Over many years of personal training, I have worked with a number of clients who live with vertigo, drop foot, heart conditions, debilitating back and foot pain, osteoporosis and post-physical therapy patients.
The common thread among these clients is the need for core-strengthening and corrective exercises to improve overall strength, balance, control and flexibility — all of which required learning focused breathing techniques and how to train their minds to control their bodies’ movement. The basis of such training has been through Pilates.
This column begins a three-part series of how Pilates can help with various syndromes, diseases and injuries beginning today with an introduction to Pilates and the benefits of practice.
The history of Pilates (pronounced puh·laa·teez) began in the late 1800s when Joseph Pilates developed exercises to overcome various diseases he had during his childhood. Joseph took control of his health by developing exercise methods based upon his study of yoga and ancient Greek and Roman methods for a balanced mind and body.
During World War 1, he was sent to a British internment camp and while there, he utilized his exercises to rehabilitate patients. Nearly 130 years later, Pilates remains the same today as Joseph intended. As his practice made its way to New York City, the following six principals became the foundation for which all Pilates exercises originate.
Breath: Learning how and when to breathe is crucial when stabilizing your body for controlled and safe movement. In general, you should inhale as your back extends and/or limbs move away from your body and exhale when pulling back in.
Centering and concentration: Centering is the concept of your core, or center, which encompasses your entire torso, while concentration requires your full attention toward your center during all movement.
Control and precision: Full and precise muscle control is essential in Pilates and will, in turn, teach your mind to move your body as such and with little thought.
Flow: The heart of Pilates gathers the other five principals into fluid, graceful exercises training our bodies to move with the same controlled and fluid movement.
Practicing Pilates regularly will lead your mind to take control of your body’s movement and will strengthen and lengthen your deep supportive muscles within your full torso, all working together to improve your stability, balance and flexibility. You will also find your mind relaxed when practicing Pilates as the exercises require your full attention and temporarily leaving your stress behind.
With an introduction to what Pilates is, you should be led to the conclusion that Pilates can be extremely beneficial for you. Over the next couple weeks, we will turn our discussion toward how Pilates can help those with physical limitations due to injury and disease. Until then, take note of whether your mind is guiding your movement or your body is guiding itself.
Sherrie Hebert is a certified personal trainer and Pilates mat and equipment instructor at her studio, Performance Pilates, and Gold’s Gym and writing a health and wellness column for the Journal for four-plus years. You may contact her at 208-317-5685 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Facebook page, Performance Pilates.