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How to really do Pilates

Where Pilates all startedContrary to reports on how many ancient fitness activities began - like Tai Chi, swimming and even running - things are different with Pilates. The practice began in the 1920s when physical trainer Joseph Pilates was in an English camp during World War I. He taught soldiers how to condition and strengthen their bodies, and rehabilitate injuries. Joseph continued to teach his mat work on a daily basis, as well as meditation practice, and this developed into the use of the bunks, bedsprings and chairs - the only equipment available in the prison. Soon his fellow prisoners realised he had discovered a transformational methodology and it became a mandatory activity for the entire camp.

How pilates has changedMore than a century later, Pilates has become one of the popular body conditioning practices today. BodyMindLife first opened as a yoga studio in 2003 but following demand from students, expanded to offering a reformer Pilates too. But not all Pilates classes have been created equal. With the uptake in Hollywood and reports on how the practice can create lean, toned muscles and repair common injuries, a plethora of options around the world and Sydney have opened up. It’s possible to book a session and show up purely for the movement - with Beyoncé up loud - but to really make the most from the science behind the practice, there are several key principles to keep in mind. “Pilates is the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit” - Joseph Pilates Unlike most exercise classes, Pilates has an energetics component. Joseph Pilates taught six principles in his movement philosophy, including concentration, control, centering, flow, precision and breathing. While we love a good soundtrack and a quick hour before or after work to move our bodies, taking time to weave in the techniques in Pilates can make all the difference to the health benefits you’ll take home and it’s a philosophy our teachers embrace.

Three tips to improve your Pilates workoutOne of our senior Pilates teachers Narelle Clark shares her top tips to make the most from from the practice:

1. BreatheBreath can actually assist with the activation of our core muscles and increase the effectiveness of Pilates exercises. Using the breath properly is an integral part of the method. When you inhale through the nose, fresh air enters the lungs expanding the rib cage laterally. Consciously exhaling fully out through the mouth allows all stale air in the lungs to be removed. Joseph Pilates was adamant about deep breathing. To quote from his book Return To Life Through Contrology, “lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying a haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs.”

2. Work on your control + precisionControl and precision is the result of a strong mind-body connection. This comes from breathwork and concentration. Each Pilates exercise should be made with complete muscle control - conscious deliberate movement. When you think about the control and precision of each movement, Pilates becomes less about the multiple ‘reps’ you’re doing, and more about finding the proper form which will achieve effective results. Body movements will flow when control, precision and concentration are applied to an exercise.

3. Begin at the centerTo effectively control your body, focus on the center - your “powerhouse”. Commonly referred to as ‘the core’ it not only includes the abdominals but all muscles around your pelvis and lower back. “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.” - Joseph Pilates.

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