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A system of mind-body exercises developed by Joseph Pilates

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Pilates Changed My Life - Body, Mind & Spirit

  • Apr 19, 2009
Let me start simply.  I LOVE Pilates.  I've quite literally been day-dreaming about it ever since I stopped going during my 2-month-turned-into-2-year adjustment to motherhood.

Ok, so with that established, why do I LOVE Pilates?
  • It taps into a sense of physical balance that seamlessly connects to mental balance as well, and in a somehow more pragmatic way than the more overtly spiritual manner that yoga accomplishes a similar connection.  One key commonality between Pilates and Yoga is that in both you learn that breath = power.  Power in the sense of control, in the sense of centering both your body and mind, and power in the sense of total focus.  Breathe.  It's brilliant.  And if you think that sounds like new-age bs... you've never tried it.  You'll be in awe at what you can draw from a simple breath (no pun intended ; )
  • Fast results.  With consistency and dedication, Pilates can make a vastly noticeable difference in how you feel and how you look.  My husband dubbed it the "Pilates Body" (tmi?).  Seriously, though - he returned from a 4 week trip and I was basically a different person.  I found this totally shocking, considering I've always had freakish hamstrings that ... well... don't stretch.  I know, sort of defeats the purpose of having them, eh?  Mine are remarkably tight though, but the mix of training flexibility and strength -- voila, I became both bendy and firm.  Woo-freaking-hoo!
  • Core strength is PRICELESS.  If you think you know what core strength is, and haven't done Pilates - you're in for a shock.  If you have no idea what core strength is about, prepare to find such a deep rooted powerhouse in your own body that it will blow away what you think you're capable of accomplishing.  Core strength is a big part of what changed my life.  I was able to tap into my core to support every other muscle group.  From running or lifting heavy boxes, to carrying groceries up the steps, to that 1.5 hr hair straightening session where your arm is about to fall off (the girls blessed w/ natural curls will get that reference) -- not to mention recovering from major abdominal surgery and childbirth.  With just a flick of a mental switch, I could engage my core and turn on an incredible amount of reserve power.
  • It's low impact and graceful.  After many years of every kind of dance lesson you can imagine, I abandoned all of it upon hitting my freshman year of college (ah, the lame priorities of an 18 year old).  This practice returned me to those beautiful moments of grace and balance.  There is an incredible flow that develops once you're familiarized with each position and the transitions between them that evolves into what feels like a fluid dance.  Upon reaching more advanced levels of Pilates, I encountered one pose that literally felt like I was flying.  The self confidence from that experience was invaluable to my progress in finding health and wellness.  Also, I'm partial to low or no impact work outs.  While running certainly gives you a very tangible sense that you just worked your tail off, the slam-slam-slamming on my joints is just not an enjoyable sensation, IMHO.   
  • It's precise.  The amount of focus and attention you place on very nuanced distinctions among your muscle groups is a big part of what makes Pilates so targeted and so effective.  If you're an athlete or rehabbing an injury, Pilates would be incredibly useful for targeting key areas.
  • It's a full-body work out that can be started from scratch, or basically any state of physical fitness.
  • It can be done alone or as an excellent compliment to other fitness routines.

  • The Pilates machine - called a reformer - is genious.  I HIGHLY recommend establishing a long period of practice on the reformer before getting into the mat work.  The mat classes can be incredible work outs, but only if you are very attuned to your body and can push yourself to stay focused and productive with every motion.  That's a lot harder to do before you've well-established the basic elements of the routines. Otherwise, you'll try the mat routine, figure it's like a less intense version of yoga, and likely bail.  There are several other pieces of incredibly creative equipment that you'll incorporate as well, in addition to the more common items like the large balls and stretch bands.  The Magic Circle is a phenomenal piece of gear - and a great way to do Pilates at home too.  Wow, can't wait to dig mine out - I'd forgotten about that little gem until writing this.
  • Start with private sessions.  Most studios will require this, and it's with very good reason.  It's totally necessary to develop the precision that is so integral to the experience.  You'll not only be glad you did it - you'll be hard pressed to let go of the 1:1 luxury when it comes time to join a class.  Luckily, due to the size of the reformers and space limitations in most studios - even the classes are a very reasonable size. 
  • Studios are better than gyms.  Ok, so I'm not a gym person at ALL, but I still think this is a legitimate claim.  You loose so much of the tone and culture of the practice, as well as typically paying for gym fees on top of the Pilates session fees - which aren't usually any cheaper than going directly to the studio. 
  • It's expensive.  The private sessions are pricey - but event the classes aren't exactly cheap.  The mat classes are cheaper, but as I mentioned that's not the place to economize if you're after the full experience and results.  It's worth EVERY penny though.

