Frequently Asked Questions about Pilates
What is Pilates?
Pilates is an exercise system that engages the mind and body together to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and improve overall health. Classes focus on core strength, proper alignment, and efficient movement patterns. Using resistance from springs, the Pilates equipment can be used to isolate certain muscles / muscle groups, or challenge the whole body at once.
The exercises can be modified and tailored to an individual’s specific needs, goals, or injuries. Sessions can be therapeutic and rehabilitative, or advanced and athletic. Each session is designed to work the whole body in a way that promotes balanced muscle development. Because Pilates is relatively low impact, it is suitable for all ages and can be a lifelong practice.
What is the difference between contemporary and classical Pilates?
Classical Pilates is based closely on Joseph Pilates’ original work, including his original exercises and following a specific order they should be performed. Another distinction has to do with the position of the pelvis while doing mat work — students are taught abdominal exercises in a posterior tilt (while laying on your back the pelvis is tucked because the lower spine is completely pressed into the floor).
Contemporary Pilates is rooted in the traditional work of Joseph Pilates but also takes into account modern research in the fields of biomechanics, fascial health, and exercise physiology. The philosophical goals of the method remain intact, and many of the exercises are the same. However, modifications, variations, new exercises, and different sequencing are allowed in order to accommodate and facilitate the learning of students with a wide array of abilities and physical conditions. Students are taught in a neutral pelvis position in which the natural lumbar arch is preserved.
Instead of trying to fit the person into the method, we use the method as a tool to help the person.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Benefits of Pilates range from increased strength, flexibility, and coordination, to better balance, less stress and improved posture. For many clients, one of the biggest benefits is learning how to move and perform daily tasks without pain.
What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?
Because Pilates and Yoga can both be performed on a mat using one’s own body weight, many people assume they are basically the same. While they do share some similarities (e.g. both build strength, improve flexibility, and emphasize mindful movement), they are two different types of exercise.
Pilates has been described as the strength-training cousin to Yoga. “Where Yoga stretches and flows, Pilates strengthens and tones.” Perhaps the biggest difference between the two disciplines is that Pilates utilizes specialized equipment such as the reformer, cadillac, wunda chair, ladder barrel, etc.
Pilates focuses on finding stability in the core so that the rest of the body can move freely and efficiently. Although Pilates requires concentration and a strong mind-body connection, it does not have the same meditative and spiritual focus often found in a Yoga class. The two methods can be a great compliment to one another and many people who study both find that Pilates benefits their Yoga practice and vice versa.
Is Pilates a good workout?
Yes! Pilates is great for strengthening and toning as well as improving alignment, posture, and bio mechanics. Due to its focus on creating spinal mobility and stability in full-body movements, it increases core strength as well as flexibility and body awareness. Several scientific studies have shown Pilates to be effective in alleviating and preventing low back pain as well as other injuries.
The intensity level of a Pilates session can vary greatly depending on the goals and capabilities of the student, the intention of the instructor for that individual session, the equipment/apparatus used (e.g. jump board on the reformer will have greater cardiovascular emphasis while roll-downs on the Cadillac will focus on gaining segmental spinal mobility), the exercises chosen, and the speed with which the movements are executed.
Is Pilates safe to do if I have an injury or am recovering from surgery? Can I do Pilates if I have back pain or a herniated disc?
Yes! Many of our clients first come to the studio because they are looking for a safe way to exercise while dealing with an injury or recovering from surgery. Private sessions allow the instructor to tailor the workout to your body and current situation, carefully monitor your form, and give you individualized attention.
The Pilates equipment is great for therapeutic and rehabilitative work as well as for challenging advanced exercises when appropriate. Our instructors are accustomed to working with a range of issues including back pain, herniated discs, joint replacements, shoulder injuries, Cesarean sections, and more. For surgeries and major injuries, you should allow your body ample healing time and get permission from your doctor or physical therapist before you start (or return to) Pilates.
I have osteoporosis. Is Pilates a safe workout for me? Will Pilates help prevent bone loss?
Yes and no. Osteoporosis occurs because of a loss of bone density. Many of the exercises in a traditional mat Pilates class incorporate spinal flexion (think of a crunch or sit-up type of exercise) which stresses the vertebrae and can increase the risk of a fracture. (*This is important to know for other exercise classes, like yoga, bootcamp, etc.*).
However, private or semiprivate sessions can be adapted safely for clients with osteoporosis. We utilize specialized equipment to perform a variety of osteo-friendly exercises. You doctor may tell you to perform weight-bearing exercises to help prevent further bone loss. This is because using weights adds mechanical stress to the bones and basically tells the body “build bone here.” Equipment-based Pilates utilizes resistance from springs to accomplish the same goal. Because the Pilates equipment allows for a huge variety of exercises, we can vary your workouts week to week to stimulate bone-building in various different sites within the body instead of performing the same exercise every session.
Is Pilates safe if I’m pregnant?
Yes, in fact, it's recommended! According to Jennifer Gianni, “Exercise is important during pregnancy on a number of levels, but it is vital that is is the right sort of exercise. Safety and effectiveness must be married together perfectly. Pilates and yoga are the ideal disciplines to use to prepare for labor and birth. They are also an excellent way to get back into shape after giving birth. The reason lies in the intent. To experience pure Pilates and yoga, you must be fully present.”
Beyond Pilates has instructors who have been certified in Pre & Post Natal Pilates, as well as healing Diastasis Recti. Much of this work focuses on posture, breathing, pelvic floor exercises, and release work. Due to modifications that must be addressed with pregnant clients, we suggest scheduling private sessions.