Why Pilates Helps People with Back Pain

My Thoughts:

Pilates helps people with back pain and I have no doubts about it having seen people experience that. More often than not, the people who experienced the most help, in my opinion, are those who really understood why Pilates can help. Hence I felt it is really important to read this article if you want Pilates to help you. Just like any other things in life, when you are skeptical about something and come from that place to learn something new, chances are you would end up proving yourself right. The writer touched on posture first and I can’t agree more how crucial it is to us. I like to tell my students that if you have misalignment, exercising a lot strengthens the misalignment. The only way to genuinely build strength in our bodies is to first find the right alignment, the right posture. Then with that we can work on strengthening our core effectively and efficiently. Coming from this place, we would then be able to move with awareness and care. This prolongs our health and life. Enjoy reading!


Pilates exercises are commonplace at physical therapy centers, chiropractors are recommending Pilates, and “My back used to hurt all the time and now I don’t feel it anymore” is a phrase we hear a lot from people who do Pilates consistently. So what is it about Pilates that works so well for back pain relief? What makes Pilates so effective is that it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body that lead to back pain. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all effect back health. They are also issues that the Pilates method specializes in helping people improve.

Pilates Helps Correct Posture

In Pilates, we pay a lot of attention to how our body parts are lined up in relation to each other, which is our alignment. We usually think of our alignment as our posture, but good posture is a dynamic process, dependent on the body’s ability to align its parts to respond to varying demands effectively. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates exercises, done with attention to alignment, create uniform muscle use and development, allowing movement to flow through the body in a natural way.

For example, one of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. They deny the spine the support of its natural curves and create a domino effect of aches and pains all the way up the spine and into the neck. Doing Pilates increases the awareness of the proper placement of the spine and pelvis, and creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine. This is called having a neutral spine and it has been the key to better backs for many people.

Pilates Develops Core Strength

Good posture that goes beyond the “look” of being aligned requires core strength. Having core strength means that all of the muscles of the trunk of your body are strong, flexible, and working together to support and stabilize the spine.

Core strength is deeper than the big surface muscles that we are used to thinking of as those of the trunk of the body, like the rectus abdominis, the infamous 6-pack abs muscle or the beautiful big muscles of the back, like the lattisimus dorsi, popularly called “the lats.” The core muscles include the muscles that are below the surface musculature.

So while many forms of exercise focus on strengthening the big surface muscles, Pilates trains the body so that all of the core muscles work together to support and stabilize the back. Part of developing effective core strength is to train the body to know when to release, as well as activate, its core muscles. So while core strength is the catch-all term, we might say that the core coherence that Pilates teaches is essential for back health.

Some of these less obvious but very important core muscles are the muscles of the pelvic floor; the psoas, which play a huge role in keeping us upright and in hip bending; the transversospinalis, which are small muscles that weave along the spine; and the transverse and oblique abdominal muscles. The diaphragm, our prime breathing muscle, is right in the middle of the core. All of these muscles play crucial roles in the support and stability of the spine.

…the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine…
Joseph Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology

Pilates Promotes Flexibility

A healthy spine can curve forward and backward, twist, and move side to side, and do so in a way that reveals all the subtle articulations that our many vertebrae allow us to have. As core strength develops, the back muscles learn to work in harmony with the abdominal muscles, forming protective support for the spine that increase the potential range of motion of the spine. Pilates exercises are easy to modify so that we can develop spinal flexibility at our own pace. This is one of the things about Pilates that makes it easy for people with back pain to work with.

Pilates Increases Body Awareness

Whether the cause of pain is from an injury or as is often the case, a culmination of the effects of poor posture and inefficient movement habits, back pain is a messenger letting us know that we have to pay more attention to how we live in our bodies. The Pilates method is full attention exercise. You can’t do Pilates without becoming extremely aware of your alignment and the energy you bring to movement.

This kind of awareness practice is extremely powerful for people with back pain because we not only improve physical functioning, but as awareness increases, we move beyond the physical and mental holding patterns that back pain can create. Then, there is more room in one’s whole being for positive change.

