Pilates – what is it really, how do I get started and why is it worth it?

Pilates helps to achieve a balance between body and mind. Virtually anyone can cultivate it, and the number of benefits is priceless!

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Pilates combines physical exercise with mindfulness and breath control. This program does not require much physical effort and allows you to achieve amazing results – a great figure and a good mental balance.

Where does Pilates come from?

The name Pilates comes from the name of the creator of this exercise method – Joseph Pilates, who in the 1920s developed a method to help injured athletes and dancers get back into shape quickly and effectively.

The exercise program he proposed became a sensation in the sports community. Over the years, gym-goers who were previously reluctant to exercise also fell in love with this form of activity, surprised by the effectiveness of this method.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a holistic method based on Eastern and Western philosophies. The main objective of this exercise system was to make all the muscular parts more flexible and stretched. The exercises were to be performed without stress and without intense effort, preferably with calm music sounds that would bring you a good mood. Today, physical therapists consider Pilates to be one of the safest forms of physical activity.

For whom is Pilates the best form of activity?

This form of physical activity is suitable for people with injuries, heart problems, and overweight. Why is it best for you? Because Pilates does not weigh down the joints, it is free of sudden movements and jumps. Its characteristic is slow and carefully executed exercises.

What are the effects of Pilates?

What are the benefits of Pilates? There are quite a few! The most important thing is:

  • Strengthen muscles (especially the abdomen and buttocks)
  • slimming the figure
  • relaxation of stressed muscles
  • improve the flexibility of the body
  • strengthen the muscles of the back
  • reduction of pain related to the curvature of the spine.

Exercise improves your physical and mental condition. Regular training strengthens the muscles (mainly the core), and therefore:

  • posture improves and body awareness increases
  • coordination and balance are improved.

Pilates strengthens muscles but does not build them. As a result, the figure is slimmed and sculpted. This form of exercise allows you to relax your neck and shoulder muscles, which is especially important for people working at a computer.

What does the Pilates exercise look like?

Pilates exercises are not the typical exercises performed during aerobics or fitness classes. During these exercises, you do not focus on intensity, high reps, or effort. Here, the most important thing is concentration and focus, and the first effects are visible after 10 to 15 sessions.

It is very important that Pilates takes care of not only the body but also the mind. The atmosphere that accompanies the exercises provides a break from everyday life. The sounds of soft music and only a lightly lit room allow you to relax, unwind and forget everything that is going on around you.

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The 3 most important principles of Pilates training

You are exercising without exercising. You are tense, but your spine is at rest. Black magic? No, it’s Pilates. However, in order for the training to provide the benefits you want, you need to remember a few important rules.

Breathing

Breathing in pilates takes place in the so-called rib track.

  • Place both hands on your ribs. Take a deep breath and imagine your chest “opening” to the side like a door.
  • During each Pilates exercise, you breathe 10 times (a full breath is one in and one out). You should always perform 10 sequences of movements.
  • Breathing sets the pace for the exercises. Muscles work on the exhale and relaxation on the inhale. This is the opposite of doing push-ups, squats, etc. If you feel like you are doing something the other way around, it is a sign that you are training correctly.

Neutral position

This is a natural position that relieves and stretches the spine.

  • Neutral lying position: lie on your back. The feet are hip-width apart, the body is pressed against the ground, the arms are at the side of the body. The curvature of the spine is shaped like the letter S – therefore, in the lumbar region you should have a slightly elevated spine. If you put both feet on the floor, you will feel tension from your hips to your ribs. You should feel as if someone has zipped you up.
  • Neutral sitting position: this is achieved by moving from a prone to an upright position. The spine is straight, the neck is tense. Legs bent at the knees rest on the foam cushion, arms lowered.

Core Tension

During Pilates exercises, you should keep your abdominal, pelvic, and finger muscles tense. According to Eastern philosophy, the center (center, vital chakra) is the main energy point of our body. This part of the muscles (pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominals, and back polygons) must be tense at all times.

Our civilization limits the movement of these muscles considerably, which is why our figure is often contracted forwards, which aggravates the defects of the spine. Lie down on a sleeping mat with your legs bent at the knees and imagine the deep muscles under the abdomen, inside the pelvis. Tie them up, try to curl inward, reduce the size of your hips and belly. Keep this posture during all the exercises.

Pilates Exercise Examples

Do you want to know if Pilates is right for you? We have prepared some simple exercises that you can try out at home!

Kneeling leg lift with a pump

In a kneeling position, bend your toes and inhale forcefully. As you inhale, contract your abdominal muscles and slightly lift your knees off the ground. After lowering your knees, bend your arms and lift your right leg off the ground at the same time.

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The pump will help strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, torso and arms. How do I do it right?

  • Stand in a neutral position with your feet hip-width apart and your knees lose. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet. Inhale and contract your lower abdominals.
  • Exhale, tilt your head, and begin to curl your spine, circle by circle, in a slow, controlled manner.
  • Exhale as you continue to curl, and if necessary, pause to take an additional breath. Lightly rest your hands on your knees as you roll.
  • When you have curled up as much as your body will allow, bend your knees and place your hands on the floor, starting with your fingertips. Keep your eyes on the floor and stretch your neck the whole time. Inhale, then exhale and move your hands forward, gently dropping to your knees, until you are on all fours with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Inhaling and exhaling slowly and steadily, lower your upper body to the floor, moving your elbows away from your body, then push your back up. Tighten your abs and keep your hips in position. Repeat the push-ups 5-10 times, exhaling as you lower yourself and inhaling as you stand up. Finally, inhale, then exhale, move your hands back, shift your weight onto your feet and slowly extend your spine into a standing position, lifting your head at the very end.

Side leg raise

Lie on your side. Place your head freely on your right arm. Lift both legs off the floor. As you exhale, lift your upper leg slightly above your hip line.

Raising the hips in a supine position

Lie on your back, straighten your arms at your sides and bend your legs at the knees. Lift one leg and straighten it. Begin the lifting movement from the hip to the bottom of the spine. Circle by circle, raise your torso above the floor in a straight line.

Sitting Torso

Sit on the mat with your legs straight. Stretch your arms out to the side, turn your torso to the right and simultaneously lift the opposite leg bent at the knee. During the exercise, tighten your abdominal muscles.

You can practice Pilates at home, in a group in the gym, or outdoors. Pilates in the pool is an equally popular variation of this training! Cool water promotes fat burning, so exercise in water is also recommended for people with back problems.

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