What is Pilates?
Pilates is a low impact exercise system, that focuses on core strength, flexibility, posture and muscular imbalances. Pilates is usually delivered as either a 1-2-1 session or as a group in a class and will involve activating certain muscles in different functional positions to increase core stability.
Originally called ‘Contrology’, Pilates was named after its creator, Joseph Pilates. When Joseph Pilates founded his studio, around a century ago, some of the first Pilates clients were ballet dancers looking to improve their posture and control. These principles of motor control have also been used to rehabilitate people with low back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries.
There are many different adaptations that are made to pilates sessions meaning that classes can be found specifically catering for pregnancy and post natal mums, as well as focusing on core control or fitness.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Lumbopelvic pain: Back pain is associated with weakness and dysfunction of the deeper abdominal muscles. Pilates aims to increase the strength and control of these muscles whilst lengthening the back muscles. This can reduce compression on the joints of the spine and adjust the tilt of the pelvis. Once you have mastered the basics of core activation, you can apply this to more functional movements, which will reduce the load on your joints day to day.
Neck pain: Spinal stabilisation exercises have a positive effect on neck pain. Neck pain is associated with inefficiency of the deep neck flexors at the front of the neck, which leads to increased use of the bigger muscles at the neck and shoulder. The deep stabilising muscles are often susceptible to fatigue if they are weak, especially whilst driving or sitting at a computer, which in turn can lead to neck pain. Deep neck flexor training in pilates is helpful in managing and preventing these symptoms from occurring.
Injury prevention and rehabilitation: Pilates starts in positions where clients have a wide base of support, for example in lying, this can then be progressed to more functional positions once strength and control increase. Increased core strength can aid more efficient movement patterns as well as promoting balance and muscle symmetry, and improving posture and body awareness, which are the fundamentals of injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Other joint pain: The principles of pilates and stability can be applied to other joints, for example knee and shoulder pain. This works by isolating smaller stabilising muscles, stretching and offloading overactive muscles, and promoting muscle symmetry and normal movement patterns at the joints.
Toning and fitness: Each exercise targets deep postural muscles and awakens little-used muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and trunk. As your activation and awareness of these muscles improve, you will be able to recruit these muscles more readily day to day, leading to enhanced muscle tone.
Relaxation: Pilates enhances mindfulness and sensory awareness. It helps to switch off your bigger global muscles, which are prone to becoming tense throughout the day. Pilates incorporates deep thoracic breathing to stimulate and energise your mind by supplying fresh oxygen to the brain.