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.
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