Pilates focuses primarily on what Joseph Pilates called the "powerhouse" or the group of muscles two inches above and below your navel and then wraps completely around your torso like a corset including your buttocks. The 6 principles of concentration, control, centering, fluidity, precision and breath drive the method to strengthen the powerhouse.
The first Pilates exercise is "The 100's" which broadly consists of lying on your back with your head and legs in various positions depending on your level, pumping your arms, vigorous breathing, pulling in your abdominal wall and overall preparing your body for the exercise session by stimulating blood circulation.
Pilates is different from most exercises because it is a full-body exercise method that is non-impact and safe no matter the position because you are continually engaging your powerhouse muscles while protecting your back.
Pilates and Yoga both involve a fluidity of the mind-body connection. However, the Pilates method is executed through a versatile system of equipment that can be supportive for the beginner or challenging for the advanced student depending on the position and resistance of the springs and pulleys.
Experience is the best teacher. Pilates is well known to be enormously beneficial to everyone for simply posture alignment alone. In addition, it can be practiced for a lifetime because it can be modified to any person's age, size, injuries or physical limitations.
Pilates is initially instructed at a slower pace to impart the nuances of the method and ensure musculoskeletal safety. It can remain slow paced with controlled transitions in between the exercises or it can advance into a faster paced sequence of challenging exercises performed with greater complexity and stamina for an aerobic benefit.
Pilates sculpts the body by using the powerhouse to focus on the inward and upward pull of the navel towards the spine pulling your abdominal wall in very flat and creating the aesthetic of a corset. In addition, the fluid movements of the method emphasize lengthening and stretching of the muscles creating a longer, leaner body aesthetic. You will almost immediately carry yourself much taller.
The most commonly used pieces are the reformer, the cadillac and the mat as well as other smaller pieces used for special purposes.
The reformer is a rectangular frame with four legs and a cushioned carriage, that slides back and forth on wheels with the resistance of springs and pulleys.
The cadillac is a trapeze-like table that's 26 inches off the floor and has a canopy from which a trapeze, springs and pulleys hang. Because it's elevated, it accommodates older adults if they have trouble getting down on the floor for the mat.
The purest form of Pilates is the mat because it's just your body weight and the forces of gravity challenging your alignment and strength while maintaining fluidity, control and precision.
Ask questions. With so many certifications, it is important to use your judgment and become knowledgeable about an instructor's education, certification and experience.
Pilates is safe to do every day. Initially, practicing the basic mat system daily will give you faster results and establish a rhythm and consistency. Progressing to every other day is ideal. Joseph Pilates promoted three times a week.
It's all relative. An athlete may not feel muscle soreness because of a greater core connection. If you are coming from a period of prolonged inactivity, you're probably going to feel it more than someone who's very active. However, if you truly apply yourself and concentrate, you'll most likely feel a difference the next day.
In the beginning, consistency is essential. If you are committed, you will be highly rewarded for life!