We all know that fitness comes first and one should manage to hit the gym or spend some time working out on a regular basis. Whether one indulges in yoga, aerobics or both, it helps one get in shape, lose weight and eventually, achieve a balanced mind and body. However, if you are NOT looking to lose a lot of weight and rather want to strengthen your core, increase flexibility and tone your muscles, then you can opt for Pilates - a fitness technique that relies on a series of movements.
Pilates, earlier called Contrology, was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, after whom this technique is named. In the beginning, it was practised more in western countries such as the United States, Canada, etc., but with time, it has become a choice of many women in Pakistan as well including several celebrities such as Mawra Hocane, Mehwish Hayat, Syra Shahroz, Sana Javed and others.
The exercises in Pilates are usually done in a specific order, one right after another while the movements have names such as ‘The 100,’ ‘Criss-Cross,’ the ‘Elephant,’ and the ‘Swan.’ The moves may appear to be simple but they require a lot of precision and control. It’s not like doing a bunch of crunches; the emphasis is more on the technique.
Speaking of her experience with Pilates and how it has helped her stay fit, Mehwish Hayat told Instep, "Pilates has been life changing for me. I do mat Pilates as well as with equipment/reformer; it helps make my core stronger, gives my body the stretch that it needs and also helps keep my posture right throughout the day. I consider it an intense form of yoga which increases focus, concentration, flexibility and strength. It’s not as easy as it looks; one gets a hang of it with time and practice but I do recommend Pilates to every woman of all ages. It’s wonderful."
As Mehwish mentioned, Pilates is demanding. But it’s not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. Instead it’s all about concentration and breathing but you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise. Continued practice will tone, strengthen and lengthen the deep, supportive muscles of the entire back, abdominals, glutes and inner and outer thighs. Though the main focus of Pilates is on core but you can expect strength gains in your arms and legs too.
A Pilates class typically takes 45 minutes to an hour but you can do fewer moves in less time. Note that it cannot be done outdoor, either you go to the gym or do it at home. It is better to do this workout a few days per week, in addition to cardio, since Pilates is not designed to be an aerobic activity
People with health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and cholesterol, can tailor Pilates to their needs and it can be a great addition to their aerobic workout. Also, those who have arthritis, a strength-training program like Pilates is very important for them. Just make sure you consult your doctor first and let your instructor know about it.
Pilates improves breathing, concentration, flexibility, strength, stability and body awareness through controlled and precise movements. So, pull out your gym mat, get a Pilates DVD at home (if you don’t want to spend a hefty amount on any class or private lessons) and get ready to do a series of movements that will stabilize and strengthen your core!