Pilates – The Super Workout

Pilates has been around for quite some time and it seems every fitness instructor and his dog now teaches Pilates. However, not all mat classes or mat class instructors are the same, plus not all classes are actually Pilates. It seems there are many ‘mashed-up’ type of classes like Yogalates (Yoga & Pilates) Piyo (Pilates & Yoga). This dilution of ‘pure’ Pilates is no surprise, instructors are always on the lookout for the next fad and trying to keep class members motivated and returning while keeping things fresh and up to current industry standards.

As an experienced professional, it is my considered view that technique seems to get lost in these ‘blended’ classes. Class members are not getting the absolute best out from this type of activity. The ‘blending’ or integration of the disciplines, so popular these days, leads to the underpinning theories and benefits of the Pilates technique being—at best—very diluted and, in some cases, lost altogether.

Joseph Pilates (1883-1967), developed his technique for the rehabilitation of injured soldiers in World War 1. After emigrating to New York in the 1920s he spent 40 years developing the discipline into the Pilates we recognise today. By the time of his death in 1967, every Broadway ballerina and 5th Avenue society lady knew the location of his 8th Street gym. Pilates methodology was clear; if one part of the body is injured, then why must the rest of the body (that is not injured) be left to become weak whilst the injury heals.

These days the general public attend classes, even though they not be injured to the extent of a war veteran, still experiencing muscle weakness & imbalances due to modern living and the use of modern equipment and automation – cars machines and so forth. The very things, designed and mass produced, intended to make our lives easier are actually impairing our health.

Injuries associated with modern life include: spine problems from lack of use (exercise); hip/knee problems (muscle imbalance); shoulder (rotator cuff) and foot problems (wearing inappropriate shoes and footwear); and not using the feet in a way that reflects our anatomy should work. The list is seemingly endless.

In the Pilates studio we need to go back to basics and revisit the ‘how-to’ and importantly the ‘why’. Even the most advanced class member could benefit from a regular a technique class, going back to basics to ensure form remains faultless and eradicating any bad habits that may have developed over time. Consider how you drive your car today; is it the same as on the day you took your driving test? With the best will in the world, there is the inevitable creep of bad habits.

A simple example: initiating the core muscles in the correct order before the movement starts is incredibly important. The core is, or should be, the start of every movement. The core stabilises the spine so when the upper and lower limbs move, the centre of the body is in a strong position. When the core isn’t strong and stabilising the spine other muscle groups take over. When the body compensates in this way it inadvertently throws the body and spine out of alignment.