What Is Pilates Anyway? - Pilates and Weight Loss

Written by Rita Kennen

Pilates works your muscles from the inside out.
Losing weight may be a side benefit of doing Pilates.
Pilates helps people suffering from chronic pain.

Pilates and Weight Lossall about pilates and how it works
Unlike other exercise programs, Pilates doesn't focus on weight loss, although some Pilates students say losing weight is a side benefit. "I lost 15 pounds, and not because I was dieting," says 54-year old Darlene Heath who does Pilates twice a week. "My waist and butt are smaller and tighter, and my posture is a lot better. I find I crave healthier foods."

Helping Injuries
Pilates also help people with chronic back pain, arthritis, tendinitis or problems of the spinal column. Actor Danny Glover started doing the non-impact exercise program to get help for his misaligned left hip. Since he has adhered to a fitness regime that includes Pilates exercises five times a week, he says, the condition has corrected itself.

Instructors feel that while Pilates is not a cure, strengthening the abdominal muscles or powerhouse, as they refer to it, increases flexibility and corrects body alignment. This can't help but improve certain conditions.

I tried Pilates myself, and I can safely say that I'm now more conscious of how I hold my body, and why my neck gets stiff all the time. I see how strengthening certain muscles can make moving through life a whole lot easier. Doing Pilates feels good; I'm eager to try it again.

Here's How Basic Pilates Works

Pilates is done on mats or special machines. The best-known is the Reformer, a machine with adjustable springs and pulleys, adaptable to dozens of exercises. You stand, sit or lie down on a platform that moves back and forth, and use your hands, legs and feet to do the exercises. Because the platform moves, your abdominal muscles are constantly being called on to stabilize the body.

Your abdominals act as stabilizers for your body in Pilates.
Correct breathing is a very important part of doing Pilates.
Pilates requires more supervision than other forms of exercise.
Instructors observe students closely to make sure they are getting the proper amount of stretch.

A basic instruction in breathing is the Ha breath. This means inhaling deeply and then letting out all the air in your lungs as you say the word Ha. First-time Pilates students practice the Ha breath before moving on to clocking.

In clocking, you lie down on your back and imagine your pelvic area as a clock. Your belly button is 12 o'clock. Think of your right abdominal muscles as 3 o'clock, the lower ones at the pubic bone as 6 o'clock and the left ones as 9 o'clock. We go around the clock, isolating each abdominal area, tightening them individually as we go along.

More advanced students move on to machines called the Cadillac, High and Low Chair and the Barrel. Pilates requires more supervision than other forms of exercise. Movements done on the machines are generally performed under the close supervision of an instructor. Mat classes are conducted in small groups.

As students go through other movements on the equipment, the instructor is watches how and where the body is out of alignment. Instructors correct the positions of feet, lower shoulders, make sure breathing is correct and ensure that the student is getting the maximum amount of stretch out of each exercise. Instructors work almost as hard as the students. 

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