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‘Pilates’ Explained!

The founder of this system, Joseph Pilates, took muche of his inspiration from yoga. It utilizes the power of the mind to help with the exercises and to increase harmony between body and mind. The exercises are different from yoga because they work the body as a whole, not particular muscle groups. Mr. Pilates was sickly as a child. He became interested in fitness while working with immobile patients as an orderly during WWI. He developed a series of exercises using springs attached to their beds. He discovered that people became stronger more quickly when certain apparatus was used. After the war he moved to America and opened a fitness studio in NYC. His techniques attracted many well known people.

Although the use of equipment is part of the Pilates program, the original system was based on matwork. The basic principles concentrate on rhythmic breathing, centered posture, smooth movements and a focused mind.

There are many benefits to be obtained from doing Pilates regularly, including more self- confidence and an increased sense of well being. Physically, you will develop a leaner body, have better circulation, more efficient digestion and an enhanced immune system. Other benefits may include improved skin, less stress and clearer thinking through increased oxygen intake. Pilates helps you to build strength and flexibility, but to increase stamina it should be combined with a cardiovascular program such as aerobics.

If you are in reasonably good health, Pilates is suitable for you. If there is a qualified teacher near you, you may want to take classes. However, you can design a program in your own home and practice at your own convenience. Some things to keep in mind if you choose to do this are: Have a comfortable spot for floor exercises, wear comfortable, non- constricting clothing, drink plenty of water, warm-up before and cool-down after you finish.

While learning the different exercises, don’t forget the importance of rhythmic breathing. When you inhale you are not only taking oxygen into your lungs, the act also circulates blood around the body. When you exhale, you expel stale air and gasses such as carbon dioxide from your lungs. If you hold your breath during physical effort, carbon dioxide will accumulate in your body and weaken your muscles. Holding your breath can increase blood pressure, make you tense and waste energy. Also, good posture is an important part of doing the exercises correctly.

If you suspect that your posture is poor, you may want to consult a qualified Pilates instructor to help correct it. A useful tip to help check your own posture is to have someone take two photographs, one in a standing and one in a sitting position (side views). Some things to look for: rounded shoulders, a protruding stomach, your head or chin jutting forward. Before you begin each set of exercises, be sure to begin with the right posture.

There are websites and books available to teach you the various exercises. Proceed at your own pace. Taking the time to do them correctly is vital. Learn the art of visualization. It is a fact that visualizing something can help it to come true. So put a picture in your mind of how you want to look or feel and it will help to keep you motivated to get the results you want. J Kane is an author and webmaster for Learn Yoga.

Here’s a great source of knowledge and training for the easiest and most gentle exercise program which get’s results and is a great partner for the Mediterranean diet – it’s of course.

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