Pilates has become known for creating more strength, improving coordination, and speeding recovery.
But like any specialized system of exercise, not every teacher brings the same depth of knowledge and knack for technique to the task. When evaluating different instructors and studios, here's what you should consider:
Training in body mechanics: Ideally, you would do well to find a Pilates teacher who has extensive experience in understanding physiology, anatomy, movement, and exercise science. For example, seeking out a physical therapist who can guide you through Pilates sessions would give you a more personalized plan, geared toward your goals, level of fitness, and injury history.
Listening skills: There are some classes, like dance sessions or kickboxing, where you can jump in, have fun, and work up a sweat. But Pilates is all about precision, not a calorie scorch. In order to get the best results, you need a teacher who will listen to your aims — injury prevention vs. performance boost — and tailor your movements accordingly.
Certification and experience: Anyone can take a quickie course (sometimes even online) and then claim to be a Pilates teacher. That's why it's particularly important to talk to teachers about their training and background, especially if you'll be working with equipment. Like any type of exercise, it's possible to become injured if training isn't done properly, so making the effort to check into a teacher's background is essential.
Personality and rapport: Someone could be the most talented Pilates teacher in the world, but if you dread having to go to sessions, you're more likely to skip them altogether. Much like other types of teachers, forging a personal connection can help you work together and focus on your goals.
In general, it helps to find a teacher that makes you feel not only results-driven, but also safe. Try out a session or two before committing to a long-term practice with that teacher, and eventually you'll find a Pilates relationship that clicks.
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First developed to build strength among prisoners of WWI internment camps, Pilates has evolved over the past 75 years as a way to strengthen core muscles, improve coordination, and shorten injury recovery time.
But couldn't that be said about other types of practices? For example, yoga claims to have all those results as well, and so do martial arts like Capoeira and judo. But Pilates is unique among other fitness-related practices for several reasons:
Small movements, big results: Particularly in martial arts, big movements tend to be the norm, such as kicking and striking. Even in yoga, a flow practice can have a student sweeping from standing to plank pose in just a few seconds. But Pilates is highly focused on deliberate, controlled movements that are seemingly easy — but just wait until you've done a few sessions. Those small tweaks can add up to major improvements in flexibility and body awareness. The emphasis here is on precision, breathing, and mental presence. That benefits the entire body and mind, not just the muscles that were worked in a particular session.
Specialized equipment: Pilates does have an option of doing mat classes, done on a mat that's similar to yoga. But more advanced studios will have apparatus like the Reformer, the Cadillac, Wunda Chair, and other pieces of equipment that can look odd to the uninitiated. Comprised of straps, springs, and padded areas, these devices help you to adjust your level of movement, so you can progress from absolute beginner on up to higher levels. What all equipment has in common is a continued focus on core muscles and expending effort from there.
Although Pilates has much in common with other types of exercises that emphasize a mind-body connection for maximum results, the system is distinctive when it comes to building proper form and alignment.
As part of Pilates, there are many pieces of equipment designed to help people get in and out of movements more easily, and adjust according to their experience, injury, and fitness levels.
But even with all that said, it's easy to mistake the Reformer — considered the top choice for many Pilates teachers and students — as some type of Medieval relic.
Vaguely resembling a rack from a bad movie that's set in the Middle Ages, the Reformer comes in several variations, with different types of attachments, but all resemble a strange twin bed that's only partially padded.
Evolution of the form
Since the founder of the practice, Joseph Pilates, developed the system for those in World War II internment camps, it's been said that the Reformer gets its look from the small beds prisoners had. With many growing weaker by the day, Pilates modified the beds with springs and straps to allow them to do strength-building exercises without additional effort.
Since then, the equipment has been refined and scaled down, so that it's now more like a funky sled than a weird bed. Straps allow you to slide from one end to the other, all while concentrating on specific muscles and consistent breathing.
Ultimate in versatility
There's good reason that the Reformer is so popular for Pilates. Exercises can be done sitting, standing, lying down, or kneeling. By being able to use components like the footbar and shoulder blocks, you can train several parts of the body in a short timeframe.
Also helpful, the Reformer is geared toward letting you work at multiple levels. So, you can still do exercises effectively even if you're injured or a beginner. No matter what level you work at, the equipment will allow you to build strength, focus, and coordination.
