Pilates encourages the development of core strength, flexibility, toning and balance. Since founder Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates Method and introduced it to New York in the 1920’s, it has garnered dedicated followers across the globe and has been incorporated into a wide range of exercise programmes for everyone from athletes to everyday gym-goers.
We caught up with Jason Richardson, director of Auckland-based Peak Pilates & Physiotherapy studios, to find out his top Pilates tips for beginners.
What benefits are there for your body if you practice Pilates on a regular basis?
There are so many benefits of Pilates I will list a few – a better understanding of what good posture is, a stronger core, improved flexibility, toned and stronger muscles, rectifying muscle imbalances, a better mind-body connection, improved blood flow.
What different kinds of Pilates classes are there?
You will never get bored with Pilates. If you are doing mat classes, when done in the proper sequence they provide a challenging and dynamic workout where you are effectively working with your own body weight and small apparatus.
Reformer classes are performed on a spring and pulley loaded machine and you are working with and against resistance, you can add or take away springs depending on your level and how much the instructor wants to challenge you.
Pilates has over 600 exercises and regardless of what exercise you do you will always be focused on the principles of Pilates breathing, control, concentration, fluid movements, alignment, precision and centering.
What should you expect from your first Pilates class?
You will need to do an introductory class first – that is when the instructor will teach you about your posture and how to activate the right muscles while breathing laterally and diaphragmatically. They will break down the Pilates exercise so that if you choose to go into classes you will be doing the Pilates exercises correctly.
What should you wear to a pilates class? Is there anything else you need to bring?
Normal workout kit and a pair of socks (for hygiene reasons).
Is pilates still a suitable form of exercise if you are pregnant, a complete newbie to exercise, or you have injuries?
Absolutely! Pilates really is for everyone because of its versatility and effectiveness. In fact, the founder Joseph Pilates used his techniques in the Second World War to rehab patients in the hospital. Many doctors and health professionals recommend Pilates as an effective way to recover from surgery. It is brilliant also pre and post natal as it is low impact with an emphasis on the core and pelvic floor.
Is it still worthwhile doing Pilates if you consider yourself to be extremely fit?
We have all types of people that come through the doors from the very unfit to supreme athletes, in fact super fit people are always surprised that Pilates done properly is a lot harder that what they first thought. The principles of Pilates also transfers very well to other sports that you are doing.
Some people get confused between yoga and Pilates – what are the main differences and similarities?
I think the main difference between mat Pilates and yoga is Pilates is more dynamic with a strong emphasis on all movement originating from the core also in yoga the breathing is more from the belly where as Pilates it is more from the lateral area of the rib cage. In yoga you hold poses and Pilates the movement is flowing. Reformer Pilates is obviously quite different.
What benefit will beginners get from starting out in a class vs. giving it a go from workout videos at home?
Pilates is very technical and if you are not activating the right muscles and breathing in conjunction with the exercise you are not really doing Pilates you are just exercising. Our instructors are always reminding and correcting on good form and core activation.
What’s your best advice for someone just starting out with Pilates?
Don’t do Pilates in a group to start; make sure you do at least a couple of intros first so that you are getting the most benefit from the exercises. Once you get the muscles and core activation in time with the breathing you will be hooked. Pilates has been around for about 100 years and is continuing to evolve. Try it!
Image / Flickr.com – Red CreaDeporte