates can be incredibly powerful in providing a means for your body to relax and release tension. It helps the mind to focus on the present, leaving worries at the door. If you learn to breathe properly while exercising, that triggers the brain to calm down as it creates a physiological response in the body, which naturally reduces stress and anxiety.