Health & Fitness

Pilates: The Exercises, Benefits And 12 Reasons Why You Need It In Your Life

12 Reasons Why You Need Pilates In Your Life

There's two kinds of people: people who don't really understand Pilates, and those who do it, rave about it, and have impressively flexible bodies to show for it. We're very much in the first camp, but we'd like to be in the latter, so we quizzed Pilates pro Dawne, founder of bePilates and general wellness bod, on how to get started and what it can do for us.

First of all, what IS Pilates? According to Dawne, "Pilates is a system of mind and body exercise evolved from the principles and method of one Joseph Pilates that strengthens and tones muscles, improves posture, flexibility and balance, reduces stress, improves focus and your overall wellbeing."

Here's what we learnt...

Pilates is amazing for your posture

Sitting comfortably? You will be. Dawne told us "Pilates is a great way to fast-track your body to better posture. With a focus on balanced muscle development, proper alignment is an integral part of each exercise in the Pilates method. Every Pilates workout addresses poor postural habits, tight muscles get stretched and loose muscles are strengthened. In your workout, you’ll work to re-establish more efficient postural patterns until an improved postural habit is developed - and then you’ll work even harder to maintain these patterns as you progress into more challenging exercises!"

There's a difference between Pilates and yoga

As Dawne explained, they aren't interchangable: "I’m an expert in Pilates but only a keen hobbyist of yoga. From my experience with yoga, it is very different to Pilates. While they are both mind-body modalities, that’s really the limit of their similiarites. I’m not aware of any equipment in yoga like Joseph Pilates’ inventions and unlike yoga, there isn’t any religious/spiritual component nor inclusion of static poses [ed note. think sun salutations] for meditative purposes as part of the Pilates method." So basically, they're both holistic, but Pilates doesn't involved meditating, or holding poses to help you be more mindful.

Everyone needs Pilates

Pilates can help you be better at the other exercises. Dawne said: "Cross training with Pilates helps you identify weaknesses and imbalances to minimize risk of injury due to added load on dysfunctional patterns, for example. Think of Pilates as an education in how you move. If you take this knowledge and apply it to your other workouts, you’ll notice that you move better, and subsequently achieve better results." A fast track to being a more efficient gym bunny sounds good to us.

Pilates is great for pregnancy

Yoga isn't the only exercise that helps when you're execting. Dawne explained, "Pregnancy is accompanied by many physical changes for a woman. Pilates is a great way to build trust and confidence in a woman’s body as she experiences these changes. A Pilates practice throughout pregnancy can help you to maintain your level of fitness and promote efficient body mechanics as you prepare your body for the demands of childbirth. A Pilates practice can also alleviate common complaints like low back pain throughout pregnancy, and improve recovery time post-partum."


Pilates reduces stress

Dawne's got this covered, too: "To quote Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Pilates is exercise and exercise is a great way to de-stress and improve your mood and energy level. You will leave your Pilates class feeling energized, rather than exhausted and with an emphasis on precision of movement that includes breath, rhythm and flow you’ll have no choice but to leave your cares at the door and focus on your class. Our lunch time classes are especially popular, as that little bit of me-time during the day goes a long way to increasing productivity and success to help carry you through the rest of a long day at the office."

Pilates and weight loss

If you do want to just shed pounds, Pilates along might not be enough. Dawne cautioned, "If your fitness focus is just to lose weight, Pilates is not right for you. You will streamline your body shape for sure, but that doesn’t always correlate to a shift in the scales. However, I’ve read that at an intermediate to advanced level practitioner, you can burn up to 500 calories in a session."

Pilates works at home

No studio nearby? No worries. As Dawne says, "There are quite a few options for clients who want to practice Pilates at home. Technology is a wonderful supplement and many of my clients (as well as myself) enjoy regular lessons online via Skype, FaceTime or another platform. This is a great option if you don’t live close to a Pilates studio but want ensure that you get a proper workout with professional instruction. There are also some fantastic online subscription services like PilatesAnytime or Pilates On Demand that include workouts for all levels of client up to professional. While it is better to be working with someone who is teaching you 1-to-1 and can answer your questions and address your own needs and challenges, the instruction on these subscription services comes from some of the best in the industry, so if you can’t take lessons in person or via an online exchange, pre-recorded instruction may be a good option for you."

Pilates busts back pain

While Dawne notes that "Pilates is often recommended for clients experiencing low back pain because of the emphasis on core strength and stability.", it's not a quick fix. "Pilates teachers are not appropriately qualified to diagnose or treat injury or illness. We can observe movement patterns, alignment, posture and stability to provide exercise programmes to help your overall physical fitness, but if you are having pain that interferes with daily life activities, you should always seek the advice of a medical professional before taking up any form of exercise - Pilates included." Wise words.

@bePilates Instagram

Pilates gives you great arms

Want Michella Obama's killer arms? "The great news with Pilates is that even novice practitioners see results in the arms fairly quickly. Many people unfamiliar with Pilates think that the method is just about abdominal work, but that really isn’t the case. Pilates’ protégé, Romana Kryzansowska, described the method as having a strong center that radiates outwards, and in my opinion describes the method perfectly. Taking into consideration that our arms are stabilized by our (upper) core, having a strong center helps us to have stable shoulders and with strong shoulder stabilizers, a person can simply take on more weight because they are using their whole body, not just their little arms hanging off the sides of their bodies to shift the load!" This way to the gun show, folks.

Pilates is great for your backside, too

A J.Lo booty is within reach: As Dawne said: "The bonus with a whole-body Pilates workout is that every single exercise involves your backside! I find it challenging to address requests of clients coming in who only want to work on their butt - in Pilates, we don’t separate the body into pieces. Every single movement in the Pilates repertoire involves your abs, your glutes, your arms, stretches you and strengthens you. By working with an experienced, professional instructor, you’ll quickly start to learn how to do the exercises correctly so that you can experience that backside burn. Trust me – by the end of a one hour session your glutes will be on fire!"

How often should you be do Pilates?

"Joseph Pilates is quoted as saying, “In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.” The more often you do Pilates, the more quickly and more obvious you will experience the results. I tell all of my clients to start off with just once per week and evaluate how you feel after. Real change happens through repetition. Joseph Pilates wanted his clients to do Pilates four times per week. If that is not possible, try and do 3 times a week. However, with even just 1 or 2 sessions per week you will experience change - but the results of your effort will just take a bit longer to achieve."

Pilates and injury

Pilates has a reputation for being rehabilitative - but is that true? Dawne explained, "Pilates is exercise. If you have an injury, please seek advice from a medical professional before taking up any fitness regime - that includes Pilates. After you are given the all-clear, Pilates is a great option when done correctly. Working with a professionally qualified and experienced teacher, you will be able to modify exercises as needed so that you can avoid further injury and still experience most of the benefits of a Pilates workout. Anyone who is aware of special considerations should be encouraged to take up a private practice or seek out Pilates instructors who also have physiotherapy or osteopath credentials, until you are healthy enough to participate in full-body group Pilates classes."

Grazia magazine cover