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  • Pilates: The Mind and Body Connection

    Posted on October 13th, 2011 Patricia No comments

    If working out isn’t as fun as it used to be, Pilates might be a great alternative. Geared toward toning the body with an emphasis on the mind and body connection, Pilates is great whether you’re an exercise guru or an exercise novice.

    Of course your intentions were good when you made your signature New Year’s resolution of getting in shape. If you haven’t gotten around to starting your new life yet, don’t beat yourself up over it — perhaps the reason you haven’t yet been able to get your fanny to the gym every week is because you’ve not found the right fitness program. If you’re tired of those pleasure-anemic exercise programs that leave you unfulfilled and unmotivated to return for the next class, treat yourself to the truly engaging discipline of the Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-teez) Method. This smart fitness philosophy, which was developed during World War I by Joseph Pilates, is the hottest exercise around.

    The Pilates Method is a series of body sculpting maneuvers that strengthens muscles, improves posture and tones midsection muscles — with no weights. Lory Teicheira, a physical therapist who teaches traditional Pilates at Bodies, her private practice in Petaluma, California, says that Pilates is all about getting in touch with mind and body. “Comparing the Pilates Method to, let’s say, 24-Hour Fitness, where you can jump on a treadmill bike and work up a sweat in a very aerobic and reasonably mindless manner. I think a lot of guys are into that,” she says. “My husband, for example, he likes to get kind of beefy, and Pilates is very slow; you have to think about and pay attention to what you’re doing. You need to be aware of movement, and movement that you don’t want. So, it’s much more of a thinking exercise — there’s a lot of mind-body overlap. It’s a great way for people who aren’t into their body to start thinking about their body’s needs and what makes it feel good.” The original exercises were performed on machines that looked like some kind of equipment from the sexual underground, complete with a straps and springy cables. (It should come as no surprise that Madonna is rumored to own one of the original trapeze tables.) Like Teicheira, many Pilates instructors still utilize the beds, which, of course, have now been modernized.

    The Pilates Method, while having been popular with dance students and athletes, hasn’t managed to evade mainstream adrenaline junkies until recently. Besides Madonna’s many uses for Pilates, celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and Courtney Cox have raved about the speedy effect the program has on the body — primarily the midsection. In addition to a recreational fitness program, Pilates has also been adopted by physical therapists, chiropractors and orthopedists, because of its effectiveness in aiding in the recovery of soft tissue injuries. The conditioning sessions are done on either a one-to-one basis or in a small group. You’ll find each session is easily adaptable to your specific needs.

    Because the exercises focus heavily on proper breathing and body alignment, many pregnant women are finding that Pilates is a safe and effective way to prepare for giving birth as well as body toning after pregnancy. “I have a variety of people coming to classes who have many different levels of fitness. You can teach a beginner and an elite athlete in the same class because Pilates is designed for levels of intensity in each Pilates exercise,” says Pam Naldonado, who teaches Pilates mat exercises at the Redwood Club in California. “It’s all about core strength training — abdominal, lower back, glutes and flexibility. Improving your core gives you so much more freedom in day-to-day living. One of my students, who is in her 70s, swears by the program, saying, ‘I can now climb up on the jungle gym with my grandchild, which I could never do in the past.'”

    If she can do it, you can do it! So, chuck all those flopped New Year’s resolutions, and devote this year to doing your body and mind good.

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