Pilates, a gentle blend of yoga and gymnastics, is increasingly among the sports activities of community colleges and gyms. The training is particularly gentle on the joints and is suitable for anyone who wants to be athletic and fit, even for people who have back problems. Concentration and control are the main features of the exercises - but you should not expect a Schwarzenegger figure.
"It's the mind that shapes the body": Josef Pilates's full-body workout strengthens the lower-lying core muscles and improves posture, but this only goes hand in hand with mental relaxation and concentration. Born in Mönchengladbach, Pilates was often ill as a child and rather weak, which he sought to compensate for with sports and yoga. Later, he was a gymnast, diver, bodybuilder, circus artist, working in England as a professional boxer and training Scotland Yard officials.
As a German, he was interned at the beginning of World War I, where he also trained his fellow prisoners. After his return, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the political and social conditions in Germany. So he emigrated to New York in 1923, where he opened his first Pilates studio. He was 86 years old and died in 1967 as a famous coach in New York.
The Pilates philosophy
Unlike Tai Chi and Qi Gong, which are derived from Asian martial arts and require a good deal of standing movement, most Pilates exercises are performed lying or sitting on the floor. Common to them is the emphasis on fluidity and conscious breathing. However, the Pilates training is generally easier and therefore also suitable for the untrained and elderly, but in advanced courses, the exercises are also more complex.
On exactly seven principles based on the holistic philosophy of Joseph Pilates:
- motion flow
- Centering of all movements
All movements are performed out of the body center as flowing movements.
Example: Spine Twist is an exercise that trains the back muscles and increases stability. You sit on the floor, your legs are slightly straddled. In the upright seat you stretch your neck up and "makes yourself long". As you inhale, you take your arms sideways horizontally, as if you had wings.
Slowly turn the straight, long torso to the right, bending your right arm and exhaling. Turn back to the middle again: inhale and make both arms long again. Exhale and turn to the left, etc. If you have spinal problems, you should discuss this exercise beforehand with the therapist or doctor.
The interaction of breathing and flowing movements means a rather quiet controlled training; the repetitions, however, over time have a muscle relaxant and anabolic effect. Similar to yoga, the exercises are never about speed but precise execution. Great emphasis is placed on the breathing: when exhaling in the movement phase, one focuses on the chest breathing, one exhales through the mouth. When inhaling through the nose, the ribcage should also stretch laterally.
With the Pilates training method gradually the whole body posture is improved and the movements are harmonized. Tension dissolves, the muscles become more flexible. Because the deep muscles are also trained, it is easy to tackle the problem areas such as abdomen and buttocks. A good trainer will attach great importance to the relaxation elements that are made at the beginning and end of the exercises.
Pilates has created 500 gymnastics combinations, a very varied training can be designed from it. But the most important element is the activation of the body-supporting muscle groups between the pelvic floor and the lower thorax, which Pilates called the "powerhouse": what is meant is the stable center, the mid-body muscles, which include the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, and the back extensors.
A well-developed supportive musculature is the best protection against back problems such as herniated discs, but also preventive against incontinence.
You activate the powerhouse by imagining the following: you slip into a pair of jeans that are too small - almost all women know the problem. The zipper and the button can only be closed by pulling the navel inwards to the spine. When pulling up the zipper, you also point the navel slightly upwards. You must not tilt the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles are also trained by tension - anyone who does not find a toilet immediately after many cups of coffee, knows that.
This idea combined with the idea of a slow lift upwards - so the muscles are tightened one after the other - strengthens this muscle group.
At least half an hour of training is recommended for two to three times a week. If you can, you should attend a course or buy a good exercise book with a CD, as otherwise errors in precise practice can creep in quickly. After only a few hours, your body feels better. Concentrating on the breath makes it easier to switch off and relax. Joseph Pilates said: "After ten times, you feel the difference, you see him after 20 times, and after 30 practice hours, you have a completely new body."