Pilates, a gentle blend of yoga and gymnastics, is becoming more and more popular among the sports programs offered by folk high schools and gyms. The training is particularly gentle on the joints and is suitable for anyone who wants to be athletic and fit, even for people who have back problems. Concentration and control are the main features of the exercises - but you should not expect a Schwarzenegger figure.
"It's the mind that shapes the body": Josef Pilates's full-body workout strengthens the lower-lying core muscles and improves posture, but this only goes hand in hand with mental relaxation and concentration. Born in Mönchengladbach, Pilates was often ill as a child and rather weak, which he sought to compensate for with sports and yoga. Later he was a gymnast, diver, bodybuilder, circus artist, working in England as a professional boxer and training Scotland Yard officials.
As a German, he was interned at the beginning of World War I, where he also trained his fellow prisoners. After his return, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the political and social conditions in Germany. So he emigrated to New York in 1923, where he opened his first Pilates studio. He was 86 years old and died in 1967 as a famous coach in New York.
The Pilates philosophy
Unlike Tai Chi and Qi Gong, which are derived from Asian martial arts and require a relatively large amount of standing movement, most Pilates exercises are performed lying or sitting on the floor. Common to them is the emphasis on fluidity and conscious breathing. However, the Pilates training is generally easier and therefore also suitable for the untrained and elderly, in advanced courses, however, the exercises are also more complex.
The holistic philosophy of Joseph Pilates is based on exactly seven principles:
- motion flow
- Centering of all movements
All movements are performed out of the body center as flowing movements.
Example: Spine Twist is an exercise that trains the back muscles and increases stability. You are sitting on the ground, the legs are slightly straddled. In the upright seat you stretch your neck up and "makes yourself long". As you inhale, you take your arms sideways in the horizontal, as if you had wings.
Slowly turn the straight long torso to the right, bending the right arm and exhaling. Turn back to the middle again: inhale and make both arms long again. Exhale and turn to the left, etc. If you have spinal problems, you should first discuss this exercise with the therapist or doctor.
The interaction of breathing and flowing movements means a rather quiet controlled training; the repetitions, however, over time have a muscle relaxant and anabolic effect. Similar to yoga, the exercises are never about speed but precise execution. Great emphasis is placed on the breathing: when exhaling in the movement phase, one focuses on the chest breathing, one exhales through the mouth. When inhaling through the nose, the chest should also stretch laterally.
The Pilates training method gradually improves the overall posture and harmonizes the movements. Tensions dissolve, the muscles become more flexible. Because the deep muscles are also trained, it is easy to tackle the problem areas such as abdomen and buttocks. A good trainer will attach great importance to the relaxation elements that are made at the beginning and end of the exercises.
Pilates has created 500 gymnastics combinations, a very varied training can be designed from it. But the most important element is the activation of the body-supporting muscle groups between the pelvic floor and the lower thorax, which Pilates called the "powerhouse": what is meant is the stable center, the muscles of the body center, which include the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and the back extensors.
A well-developed supportive musculature is the best protection against back problems such as herniated discs, but also preventive against incontinence.
You activate the powerhouse by imagining the following: you slip into a pair of jeans that are too small - almost all women know the problem. The zipper and the button can only be closed by pulling the navel inwards towards the spine. When pulling up the zipper, the navel is also pointed slightly upwards. You must not tilt the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles are also trained by tension - anyone who does not find a toilet immediately after many cups of coffee knows that.
This idea combined with the idea of a slow lift upwards - so the muscles are tightened sequentially - strengthens this muscle group.
At least half an hour of training is recommended for two to three times a week. If you can, you should attend a course or buy a good exercise book with a CD, as otherwise errors in the precise exercise quickly creep in. After just a few hours, your body feels better. Concentrating on the breath makes it easier to switch off and relax. Joseph Pilates put it this way: "After ten times, you feel the difference, you see him after 20 times, and after 30 practice hours you have a completely new body."