By Adriene Ingalls
She was inspired by an infomercial. When “Ann” rang the bell at my Pilates studio for the first time, we had already spoken briefly by phone; she’d told me she was excited to start Pilates because she saw on TV that anyone could “tone up” and lose weight in just a few sessions. She wanted to “tone up” a bit.
So here she was, about to step into my studio with great expectations. I’d planned to approach the situation with a dose of comic realism—but changed my mind when I opened the door. In stepped Ann, a very pleasant woman in her early 30s who was, I guessed, about 5-foor-4 and at least 200 pounds. That was over 10 years ago…
Ann was right about two things: Pilates is effective, and anyone can do it—the old and the young, pregnant women, athletes, couch potatoes, even paraplegics. Because the exercises can be adapted safely to an individual’s proficiency level, Pilates is excellent for injury recovery as well as weight loss. My mentor, Kathleen Stanford Grant, referred to Joseph Pilates as “the first physical therapist of his time.”
There were no infomercials in the early 20th century, when Pilates developed his groundbreaking exercise method. But if there had been, he might have used his famous line: “In 10 sessions, you will feel a difference. In 20 sessions you will see a difference. In 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.”
Plus, Pilates is fun. The method involves a wide variety of exercises—over 500, not including the archival work—which means you never get bored.
How Pilates Works
The six key principles that make up the Pilates Method are concentration, control, centering, flow, precision and breathing. Here’s how they all come together:
Pilates is a series of rhythmic, balanced movements done in a controlled way, with an emphasis on proper breathing, body alignment, and mental focus. The movements strengthen and elongate the muscles without adding bulk. They also improve abdominal strength, increase flexibility and joint mobility, and enhance posture, balance and coordination. They can even boost bone density.
The six Pilates principles teach students to use what Joseph Pilates called the “Powerhouse”—the muscles in the center of the body, back and front, between the ribcage and pubic bone, which include the abdominals, hips, buttocks and low back muscles. In Pilates, the Powerhouse is always engaged and initiates movement while the rest of the body moves freely. The result is overall strength and fluidity of movement. Over time, students will see their body change to one that is uniformly developed, with long, lean muscles, improved posture, balanced joints, and a powerful mind/body/spirit connection.
Benefits of Pilates
The fact of the matter is that this system works—for everybody. It’s great for people battling disc and other spine-related problems. It’s also effective for those with joint injuries, scoliosis, whiplash, multiple sclerosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, osteoporosis, stroke and even diabetes. Clients preparing for or recovering from pregnancy or surgery use Pilates to help them rehabilitate and get back into shape quickly. Pilates is also a wonderful complement to sports, weight training, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and many other therapeutic or physical fitness systems.
Pilates is for Every Body.
Remember Ann—5-foot-4 and 200 pounds? After I explained that no, she wouldn’t be “toning up” in a couple of Pilates sessions, that it was going to take a lot of consistent, hard work, Ann wasn’t very happy. Ultimately, though, she committed to the idea of a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Small, realistic goals led to bigger ones, and as she attained each goal, Ann became stronger in mind, body and spirit. After a year and a half of Pilates training and cardiovascular exercise, Ann had lost 100 pounds—and she’s kept the weight off for a decade. She continues to do private Pilates sessions twice a week.
Adriene Ingalls owns Premier Pilates and Yoga, 200 North Ave., New Rochelle, NY. To make an appointment, call 914.235.1250. For more information, visit PremierPilatesNY.com.
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