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The Pilates is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, without necessarily building bulk. The method is a series of controlled movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus (the Reformer, the Cadillac, the Spine Corrector, the Ladder Barrel, and the Wunda Chair) or on the floor (mat work), and the sessions are supervised by specially trained instructors.

Most Pilates movements engage core muscles to some degree to help provide stability and balance for maintaining a pose or position. The trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle all play an important role in properly executing Pilates movements. Muscles near the spine are also called into action during Pilates and can help develop a strong back, which can help alleviate back problems. Pilates is also popular and ideal in many cases because it is a low impact form of full body workout. Rigorous sports, such as running, tennis, basketball, etc can take a toll on ligaments and joints. Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that eliminates jarring and instead focuses on developing stronger joints by training the muscles near them. Pilates is ideal if a person can't stand for long periods of time or is recovering from certain injuries.

The Six Principles of Pilates

  1. Centering: Physically bringing the focus to the center of the body (the Pilates powerhouse) area between the lower ribs and pubic bone. Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from center.
  2. Concentration: If one brings full attention to the exercise and does it with full commitment, maximum value will be obtained from each movement.
  3. Control: Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. Control, rather than intensity or repetition, is key to performing the exercises correctly.
  4. Precision: In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. There is an appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts which is essential to ensure you gain the most benefit and keep your body healthy.
  5. Breath: Controlling the breath with deep exhalations as you perform each exercise helps activate the muscles and keep one focused.
  6. Flow: Pilates exercise is done in a flowing manner. Fluidity, grace, and ease are goals applied to all exercises. The energy of an exercise connects all body parts and flows through the body in an even way

Pilates and Yoga

Because many of the Pilates principles are similar to Yoga, people often confuse Pilates with Yoga. Though there are similarities between them with respect to the significance of controlled breath and focused awareness of movements, one of the significant differences between Pilates and yoga, is that Pilates is much more focused on strengthening the abdominal, low back, pelvic and hip muscles, while Yoga is more focused on flexibility, balance, and relaxation. Pilates also increases flexibility, and has a strong body-mind integrative component, the difference is the degree of focus. The intent for both is to bring the body and mind together in a way that enhances awareness and elevates the over-all life experience of the practitioner. In yoga this intent is often overtly expressed, whereas Pilates, this opportunity may be acknowledged but is rarely directly addressed.

After getting a grip over the similarities and differences between these two disciplines, it is easier to understand that Yoga and Pilates are complementary to one another. This should enable you to choose which workout is right for you, depending upon your goals and individual needs.

Pilates and Weight bearing exercises

Many people confuse Pilates with traditional weight bearing exercises at the gym given the use of equipments in it. Traditional weight-bearing exercises produce shorter bulky muscles because of their limited range of motion. Pilates movements focus on elongating and strengthening the muscles by stretching them through wide motion ranges. Consistently engaging in Pilates can also improve joint mobility and reduce the risk for injury.

Pilates movements are not isolation exercises, like most weight-bearing exercises. In fact, most Pilates movements engage more than just one muscle group or body part, thereby promoting an evenly conditioned and toned body. All muscles are equally trained during a Pilates session. Unlike weight-bearing exercises, Pilates eliminates the potential for muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalance is the disproportionate development of different muscle groups, which can increase the risk for injury. The Pilates approach of equally focusing on all muscles further supports Pilates' mantra of balance and being in tune with your entire body.
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