For a little context on my perspective, you should know that prior to finding Pilates in my early 30's, I've never worked out in any consistent or meaningful way.  I've always had an affinity for yoga, but never developed a true practice of it and have always been sporadic.  I have the blessing and curse of an incredibly fast metabolism - which means I was a waif for most of my teens and 20's -- and then had a horribly rude awakening around 27 or so when said metabolism tuckered out on me.

So there I was, with zero established healthy habits.  Why watch what you eat or work out if you don't have to, right?  BAD plan, people.  The holistic need for mind-body-spirit health and well being had somehow been lost on me.  The amount of fast food, sugar and fat I consumed is appalling.  Now throw in a decade of very fast paced, high pressure work atmosphere with pretty much zero work/life balance... and what do you get?  Meltdown, that's what.  Anxiety, stress, the whole works.  Boo.

Enter Pilates.  Life changed.  Yay.

Such is life though, that due to a really challenging pregnancy and the ensuing whirlwind that is existing with a newborn and now toddler, all things in the "me-time" category got blown out of the water.  However, I'm delighted to announce that this very week, I'm making the return to practicing Pilates.  I'm elated... and also terrified to be starting back at scratch again, with zero muscle tone, zero cardio, and now the pressure of publicly committing to it.  Eeks!

If there is anything that can definitely pull me out of this flabby post-baby state though, Pilates is it.  It sure is a lot easier to jump back in to something when you feel 100% confident that you will enjoy it AND that it will work.

Seriously, try it.  It WILL change your life.
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October 02, 2009
Very good review. I have also wanted to try Pilates and did find a DVD called Slim & Sculpt Pilates. Two pilates bands are included which helps to get that reformer machine feel. All though it probably will not give you the same results has going to a class. I just wanted to see what it was all about so I tried that first. After your review I might go try the real thing. Thanks!
September 30, 2009
Very comprehensive review! A few colleagues of mine took this up and one of them nearly broke her back during a fall. So, just a piece of advise, be VERY careful. I don't think I'll ever take it up or any vigorous exercise for that matter. I'm just too lazy, hehe...
April 23, 2009
Very good for thought :)
April 23, 2009
i need to try this... i think i would great with "bendy and firm" female body. serious question... this is mostly woman right?
April 23, 2009
no! not at all a chic thing. in fact, men need this even MORE! that core strength is a major secret weapon for nearly every sport, as well as an amazing way to get more reps out of more traditional strength training. also, most men really need help in those areas of flexibility and balance... haha, in more ways than one actually ; )
More Pilates reviews
Quick Tip by . April 07, 2010
posted in Healthy Lifestyle
I've been a fan of Pilates for years. Great for toning and feeling better. Recommend to everyone.
About the reviewer
Melissa ()
Ranked #16
Really loyal, a little more lippy than I'd wish, love love love the beach and all things tropical, sneeze freakishly loud, love the F word, came of age in the Midwest during the 80's, get a lot … more
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Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany. As of 2005 there are 11 million people who practice the discipline regularly and 14,000 instructors in the United States.

Pilates called his method Contrology (from control), because he believed his method uses the mind to control the muscles.[3] The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles.

Pilates claimed his method has a philosophical and theoretical foundation. He claims that his system is not merely a collection of exercises, but a method developed and refined over more than eighty-five years of use and observation.

According to practitioners, the central aim of Pilates is to attempt to create a fusion of mind and body, so that without even engaging the mind, the body will move with economy, grace, and balance.
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