Pilates came into my life in 2004 when a class popped up at my local gym. At the time I had never heard of Pilates and was interested to see what this new class had to offer. So as a 20-year-old physiotherapy student, I embarked on an 8 week Pilates course, and it has been part of my life ever since. In the first few weeks of this initial course I found I was using muscles I had never used before but also that I could go to a class with a headache and come out from the class headache-free and relaxed. This was really something special for me, as I have suffered from headaches and migraines since I was a child and nothing had ever been able to alleviate a headache for me so to find an exercise class which could resolve one really was exciting and something I knew I wanted to do more of.
Mindfulness for the body
I often describe Pilates as â€˜Mindfulness for the bodyâ€™. This is because Pilates focuses on â€˜howâ€™ you move and the quality of your movements. It is about keeping your core switched on whilst you are moving. You will often find you donâ€™t get your heart rate up in a Pilates class, but the next day you will know you have had a workout when muscles you didnâ€™t even realise you had are aching! I also believe that this real focus on how you are moving is one of the reasons people find it so good for their mind too. Pilates allows you to stop thinking about the rest of the world, what you need to cook for dinner that night, what bills you need to pay, etc, and allows you to spend an hour thinking solely about you, how you are moving and what your body is doing. This mental clarity and being in the moment is something that most of us donâ€™t often get to experience in the busy world we now live in. Hence, why I believe Pilates is not only great for the body but great for the mind too.
Who can do Pilates?
Anyone (and everyone!). You donâ€™t need to be a fitness addict or a yoga guru to start Pilates, the exercises start simply and can be built up to work you harder as you improve.
How do I pick a great Pilates class?
Matwork and Reformer Pilates are the 2 most common types of class you will come across. Matwork classes are taught on a mat with different pieces of small equipment, whereas Reformer Pilates is a completely different kettle of fish! In these classes, you will experience the exercises on a machine that moves and glides when you pull on the straps which you have in your hands or on your feet.
My advice to people starting Pilates is to do some Matwork Pilates classes first, as this allows you to get to grips with the exercises first before you start working on the reformer machines, which can be higher level and require a bit more coordination and strength.
Overall, Pilates is a great form of exercise for both the mind and the body â€“ go out and give it a try!