Most of us might have heard about Pilates (though not all of us know the correct pronunciation). Pilates is a holistic exercise system designed to elongate, strengthen and restore the body to balance; so much more than just building a 'strong core' or 'perfect posture'.
Pilates is named after German born Joseph Pilates (1912-1967), a man who overcame his own childhood weaknesses through developing and practicing his own regime of exercises.
Pilates is good for everyone! Nothing more needs to be said. It works efficiently to make our core muscles function properly which support our posture and facilitate movement.
Beginners, who fancy Pilates like a million others in the world, do not need fancy equipment but just a pair of comfortable clothes and a mat and they are good to start at home itself. Here are some easy Pilate exercises to begin with:
Warming up - head nod
This exercise is done to promote lengthening of the spine. It is integral to a lot of Pilate exercises that articulate the spine.
- Lie down on your back.
- Breathe in so that your spine lengthens and your chin is tilted towards your chest. Do not raise your head from the mat.
- Breathe out and return to the neutral position.
- Breathe in again so that your head tips back a little.
- Breathe out again returning to the neutral position.
Chest lift position looks familiar to that of abdominal crunches but both the exercises differ substantially. Chest lift enables you to build abdominal strength and provides the basis for forward flexion Pilates exercises.
- Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Bring your hand behind your head. The fingers should touch but keep your shoulders down.
- Let your hands support the base of your skull and your elbows open throughout the exercise.
- Breathe in deeply a few times.
- Now while you breathe out, pull your belly button towards your spine.
- Simultaneously, tilt your chin down.
- Slowly lift the upper spine off the mat.
- Pause in this position and breathe in pulling the abdomen deeper.
- Breathe out and come back to the mat without relieving the abdomen.
- Breathe in again and release the abdomen.
- Repeat the set for 5-6 times.
Open leg balance
If you are looking for lower abdomen strength, this is the best Pilate exercise you must do. It stretches your legs and challenges the back extensors for good.
- Sit on the mat bringing your feet towards yourself keeping your knees open and feet together.
- Grasp your ankles from the sides of the legs.
- Pull your head up towards the sky making sure your spine is extended long up and shoulders remain dropped.
- Pull in your abdomen especially the lower abs.
- Extend both your legs one by one- balancing and counting till 5.
- Control your position and fold one leg in. Repeat this with the second leg.
- Repeat the exercise 3-4 times.
Benefits of pilates exercises
- Pilates offer a total body workout using muscles in synchronisation with each other. This enables proper functioning of whole body.
- If you are not habitual of sitting straight, Pilates is for you. It teaches you to consciously maintain optimum anatomical alignment in all positions and during movement.
- It will also help you lose those embarrassing belly tyres which have resulted from fat deposition.
- Focus on one’s movements is another benefit that Pilates offer. It also teaches you to breathe properly which helps reduce stress.
If you seriously want to learn Pilates and want to do it at home, there are various instructional DVDs and books available in the market and on internet to help you. Start as soon as possible at the place of your choice.