M Life’s guide to pilates
What is pilates?
Pilates was invented in the 1920s by Joesph Pilates and has a greater emphasis on strength and conditioning than yoga. Rather than being sequence-based, pilates focuses on groups of repetitive movements and targets certain muscle groups; it’s an aerobic pursuit and a deliberately intended to achieve fitness goals.
Yoga is more flexibility-centred with a primary goal of bringing to life the spiritual linkages and underpinning philosophy associated with the type of yoga being practiced. As a result, attention is paid to meditation and our intentions too.
Why should we do pilates?
Pilates is a low impact way of sculpting, lengthening, and toning key areas, in addition to building up stamina and resistance. The engagement of specific areas of the body makes it a good way of preventing injury and alleviating tension, without bulking up in one area or another.
Both yoga and pilates strive for balance. Pilates, in particular, seeks to maintain physical harmony, making extensive use of breathwork and being mindful of alignment to enhance its objectives. And no matter what form of pilates is pursued, concentration is key; the mental focus required to sustain a move or indeed a pilates routine means we’re 100% invested in all aspects of our posture and increasing physical stability.
Are there different types of pilates?
Pilates, at the highest level, can be categorised as either mat or equipment-based. However, they are not mutually exclusive – some of the best classes combine both. It’s not all lying down either – a lot of the newer types of pilates have a cardio element or deliver cardio-like intensity.
When doing pilates, moves can include various leg and arm extensions (on the front, back or side), planks and similar poses, many ways of reaching, pulling, flexing, holding and pulsing (a pilates ring or resistance band increase the burn) in various positions, and push ups or crunches. These can be done in a multitude of ways and is by no means an exhaustive list.
How should we get started with pilates?
We suggest identifying a fitness goal and finding a class to match, and then mixing and matching where necessary to avoid a plateau. Continuing to challenge the body by shaking up what we do and when is key. For example, reformer a few times a week, with a 30-45 minute cardio pilates class and mat-based class with some equipment can keep things interesting.
Dressing for pilates is similar to dressing for yoga. Our tip for pilates is to wear clothes which won’t get in the way or distract (especially important for reformer pilates) and make for a streamlined silhouette. Sports bras and high waisted leggings are great and allow for maximum range which is crucial for pilates classes.
This is an editorial article and not a fitness recommendation. Please consult your doctor or a trainer before doing any form of exercise.