What is Pilates? Is it yoga? Is it aerobics? Is it for women only or can men do it as well? There seem to be plenty of questions about this particular style of training that was designed to increase flexibility as well as improve your mind and body’s well-being.
The system itself was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s in Germany. His ideology was to create a program to strengthen both the mind and the body because he felt the two aspects were inter-related. Basically he combined various aspects of other training methods popular in that time to create his version of an exercise program. He published two books on the subject and it is from this basis that we have programs today.
Obviously over the years there have been advances in technology and understanding of the human body. But when asking, ‘What is Pilates‘ you have to understand that the core concepts behind the training style remain the same. Ironically all of this talk about having a ‘strong core’ is the exact same thing he was talking about almost 100 years ago.
In Pilates studios today there is a lot of open space, mats, and then various pieces of equipment for doing some exercises such as exercise balls, resistance bands, foam rollers, and disks. While originally training was done in specialized gyms with specific apparatuses, with contemporary training, Pilates has moved on to other venues such as community centers and gyms that host multiple styles of classes. In this case it is more cost effective to use smaller pieces of equipment that can be put away after classes but yet still provide an adequate workout.
Pilades is not Yoga
While it might seem that there are a lot of similarities between yoga and Pilates, the style of training is rather different. Joseph Pilates himself practiced yoga. But his program differs in a few ways. While it does work on flexibility, it is not done in the same manner. You might best describe Pilates as being more systematic and compartmentalized while yoga is more free form and flowing.
Pilates is a very detail-oriented system designed around core strength, understanding the muscle-mind connection and enhancing it, along with increasing flexibility and the overall level of fitness. Classes are fast paced and usually involve anywhere from 40 to 50 poses. Yoga classes typically do fewer movements and hold those poses for longer periods (which is why it is better for flexibility).
As Joseph also trained ballerinas and dancers, his poses have more of choreography to them while yoga tends to depend on the knowledge and desire of the instructor as to how poses are used and which order is done. But then again yoga has been around for many centuries and that has given it more time to change as it has been taught and passed down while Pilates is only a few generations old.
So, What is Pilates?
It is a great training system for people who want a low impact way to develop core and body strength, help eliminate back pain, increase flexibility, and work on the mind to muscle connection. While not as fast paced as something like Zumba, this program can be difficult and challenging for even experienced athletes. Men or women and even children can benefit from this type of class as it can be adapted to deal with injuries and limitations. Instructors have completed 500 hours of certification which includes anatomy and physiology.
Between yoga, Pilates, and aerobics the first two generally get the nod as being great programs to increase your overall level of fitness and happiness.