Pilates is a form of very precise, intelligent exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. It emphasises the balanced development of the body through core strength and flexibility in order to support efficient, high quality, graceful movement. It’s a method that works well for a wide range of people - athletes and dancers love it, as do seniors, women during & after pregnancy and people who are at various stages of physical rehabilitation.

Within weeks of starting you will notice changes in your body. Your muscles will feel more toned, your joints will be looser and your stomach flatter. You are taught to align your body perfectly before starting an exercise, and then to isolate individual muscle groups and work them without tensing up in other areas. Most people expect an immense burn or ache and an intense cardio workout when exercising but you will be surprised by the gentleness of Pilates. The exercises can be deceptive and sometimes more effective than alternative exercise. Your posture in everyday life will improve as you strengthen the body's central core muscles, helping you to stand straight and hold your upper body correctly.

As you develop your core strength you develop stability throughout your entire torso. This is one of the ways Pilates helps people overcome back pain. As the trunk is properly stabilised, pressure on the back is relieved and the body is able to move freely and efficiently.

Those with back problems will learn to build up their weaker muscles while protecting the spine and relieving strain on injured areas. Once you understand why you have been suffering back pain, and that postural misalignments have been contributing to your problem, you will have the tools to alleviate and prevent any future trouble yourself.

There are six Pilates Principles that are essential ingredients in a high quality Pilates workout - Centring, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow. Balance is integral to a wholesome Pilates class and centring the body before embarking on a workout gives the body much greater control. The Pilates method has always emphasised quality over quantity, and you will find that, unlike many systems of exercise, Pilates exercises do not include a lot of repetitions for each move. Instead, doing each exercise fully, with precision, yields significant results in a shorter time than one would ever imagine.

Pilates requires total concentration and you use the breath to enhance the effectiveness of the movements and focus on the feelings in your muscles allowing the body to find its own natural rhythm and flow. Joseph Pilates liked to quote Schiller: "It is the mind itself which builds the body". Others have called Pilates "the thinking person's exercise system", because you learn how your body works and what you need to do to keep yourself healthy.

Core strength and torso stability, along with these six Pilates principles, set the Pilates method apart from many other types of exercise. Weight lifting, for example, can put a lot of attention on arm or leg strength without attending much to the fact that those parts are connected to the rest of the body! Even running or swimming can seem like all arms and legs, with either a floppy or overly tense core. Ultimately those who really succeed at their sport learn to use their core muscles, but in Pilates this integrative approach is learned from the beginning.

Mat Work and Equipment

Mat work is the basis for Pilates whereby the exercises are performed as a series of interconnected movements on the mat and are more conducive to gravity and flow or on Pilates apparatus developed by Joseph Pilates himself.

The workout apparatus that we use in Pilates generally utilises cords, pulleys and resistance from the participants own body weight on the machine as well as graduated levels of springs. It also helps to isolate movements and mobilise the body therefore vital for patients in various stages of physical rehabilitation. The reformer is probably the best-known piece of resistance equipment that you will encounter at a Pilates studio and again with a reformer class the movements will be interconnected as best as possible. It also allows for foot and leg work and a jumping series of exercises that are exclusive to the reformer. This not only aids leg alignment but also when done slowly on a light resistance with great precision it can help someone who is recovering from a hip, knee or ankle injury.

It can sometimes seem daunting when entering a Pilates studio for the first time but most instructors are extremely friendly and are there only to help you achieve your best and have lots of fun. You may come up against physical and mental challenges as well as unusual names like the reformer, Cadillac and Wunda chair to name a few, but in the end if you persevere you will discover some extremely refined exercise equipment and a very friendly environment to workout in.