The Pilates "method," as it is now known, 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
or on the floor (mat work), and specially trained instructors supervise the
sessions. Pilates is resistance exercise, not aerobic, although the heart rate
will certainly rise for a de-conditioned individual. It is closer to weight
lifting
than it is to running or cycling so you should consider it
resistance exercise.

Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength
and spinal alignment. The core musculature is loosely defined as the spine,
abdomen, pelvis, hips, and the muscles that support these structures. Some of
the main core muscles are the erector spinae, the internal and external
obliques, the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis and hip flexors.

You will be taught to consciously concentrate on your core
muscles, as well as on your breath, the contraction of your muscles, and the
quality, not quantity, of your movements. The objective is a coordination of
mind, body, and spirit or "contrology" as put forth by Joseph Pilates
himself.

Pilates practitioners swear by the method, and in some
circles, it almost reaches cult like status. It is true that there are many
benefits to Pilates, but some of the benefits, even if they do occur, are
unfortunately unproven in research. Even so, Pilates is an intense workout since the movements
are slow, controlled, and deliberate.

An alternative or complement to weight lifting.

Need supervised resistance-exercise sessions.

Want a change of pace and would like to try something new.

Longer, leaner muscles (less bulk, more freedom of
movement).

Improves postural problems.

Increases core strength, stability and peripheral mobility.

Helps prevent injury.

Enhances functional fitness, ease of movement.

Balances strength and flexibility.

Heightens body awareness.


No-impact, easy on the joints.

Can be customized to suit everyone from rehab patients to
elite athletes.

Complements other methods of exercise.

Improves performance in other sports.

Improves balance, coordination, and circulation.

There are no studies to prove that Pilates contributes to weight loss.
The bottom line to weight loss is that you must consume fewer calories than you
burn no matter how much exercise you do. Even if you run a marathon every day
you, will not lose weight if you consume more calories than you burn.

Pilates mat work is a series of exercises that are done on
the floor without Pilates machines. The attention to the flow of movement and
to the core muscles is the same as when you do Pilates on the machines, and mat
work is a challenging workout in its own right.

Lie on your back, with the soles
of your feet flat on floor, knees squeezing together, arms overhead stretching behind
you. Inhale and exhale and allow
your spine to sink into the floor. Bring your arms forward, and let your head and torso follow. Roll up to a midway point between lying
down and sitting up and hold that position (your abdominals should be working
the entire time) for three seconds. Let your arms go back, and then lower your torso and head to the
floor. Repeat six to eight times.

Lie on your back, and pull your
knees to your chest. Exhale as your chest and abdomen sink into the floor. Straighten your arms along your sides,
and lift your legs straight up to the ceiling. Lift your head and shoulders so that you are looking toward
your feet. Squeeze your buttocks
and inner thighs together so that you cannot see between your legs. Start moving your arms up and down
along your sides about 12 inches in a rapid motion. Breathe in and hold for
five seconds, and then exhale for five seconds as you try to reach forward even
more. Lower your legs halfway down
toward the floor (legs should be at a 45-degree angle from your hips). Continue to move your arms up and down
and hold for a count of 50 to 100.

Lie on your back with your arms at
your side. Inhale and exhale and
allow your spine to sink into the floor. Straighten your leg toward the ceiling and point your toe. Keep your opposite leg straight (the
one on the floor). Move your leg
across your body, draw a small circle with it, and bring it back to the starting
position. Make sure to keep your hips flat on the floor. Move your leg in the opposite direction
(away from the center line of your body), draw a small circle with it, and then
return to the starting position. Repeat six to eight times on each side.

Lie on your back with your arms at
your side. Straighten your legs
toward the ceiling, keeping your thighs and knees close together. Inhale and exhale and allow your spine
to sink into the floor. Inhale and
move both legs to one side and draw a small circle with them while keeping them
close together. Make sure to keep
your hips on the floor when you circle. Return to starting position, and then repeat on the other side. Repeat five to six times on each side.

Lie on your back with your hands
behind your head. Lift your head,
and bring your knees toward your chest. Straighten your right leg and then lift, and twist your torso until your
right elbow touches your left knee. Hold the position for one to two seconds. Repeat with the other side. Exhale fully as you hold each position. Keep your shoulders as high off the
floor as possible. Repeat eight to
10 times on each side. Finish by pulling both knees to your chest, and then
roll up to sitting position.

While on the floor, sit up very
straight (try to make a 90-degree angle at your hips). Straighten your legs out in front of
you and squeeze them together.

Straighten your arms out to your
sides at shoulder height and parallel with the floor. Breathe in and try to pull your belly button toward your
spine. Exhale and rotate your
torso toward one side while keeping your upright posture. Keep your buttocks on the floor and
look behind you. Hold for one to
two seconds and then inhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Any activity that expands your fitness choices is worth the
effort, and if you think you need variety to stay motivated, then give it a
try!

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