Every day it seems there is a new workout trend that you absolutely HAVE to try. From boot camps to cycling to hip hop yoga and barre, there is no shortage of different forms of exercise to choose from. Which is a really good thing if you want to get in shape, but it also has a tendency to make us forget about the classic workouts that are still amazingly effective, enjoyable, challenging and fun. If you’re looking to whip your body into top form, maybe you don’t need a new workout routine; maybe you need to try a good, old-fashioned Pilates workout instead. Pilates has been around for a long time, which doesn’t make it boring or outdated, it just means that it works, and that’s why people still swear by this form of movement.
Pilates is a workout that can be done either on a mat (on the floor) or by using a collection of specialized equipment that is designed to manipulate your body and isolate key muscles as you work. According to FoxNews.com, “the focus of Pilates is physical. It’s a conditioning program that improves deep core strength, muscle control, flexibility, coordination, and body tone, while producing long, lean muscles.” And while the focus of a Pilates workout is certainly a physical activity, you should also know that Pilates is more than just a workout. According to Joseph Pilates himself, it’s about breathing and committing to movement with your whole body, more than anything. The principles of Pilates include breath, concentration, centering, control, precision and flow. And of all those principles, breath is at the top of the list for a reason. Joseph Pilates himself once said, “above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”
While Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates back in the early 1900s in Germany, it didn’t make its way to the US until the 1920s when Joseph and Clara Pilates opened their first studio in New York City. The studio and unique workout became popular among dancers as well as celebrities and eventually these exercises designed to strengthen, stretch, tone, control and center the body gained buzz and popularity around the country. Since its introduction to the US, Pilates has evolved into new forms, new techniques (based on the teachings of Joseph Pilates) and new hybrid workouts. But despite the new interpretations of Pilates, many traditionalists argue that classical Pilates is better for you and a superior method of exercise to improve your well being, inside and out.
The benefits of traditional Pilates are undeniable. First of all, it’s really great for your body. Pilates helps strengthen all of your muscles, so that you are better able to perform all of your movements and actions throughout your day and avoid injury. Pilates can improve your range of motion, help you tone your core, improve your posture, increase your muscular endurance and control your breathing. This is because the various positions and machines you use are all designed to resist your movements “in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it,” explains Joseph Pilates.
Another perk: classical Pilates is for everyone. Regardless of your physically fitness abilities, your age, your body type, your level of flexibility and any injuries you are dealing with, you can do classical Pilates. That’s because “classical Pilates consists of over 600 exercises, all of which have modifications and variations,” according to Andrea Speir, DailyBurn Pilates instructor. More than that, Speir explains that Pilates is great for people, even if you are a little out of practice with your workout routine, because it gives you a good base to start from. “In my opinion, it is one of the best things for newbies or people who feel they are out of shape because it will help build a solid base of strength… Everything is based on what your level is and yours alone.”
Pilates can also keep you healthy, and we’re not just talking about being in good shape, we mean actually medically healthy. As Joseph Pilates developed his traditional Pilates method during WWI, he taught this method to patients suffering illness and saw major improvements in their health during their time in the infirmary. When a flu epidemic hit, none of Pilates’ patients succumbed to the illness, which he attributed to their strong physical condition.
While some of the new, fancy, Pilates-inspired workouts offer their own benefits, and you might burn more calories or sweat more with those trendy classes, classical Pilates is extremely good for you, regardless of your age or physical condition. It’s a great workout to learn now and incorporate into your lifestyle so that you have this knowledge and experience to carry with you throughout your life and into all of your other exercises and actions.