Pilates is still quite a new form of exercise in the UK. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, a German-born gymnast, circus-performer and boxer during the 1920’s. He named his method “Contrology” and it was designed to rehabilitate soldiers during the war. Later, it became popular amongst ballet dancers, then went mainstream, where now it’s suitable for just about everyone and is used by many atheletes as well as the general public.
Pilates is all about your “core” muscles, but what is that? The “core” is made up of several muscles which wrap around your spine – a bit like a cylinder. These are muscles at the front of your body (transverses abdominus/hip flexors), side (obliques), back (multifidis), top (diaphragm) and base (pelvic floor).
To find your core muscles, you just need to tighten/pull/draw your abdominal muscles in slightly. Start by breathing into your belly first, then as you breath out, draw your tummy muscles in towards your spine and keeping that light tension switched on. These muscles are slow to contract and slow to fatigue, so it means you should be able to hold your tummy muscles inwards with a low level of contraction, for a minute or two, then move an arm or a leg, or the spine, to create an unstable environment and therefore provide a challenge for the muscles.
Pilates is particularly beneficial for postnatal women (trust me I have had 2 babies and used Pilates to help me), because it targets the very muscles which get weakened by pregnancy itself eg the pelvic floor and core. It also helps you breathe better, puts your body in an optimal postural position and relieves tension in your neck, shoulders, hips and lower back from constant lifting, carrying, feeding and changing your baby. Without it you are likely to end up with all kind of aches and pains. Think about those lower back aches, those niggles in your hips, that shoulder and neck tension – Pilates can help with all of that and help relax you too. Win Win.