By Jessica, April 24, 2012
Pilates is a controlled exercise designed to build strength while also improving coordination, flexibility and posture.
Pilates was developed in the early 1900s, and was originally given the name ‘Contrology’ to reflect its premise that the mind is used to control the body. Taking a degree of inspiration from yoga as well as a number of other areas, the exercise was designed to improve strength, endurance, coordination and posture, as well as flexibility.
The six principles of Pilates are concentration, control, centering, flow, precision and breathing. The exercise revolves greatly around the strength of the core, the belief being that once the body’s centre is strengthened and stabilised, the extremities will fall into correct placement and posture naturally.
The focus is very much on quality rather than quantity in Pilates, performing each movement slowly and precisely. Unlike many other exercises, it does not tend to involve excessive repetition of the same actions – the thinking being that the body benefits far more from a few concentrated moves executed correctly than from a series of half-hearted ones.
Traditional Pilates classes used custom equipment designed by the exercise’s founder. A series of springs and pulleys, they were created to guide the body through the correct series of movements. Most modern classes however do not have this equipment, and avail of smaller props and a mat to achieve the same results.
Pilates classes are suited to everyone from the very fit to the absolute beginner. Since its inception, it has been used to strengthen muscles and reduce risk of injury amongst dancers and athletes. More recently however, it has also been recommended to those recovering from back problems or serious injury to improve their condition while getting safe and supervised exercise.
Pilates vs. Yoga
The main difference between yoga and Pilates is not in the results, or even the practice – it’s in the thinking behind them. Yoga is an ancient eastern philosophy that encourages spiritual wellbeing alongside the physical. Pilates is a western development, focusing more on the physical workout. Essentially, yoga uses the body to soothe the mind, while Pilates uses the mind to condition the body.
As a class, Pilates can be a slightly less defined practice than yoga. Teaching methods can vary from instructor to instructor, as unlike yoga there is no exact series of poses to follow. However this has the added benefit of allowing classes to be adapted to the abilities of the person or group being taught.
Pilates classes are available at Tonic Health & Day Spa, Co. Dublin; The Maryborough Spa and Fota Island Spa, both in Co. Cork; The Heritage Golf & Spa Resort, Co. Laois; The River Spa, Co. Meath; and a number of other spas around Ireland.