The best way to use the Reformer is under the expert guidance of a qualified instructor who can assess which exercises are right for your goals.
Pilates is a beneficial method for recovering from injury, optimizing performance, and preventing physical ills. But there’s a way to maximize results even more: combining the technique with physical therapy.
As a way to build strength, balance, and coordination, Pilates has won a worldwide following for its simple-yet-powerful movements.
People rely on Pilates techniques — developed nearly a century ago — to recover from injury, enhance performance, and improve overall wellbeing. Most notably, some of the basics can be helpful for any type of training. Here are the three Cs that are at the core of the practice:
Control: When he first developed this system of exercise, Joseph Pilates called it "contrology." (Not very catchy, obviously.) That's because every movement is done with complete control, often at a slow pace so it's easier to feel muscles engage.
Concentration: These deliberate movements help to fire up different muscle groups, but control is also mental — as you transition from one position to another, having conscious awareness of how your body is moving is crucial. This engagement lingers long after Pilates sessions, since that type of concentration can help in sports or even everyday life. The more control you have over how your body is operating, the less chance you'll have of injury.
Centering: Often, Pilates is used as a synonym for "core work" but that's not quite right. Although the abdominal muscles get significant benefits from Pilates sessions, a major principle for the practice is centering, not just doing crunches. Pilates believed that the center of the torso — from the lower ribs to the pubic bone — can be considered the powerhouse of the body. All movements originate from this area, so directing effort toward that center, and having movement come from there, give each exercise better flow and intention.
With these in mind, any Pilates session can yield better results. Whether working on specialized equipment or doing exercises on a mat, these Cs can help you make the most of any Pilates-focused time.
Pilates has exponentially grown in popularity in the past years and continues to be one of the fastest growing exercises in the world, but few are aware of its benefits in injury rehabilitation.
Reasons for Injury
Muscle imbalance is one of the most common reasons for injury. Pain, soreness, and other physical dysfunctions are rarely isolated problems. Pain in one part of the body is usually due to a functional limitation elsewhere. Your injured knee could be caused by weak hamstring and gluteal muscles or lower back pain could be because of tight hip flexors. Pilates helps correct these imbalances and builds core strength, flexibility and proper alignment.
Pilates-Infused vs Traditional Rehabilitation Exercises
Traditional rehabilitation methods usually work to strengthen isolated muscles involved in the injury, which only addresses the symptoms rather than looking at the injury holistically. Pilates promotes even musculature strength throughout the whole body by focusing on the core and other stabilizing muscles. However, when physical therapy is combined with proper Pilates techniques it activates and strengthens muscles from various angles in many ranges of motion to treat the real problem at hand—helping to reduce the risk of re-injury.
Beyond rehabilitation, cross-training with Pilates also can help stop injuries before they happen. Building a strong core and increasing flexibility allows you to move more efficiently, adding an extra layer of protection from injury.
Pilates as a New Form of Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation through Pilates is a progression; it starts with a focus on strengthening the deep supporting muscles. Once a foundation of strength is built, complex movements are added to integrate the injured area into fully functional and sport-specific movement patterns.
2. Low Impact
Pilates is mostly low impact, light resistance and uses mindful movements. It fills the gap between non-weight bearing, open chain exercises and weight bearing exercises. This makes it safer and more effective when rehabilitating an injury.
3. Not all Pilates is created equal
While Pilates at a fitness center can be beneficial, the instructors will not be able to give you the most effective movements for your injury and your specific needs, or even worse increase the imbalance that caused the injury in the first place. One of the most beneficial aspects of infusing Pilates in your injury rehabilitation program is the guidance of a trained physical therapist during your sessions. Having a physical therapist guide you through the movements in a one-on-one session can result in a much quicker, safer and more effective recovery as well as allow you to apply this knowledge to your future exercise regimen.
Because Pilates is such an effective and powerful recovery tool, Viverant has recently introduced eVolution into their injury recovery program. eVolution is based on the simple principle of – focused, core development and maintenance through a therapist-driven Pilates-based strengthening program.
Did you know you can contact Viverant without a doctor referral to schedule an appointment regarding Pilates and other services that may help you?
Contact us today to get started.
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