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Demystifying Pilates: Top 10 FAQs

Resident instructor Debbie Dore on the practice of Pilates

There are many misconceptions about Pilates and I often get asked questions about what it is and what it does for you. This list aims to demystify Pilates and its practice and help you understand why it could be a perfect addition to your exercise routine.

Is Pilates like Yoga?

While I think the two disciplines are very complimentary to one another they are by no means the same. Yoga is a much older form of exercise, whilst Pilates was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. Pilates developed his techniques from his experience as a gymnast and circus performer. He set up his studio in 1926, in New York, next to the New York City ballet. Pilates’s exercises teach awareness of breath, alignment of the spine, and strengthening of the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

Is Pilates just for woman?

Anyone can suffer from low back pain and Pilates is often recommended as a course of rehabilitation. For those who do a lot of sports such as triathlon, marathon, rowing, golf or team sports such as football or rugby, Pilates can offer the perfect preventative strategy to the strain that is placed on the body. It can help to prepare participants for their sport and protect them from injury.

Is Pilates only matwork classes?

Although Pilates matwork is the most commonly found form of class and offers a great workout, Joseph Pilates invented a number of pieces of machinery which complement and facilitate a fuller appreciation of the Pilates method. These go by the names of the reformer, cadillac, tower, stability chair and barrels. The machines can help to assist in adding resistance based work to your practice, and offers greater opportunities to modify programmes to suit the specific demands of the client.

I find Pilates too easy, why?

Pilates is composed of a number of basic principles, learning these takes time and concentration to perfect. Pilates isn’t just a bunch of exercises thrown together and as such, if you feel it is too easy you are probably still learning. Give yourself time to develop your technique and it will pay dividends. Before joining a class it is often a good idea to take a few one to one lessons to really focus on the basic principles that run through the whole repertoire of exercises.

I find Pilates too hard, why?

A good Pilates instructor will be able to breakdown exercises in order to facilitate the movement for your body. Over time as you get stronger the exercise can be progressed to challenge more. Small pieces of equipment, such as fitness circles, flexbands and toning balls can be used to either make a movement easier or harder depending on the individual. In a class, participants can all be doing the same exercise modified to their level.

Does Pilates only work your core?

While this is a commonly held view and certainly when assisting a client in recovering from injury the focus may be initially on ‘core’ musculature, Joseph Pilates always emphasised that his exercises were for the whole body.

Is Pilates only for young, fit people?

Pilates is good for everyone and can be developed and targeted towards the demands of specific populations. Many different types of classes can be found, from prenatal to postnatal, seniors, Pilates for backcare and osteoporosis and also sports specific for horse riders, runners and golfers. It can be modified for all.

Why do I find Pilates breathing difficult?

I often find clients get very caught up in trying to get the breathing ‘right’ in Pilates. Breathing in Pilates is diaphragmatic, (different to Yoga), the focus is on breathing into the sides and back of the rib cage. My advice is always to just breath initially ( as opposed to holding it). Over time as Pilates integrates into your body it will become more natural and you will feel how the breath assists in the performance of the exercises.

Is Pilates only for flexible people?

This is a misconception. Pilates will help to improve your range of movement around a joint but it is not the only focus. Too much flexibility can also be an issue. Through the development of stability and flexibility, the body develops a balanced, strong body that is able to withstand the demands of daily living.

How do I know how to find a good teacher?

There are a number of schools of Pilates training that offer a full and comprehensive training of a high quality, look out for teachers who have qualifications from Stott Pilates (my own certification since 2008), Polestar, Body Control, Appi Pilates, Basi Pilates to name a few. A teacher should be happy to tell you their qualifications and level of experience.

Debbie holds classes in The Dome every Tuesday. For more information, please click here.