I’ve heard so much about Pilates I thought I’d find out more about it and give it a go. Well, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
Many thanks to Barwell Pilates instructor Rosella Solinas for telling me all about it and giving me a practical session.
It differs from most other forms of exercise in that it’s a full mind-body workout, emphasising proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment and concentrating on smooth flowing movement.
In most physical disciplines you simply work your body without being fully mentally aware of what you’re doing. But with Pilates your mind constantly focuses on controlling the movement. Overall, it’s very much about the mechanics of the body, using certain principles to help connect it to your mind.
This means you can bring the same mental awareness into your everyday life and other forms of exercise and sport.
It may be gentle, but it’s also challenging. Rosella says it works the body from the inside, strengthening your core – the deep abdominal muscles, along with the muscles close to the spine – elongating and strengthening, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility, making it invaluable for recovering from injury, improving sports performance, and good posture.
No muscle group is over-trained or under-trained. The entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, and exercises train several muscle groups in smooth, continuous movements. Your body can be retrained to move in safer, more efficient motion patterns.
And talking of patterns, each movement prepares the body for the next one, so there is a natural progression from one exercise to the next.
Also, breathing is extremely important to oxygenate the blood and brain. "The breathing techniques are different from yoga, for example, as it helps to perform the exercises, making them more effective in what you want to achieve," says Rosella.
Pilates was devised by a German, Joseph Pilates, to help him combat his own ailments. He had been a sickly child with weak lungs, and suffered from rickets. He was in England when World War l broke out and he was held prisoner on the Isle Of Man, where he successfully used the technique to rehabilitate injured soldiers. After the war he emigrated to the United States, opening the first Pilates studio in New York in the 1920s. And the rest, as they say, is history.
* Rosella is based in Barwell, Leicestershire, and can be contacted on 07757 150347.