A question many people ask me and whilst there are many similar health benefits developing strength, endurance, control and flexibility they both originate from very different places and are very different, just like there are many approaches to Pilates and how it is interpreted by different instructors. Whilst I am not a yoga instructor I have attended many classes, from hatha yoga to hot yoga and often found there to be a strong emphasis on the spiritual holistic side in yoga classes, incorporating meditation – something which is not specific to Pilates. Pilates is a system of exercise specifically designed to target deep postural muscles, core strength and stability, encouraging movement with breath. I consider my approach to be classical pilates style (as opposed to fitness focused) based on the original 34 exercises developed by Joseph Pilates, which is mat based and incorporating Pilates small equipment. What the two practices do have in common is supporting your own bodyweight, through the exercises and poses, a connection to breathing techniques to support with relieving stress and encouraging mind body connection, taking the time out of your day to focus on you! Both are low impact, low intensity, requiring concentration and inclusive for all.
Pilates is recognised for assisting women by targeting muscles that tend to weaken during pregnancy, such as the pelvic floor, strengthening the core, easing back pain and maintaining muscle tone. With specific pre and postnatal adaptions it is considered a gentle form of exercise that is safe and highly beneficial to keeping you active and mobile. As a mum of two myself I continued to practice and teach Pilates during both pregnancies which boosted my energy levels and enabled me to address any aches and pains to become more aware of my posture and changes to my body and center of gravity. I found that the Pilates breath really helped me during my labour experience in encouraging me to breathe “in through the nose and out through the mouth”, with a wide and full breath – as we refer to it in Pilates lateral thoracic breathing. During my second labour I was able to count my breaths knowing I only had to do 4 deep long breaths until the contraction was over, it really enabled me to breathe through the moment! I was able to stay calm and focused, with the strength and endurance to see me through labour. For me the weekly time out enabled me to focus on me, my body and my baby (escaping the busy day to day life and to do list). Post-pregnancy it has helped me re-build my core, strengthen my pelvic floor and back pain from cradling, rocking and feeding my baby. I would make time in my day when he was napping or playing on the mat beside me to do a few shoulder bridges and adaptions on the Pilates ‘100’ to rebuild my core. It gave me time out to focus on me and get my body back.
Comfortable clothing you can easily move in and bare feet are required for all classes. Many of the exercises involve lying down and your legs moving so please ensure you are wearing suitable length shorts or long trousers that you can move your legs in. For classes taking place at our community venues you will be required to bring your own mat. We also suggest you come with a bottle of water to keep hydrated whist working the mind and body.
Many of the exercises require core activation of the deep transverse abdominus so it is best to only have a light meal or snack before class. It’s best to plan ahead and ensure you eat an hour or so before. We do recommend that you eat before taking part in class so you have energy, even if it’s a small snack to boost energy! Save your big meal for post-class.
Pilates can be beneficial for your health and help you maintain a healthy weight increasing strength, flexibility and endurance, however the cardiorespiratory benefits of Pilates are limited as it is anaerobic activity. Pilates is designed to work alongside other activities and is not a replacement for cardiovascular work. Whilst Pilates is a physical exercise and does work muscles to a high intensity so clients feel they have worked hard, they are not working to a high enough aerobic level to see a significant result in calorie burning and weight loss. The focus of Pilates is to develop and strengthen the deep postural muscles of the core, to facilitate greater stability and enhance joint mobility. The ACSM guidelines state that exercises must elevate the heart rate to a moderate/vigorous intensity to be classified as a cardiovascular activity. The speed of exercises in Pilates does not raise the heart rate to this level.
BActivePilates promotes and encourages clients to sign up and commit to a 6-week block, as we believe that in order to feel the benefits of Pilates you must make it a part of your routine and regular attendance and practice is key. Evidence suggests that by committing yourself up front you are more likely to stick with an exercise plan. And in line with the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines we should be aiming to incorporate flexibility and strength training 2-3 days per week.
If you need to miss your normal class one week due to a holiday or scheduled work we can now offer the opportunity to ‘make up’ and attend another timetabled class within that half term. You must notify us in advance (as early as possible if you know you are going to be absent). Make up classes must be to be booked and are not guaranteed, we can only offer these if space is available in the alternative class. It is therefore always good to look ahead in your diary, plan for each session and let the instructor know at the earliest opportunity as we may be able to back-fill your place and offer this to someone else who may wish to make up a session or drop in. If you normally attend a community class but wish to ‘make up’ a session at our home studio classes, you will be asked to pay the additional fee for this.
As Joseph Pilate’s quotes “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body”
We recommend making Pilates a part of your weekly routine, to make significant improvements and see results to your core strength, muscle tone, balance, flexibility, body awareness and posture. After all one of the key principles of the Pilates technique is ‘routine’ and should be practiced as part of a routine to realise the benefits.
Many of the Pilates exercises focus on spinal mobility and are frequently recommended by health professionals (chiropractors, physiotherapists and Dr’s) to help prevent and decrease back pain. Exercises focus on strengthening the core, supporting the back and teaching good alignment, encouraging mobility, strength and flexibility of muscles that support the spine. The NSH promotes Pilates workouts for those with chronic back pain. It can help to relieve stress and tension and is widely recognised as a discipline to assist those rehabilitating from injury and to compliment various high-impact sports.
Classes are designed to enable all participants to work at their own pace whilst in a group setting, coordinating your own movement to the rhythm of your breath. We offer a specific beginner level class but if you can’t make that class you will be fully supported in our mixed ability class where we offer exercises with varying progressions allowing you to master the basics or challenge yourself a little more by increasing the duration, resistance or stability of the exercise. We always suggest that you master the basics before progressing to the next level.
All participants are required to complete a registration form to enable us to identify individual goals and how Pilates can support your lifestyle. This enables us to establish your prior Pilates experience whilst getting a detailed understanding of your currently health and physical activity readiness. If you are recovering from an injury or health condition we recommend that you speak to your GP before undertaking class.
It is your responsibility to let us know if any of your contact information or medical and health details change, either via email or at the next class you attend. You must inform us at the earliest opportunity so we can make sure our database is up-to-date and offer guidance on whether it is suitable for you to continue with your Pilates programme. We may ask that you seek Dr’s permission in advance. Alternatively we may be able to offer suitable adjustments to enable you to continue to participate in the safest way.
Pilates refers to centring as the conscious activation of the core cylinder muscles, contracting the lower abdominals and pelvic floor (including the Transverse Abdominus, Multifidus and Diaphram) to create a stable base prior to movement. Pilates requires clients to establish a neutral alignment before activating the core. The core is sometimes referred to as the power house and stabilises the spine and pelvic floor, creating a co-contraction. When activated this increases the intra-abdominal pressure. The core muscles must be activated prior to all Pilates exercises. The core should connect to the breath and recruited slowly on the inhalation so it can maintain contracted throughout the exercise, working at an optimum level of 30%.
Posture is all about the way you hold yourself when standing, sitting or lying down. Good neutral balanced posture is assessed by looking at your plumb line for the ideal alignment – which from side profile includes the line passing through the ear canal, midway through the shoulder, hip joint (in front of the scarum/lumbar vertebra), knee joint, and just in front of ankle (lateral malleolus).