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Pilates Q&A

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

As a new year begins, many of us may be thinking about getting a bit fitter. However, with the current pandemic and cold, dark nights it's not always possible or appealing to start a new routine. Like many instructors, I have had to adapt to take my classes online as venues have closed, but this has enabled me to introduce Pilates and its benefits to a wider audience from the comfort of their own homes!

To help get you started, I've collated some Q&As from my clients to help you to decide if Pilates is right for you.

Is Pilates the same as yoga?

There are similarities between the two, most fundamentally the "mind-body" connection. Yoga is an ancient mind and body practice that combines specific postures, breathing, meditation and relaxation, and explores spirituality. Pilates adopted some of these principles when he developed "contrology" in the early 20th century as a system for rehabilitation and conditioning.

Whereas yoga focuses largely around static and maintained postures, Pilates movements are more dynamic and functional, and incorporate a consistent lateral breathing pattern. Yoga in comparison focusses on breathing for part of the class.

The 6 principles of Pilates includes a strong connection to the core and spinal alignment. The discipline focuses on specific muscle groups for physical rehab, whereas yoga works more broadly with a strong emphasis on balance and emotional wellbeing.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

It is currently recommended that adults undertake resistance training on at least 2 days each week to work all the major muscle groups. With its basis in rehabilitation, Pilates is a functional discipline that can benefit people of all ages and abilities. These include:

  • Postural alignment

  • Core strength

  • Balance, proprioception and coordination

  • More efficient breathing patterns

  • Greater muscular endurance

  • Improved self-awareness

  • Reduced falls risk

  • Fewer aches and pains

  • Stress reduction

I've never done Pilates before, can I join a class?

I have back pain/knee pain - is Pilates safe?

Yes, it is generally safe. Look for a class that works with beginners. A good instructor will be able to adapt each movement to suit your abilities or to account for any injuries. Make sure they ask you to complete a PAR-Q or health screening prior to joining so they are aware of any risks and make sure you are safe to participate.

As it works the muscles, you should expect to experience some discomfort during and after your Pilates class. However, if you feel pain, stop immediately and either ask for a modification or join again with the next movement if you're comfortable. Again, your instructor and GP if you have any particular issues.

What are the different types of Pilates, and which one is best for me?

There are several interpretations of Pilates so trying different classes will help you find the format that works for you. My training is in Mat Pilates, and includes a standing section at the start and relaxation at the end. Other classes may exclude these elements and just focus on the floor-based exercises.

Mat Pilates gives a good introduction to the discipline. It's low impact and slow paced so perfect for beginners. Classes offer movements at different levels and intensities so you can easily find you starting point and have something to work towards.

Reformer Pilates uses specialist equipment that can bring support or challenge to each movement but is more difficult to come by as not all instructors are trained or offer the equipment. If you are lucky enough to have a Reformer studio nearby, it's a great way to progress your practice but not for beginners.

Power Pilates is a relatively new interpretation. Look it up on YouTube and there is no clear format for it. Some classes are based around static holds which, but for a discipline that should promote effective and functional movement, patterns this version doesn't resonate with me. For me, Power Pilates is simply a more advanced form of Mat Pilates for more experienced learners who have developed their core control sufficiently to correctly perform each movement with greater speed and intensity.

There are also classes that combine Pilates with yoga (PiYo) which for me doesn't work so well as the two disciplines have different techniques and objectives. Although we have to keep classes fresh and interesting, I have seen yoga instructors teaching Pilates without being qualified which (in my opinion) is really doing a disservice to their clients and not giving Pilates the credit it deserves!

How often should I practise?

To experience the benefits of Pilates on mobility, a minimum of 2 classes per week is recommended. To advance your practice and build strength, 4 classes would be optimal.

Zoom classes will be resuming soon, so watch this space...

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