Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pleased with Pilates

I’m lying on the mat in the gym, breathing in deeply through my nose and out through my mouth in a whoosh. In my mind, I run through some of the Pilates exercises I’ve learned through the years in classes. At the moment, I don’t go for any of the Pilates classes held at the gym because their scheduled times don’t suit me, but I make sure to include some of the exercises in my gym routine. I look forward to some of them, especially the stretches, after a rigorous cardio workout, but others are downright challenging and can have me sweating and quivering. But one thing’s for sure, Pilates has made my body stronger, more flexible and toned.

An exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, Pilates claims to improve flexibility, build strength as well as develop control and endurance. It emphasizes proper alignment and breathing, improving coordination and balance and, most importantly for me, developing a strong core.

I started going for Pilates classes at the gym a few years back when I realized that some of the yoga poses (especially the inversions) weren’t very good for my back, as I have suffered from a slipped disc. I felt that a fundamental difference between yoga and Pilates is that while yoga is all about getting into the pose and holding it, Pilates is more about the movement itself, modulated and controlled and always with options for students from beginners to seniors.

I tried individual sessions that were held using the Pilates machines or Reformers and while they were great, the cost of each session was prohibitive. I enjoyed the floor or mat exercises conducted for a group just as well, and together with the rest of the class, would grunt my way through the “hundreds”, a mainstay of Pilates,  and other routines.

When a couple of gyms closed down on me, I decided to find some sessions on youtube that I could follow. I tried the ones taught by American instructors but found them to be a little too fast and frenetic for my liking. Now I just follow the ones on, an Australian website, in which various instructors take you through a 30-40 minute sessions targeting different parts of the body. The Aussies (especially Caity and Sophie) are more laidback and clear in their instructions, always providing options for those of us not up to such demanding routines.

Whenever I can’t make it to the gym, I just lay my mat on the floor at home and go through a whole session with one of the Aussie instructors. The exercises are sometimes deceivingly simple, and I can find myself sweating my way through a routine, huffing and puffing at the end of it.

After a few years of practising Pilates, my core is definitely stronger and I feel less strain in my back. Because the focus of the exercises is on centering this core powerhouse, my posture is also better. Sometimes at the gym, while other members are doing curls or sit-ups very quickly just to get them over and done with, I am mindful of the slow and deliberate roll-downs and other Pilates movements that target my core, always engaging with the muscles and breathing correctly. It’s definitely not a replacement for a cardio workout but It’s a great way to work the different muscle groups, and then wind down and stretch. While others swear by yoga or other exercises, I find that Pilates works for me.

Check out the Pilates sessions on

1 comment:

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