Why Pilates is growing in popularity
Reformer Pilates and Mat Pilates are two styles of Pilates that have seen a real growth of interest. But there are many other styles there too, including classical, clinical and contemporary.
The surge in popularity of Pilates developed during the 1990s. According to a Newsweek article from the year 2000, participation grew from roughly 5,000 in 1990 to 5 million a decade later. (And that was in the US alone).
Of course, celebrity involvement always peaks interest and the likes of Julia Roberts, Sharon Stone and Madonna had all given it a try.
However, almost two decades later and Pilates is still very much on the radar, and its enduring popularity supersedes celebrity!
We take a look at the two most popular classes and see how they can benefit you.
What is so unique about Pilates?
Part of what makes any form of Pilates so unique is its unusual origins. Its founder, Joseph Pilates, developed many of the basic principles out of sheer necessity.
Interned in the early stages of World War 1, he developed methods to help his fellow captives with sickness and injury.
Not only were his methods developed through compassion for his colleagues, but they had to be effective. He was driven by the desire to rehabilitate those in need, not by some commercial imperative.
And although he was self-taught, he called on a broad spectrum of knowledge of gymnastics, martial arts, yoga, body-building, and boxing.
His methodology helped pave the transition between some of the more esoteric ancient practices and more modern holistic exercise principles.
Reformer Pilates – and its benefits
On first encountering Pilates equipment it can look somewhat daunting. The machines can have more of an appearance of torture devices than exercise aids. The Pilates Reformer and other Pilates equipment are however incredibly helpful.
There are principles of exercise that are central to the original philosophy of Joseph Pilates. Unlike some gym based activities that can be rapid and explosive, Pilates often emphasise movements that are fluid and precise.
Reformer (or equipment based) Pilates can help to enhance this precision and fluidity of movement. In addition, it can help with aspects of body control and concentration.
The aim of Pilates is to encourage a mind-body connection. With the body being guided by the equipment, the participant is able to focus more fully. They can also concentrate on correct breathing which is instrumental in bringing the mind-body connection into play.
Joseph Pilates intended that the machine-based exercises should be a pre-cursor to the free-form or mat-based exercises. For many people, reformer Pilates is a good starting point to get to grips with the exercise modality. There tends to be more specialised attention from the instructor in these sessions, so it is a great way to accelerate your learning.
Furthermore, the support that the machines offer often make it a more suitable option if you are injured and looking to rehabilitate.
Mat-based Pilates – A second option
On the mat, your body weight provides resistance against gravity, making the workout more challenging in many cases.
You won’t be able to rely on the assistance of cables and springs to aid your movement. As such, there is a strong emphasis on being able to control your own body movement.
The benefits of both forms are numerous, so there is no need to agonise over the decision. In fact, it is worth giving both a try to see which feels most suitable for you.
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