Pilates can be an aerobic and non-aerobic form of exercise. It requires concentration and focus, because you move your body through precise ranges of motion. Pilates lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in your body in a balanced fashion. It requires concentration in finding a centre point to control your body through movement. Each exercise has a prescribed placement, rhythm and breathing pattern.
In Pilates, your muscles are never worked to exhaustion, so there is no sweating or straining, just intense concentration. The workout consists of a variety of exercise sequences that are performed in low repetitions, usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. Mat work and specialised equipment for resistance are used.
The Pilates method is taught to suit each person and exercises are regularly re-evaluated to ensure they are appropriate for that person. Due to the individual attention, this method can suit everybody from elite athletes to people with limited mobility, pregnant women and people with low fitness levels.
The health benefits of Pilates include:
- improved flexibility
- increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
- balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
- enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
- improved stabilization of your spine
- improved posture
- rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
- improved physical coordination and balance
- relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back
- safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
- prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
- increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
- improved concentration
- increased body awareness
- stress management and relaxation.
Health benefits of yoga
The practice of yoga develops strength and flexibility, while soothing your nerves and calming your mind. The yoga affect the muscles, joints and skin, and the whole body – glands, nerves, internal organs, bones, respiration and the brain. The physical building blocks of yoga are the posture and the breath.
Health benefits of yoga include:
- Cardiovascular system (heart and arteries) – yoga postures are isometric, which means they rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time. This improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Studies show that regular yoga practice may help normalise blood pressure.
- Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion.
- Musculoskeletal – joints are moved through their full range of motion, which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The gentle stretching releases muscle and joint tension, and stiffness, and also increases flexibility. Maintaining many of the yoga postures encourages strength and endurance. Weight-bearing yoga postures may help prevent osteoporosis, and may also help people already diagnosed with osteoporosis (if practiced with care under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher). Long-term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture.
- Nervous system – improved blood circulation, easing of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long-term benefits include reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue, better concentration and energy levels, and increased feelings of calm and well being.