As I might have mentioned before I have started to do pilates and I actually quite like it. By my own nature, I am always doing something or want to be doing something. Pilates does just that for me. Running on a treadmill is mindless and I often get bored because my brain is not engaged. But with Pilates you have to concentrate on what you are doing in order to do it properly and get the most from your session.
By SHERYL BUSSARD
Looking for an alternative to mindless repetitions in the gym?
Grapevined through aerobics until you’re practically fermented? You might want to look
into the effectively intense method of body conditioning known as Pilates (pi-LAH-tees).
Today you can find Pilates all over the news, riding the wave of popularity like never
before in its history. Why? Because today’s health-conscious public is discovering what
dancers, athletes, rehabilitation therapists, and a coterie of aficionados have known for
decades: that the results of Pilates conditioning are immediate and noticeable. And just
like most forms of disciplined exercise regime, Pilates has been proven to be mentally
beneficial as well as physically. It is being appropriately referred to as a form of
“active yoga.” For us body-conscious southern Californians, there are tales of
dramatic changes in body mass and tone. Reports of dropping a full size or two in as
little as six weeks — without sacrificing any of the major food groups. Equally salacious
are the tales of slenderized hips, shapely calves, leaner thighs, and inevitably, tighter
Because of Pilates’ emphasis on proper posture, body alignment, and
constant elongation, there are even reports of height gains — up to a full inch. Inspired
as well by claims of greater strength, flexibility, and mental balance, I was determined
to give Pilates a try.
The Thinking Person’s Workout
Besides athletes and dancers, Pilates is being enjoyed and practiced by
a diverse mixture of the community from professionals, business owners and executives to
retirees, moms and students.
The main piece of equipment is called the Universal Reformer, a padded
bed-like platform with a base that glides back and forth on a track. A variety of bar,
pulley, and strap attachments enable you to execute the movements lying down, sitting,
kneeling, or standing. The degree of resistance for strength conditioning is determined by
the number of springs attached for any given series of exercises. An instructor is there
to lead you to your next exercise and roams the class constantly monitoring students’
movements while offering gentle reminders like “shoulders down,” or “engage
your abdominals,” or simply “breathe.” There’s never the stagnation that
comes with doing the same repetitive routine in a typical gym setting. The environment
should calm and yet is charged with concentrated energy. Your program changes constantly.
Different equipment is introduced, or more advanced variations of already-learned
exercises can be added. So you’re always learning new movements and working different
Pilates features precisely controlled movements that strengthen
the body’s core muscle groups
Isacowitz notes that there are six basic principles underlying an
effective Pilates conditioning program: concentration, control, centering, breathing,
flow, and precision. He explains that all the exercises incorporate a strong body center.
They focus on strengthening the pelvic, abdominal, and back muscles, or feature precisely
controlled leg and arm movements from a stabilized core. This in turn improves alignment
and increases strength, balance, and flexibility.
Amazing benefits for us ordinary folk, too
When a professional ball player like Brent Mayne talks about fitness,
you listen. But more and more the weekend warrior and the amateur gym member is
discovering the benefits of Pilates. A throw from a horse in September 1997 eventually led
Carol Wallin to Isacowitz. “I had fractured my pelvis, scapula, and ribs,” said
Carol. “After the initial recovery period, I was afraid that I’d never be able to
fully resume my exercise routine.” After her introductory session with Isacowitz she
knew Pilates was what she’d been looking for. “I can’t begin to tell you what a
difference it’s made.”
Dvora Tal, an internationally renowned concert pianist, and student of
Isacowitz since 1996, credits Pilates-based training for enhancing her playing ability.
“My time spent here at the studio helps me prepare mentally for the piano,” she
said. “it makes you more conscious about your body, how you carry yourself; it makes
everything else you do that much better. I’m more balanced, more centered. Ready for
life.” Tom Moore began Pilates at the recommendation of his chiropractor. An avid
surfer, volleyball player, and snowboarder, he started experiencing back and hip problems
in his early 40s. “I’m a true believer,” said Tom. “I’ve been coming twice
a week for almost two years and my back and hips never bother me any longer.
Other athletes that have benefited from Isacowitz’ discerning eye
include Brian Lewis, Craig Moothart and Leiff Hansen. As has Daryl Chinn, MD, a
radiologist at Hoag Hospital. Daryl has been doing Pilates for three years together with
his wife Jacque and son Greg, who is one of the top canoeist sand an Olympic hopeful.
Image used from inventorspot.com
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