Article source: http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesforeverybody/a/Back-Pain.htm


Pilates for Beginners – Seal

I love this piece because it adds fun to any Pilates work out. I never fail to see students laughing when they do this piece! I think learning the skill of rolling about is useful physically and mentally as our culture has made us more tense people. Many people become afraid to move and to express movement in their bodies. Hence I am always interested in rolling! More importantly it helps to massage your spine. Have fun with this piece and add more claps in between each roll to challenge yourself!


Exercise for Older People

My Thoughts:
I like this article because it is something we are all concerned about and cannot hide from. There will come a day when we start to think if certain forms of exercises are good for the aging process. Aging gracefully is what we embrace and I think Pilates is a wonderful way to start! If you ever thought what you could do when you hit 80 or 90 eventually, Pilates is it! The master teachers have shown and embodied that and I have absolute confidence you can. You start not when you are near 80. You start NOW!

Ten years ago when Pilates was quite new in Singapore, I did not see older people or seniors, those aged 60 and above in the studio.

Until recently, in general older people do not exercise much. There are a number of factors, such as injury, poor health, perceptions about exercising (too old to exercise), fear (going to gym and exercising around young people!), exercises too intense etc. The latter especially if the older person has undergone surgeries e.g. hip replacement. However with proper strengthening exercises it will help the person in the recovery process and to maintain proper functioning of the hip joint.

Pilates developed by Joseph Pilates is a system of exercise for “everyone”, and it is one of the most appropriate systems for senior people.

It is a misperception “we are too old to move”! In fact, it is important for all people to move to help slow down (inevitable) degeneration of joints and onset of osteoporosis. As master Pilates teacher Ron Fletcher said ” Movement is Life. Life is Movement”.

Pilates can be a gentle form of exercise, targeting whole body workout even for people with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, hip replacement. Obviously there are precautions to take with people with medical conditions and clients are advised to seek medical advice before starting any exercise program. What makes Pilates appropriate for such people is that it is a system that can be programmed for each client. With the variety of Pilates equipment, exercises can be selected to suit a client e.g. a client with hip replacement may find difficulty getting off the floor; hence exercises on the cadillac or reformer can be selected.

A Pilates’ studio is the best setting for senior people to exercise. It is quiet and clients can choose either privates or small Pilates group classes (depending on their preference and health condition) to do Pilates. This takes away the fear of having to exercise in a gym environment. Private Pilates’ sessions are recommended for senior people because the program can be tailored to their needs and even to how they feel on the day of exercise! For example, a client may come in with a slight knee pain and a good Pilates teacher will be able to come up with a program that provides movement workout for the client yet not aggravating the knee pain.

The tenets behind doing Pilates are movement and developing balanced muscles. With movement and balanced muscles, they keep joints healthy and reduce the risk of injuries, pain etc. It would be ideal if everyone start doing Pilates in their twenties to reduce risks of problems such as hip replacement in older age. However, it is not too late to start Pilates even when you are 60 years and above. Doing some Pilates is better than not doing anything!

My teaching experience with senior people has shown Pilates works for them. I have some clients above 60 years and with medical conditions (arthritis, scoliosis, shoulder surgeries, hip replacement ) and I am able to use Pilates to work with them, as well as using Pilates to work with young healthy clients. Such is the versatility of Pilates!

You can read more on Pilates Benefits on www.ipilates.com.sg

Lay Yong is a qualified Fletcher Pilates Teacher at iPilates studio in Singapore. iPilates offers Pilates classes and the Ron Fletcher Program of Study (a comprehensive teacher’s training program).

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6323186


Pilates for Beginners – Saw

I think the Saw is a piece which everyone of us need. Most of us work in front of computers for long hours and as a result have really stiff backs. This Pilates mat exercise can help you to loosen up that stiff spine! Moreover if you are involved in any kind of sports that require you to rotate well (such as Golf or Tennis), this piece can help you to prepare for that. Not forgetting in our daily lives, we twist much less that we bend forward and this makes us really unbalanced. There are really many tiny muscles between each of our vertebrae and they are really only effectively stretched when we twist a lot hence I strongly encourage you to practise this NOW! Have a good time!


Will Pilates help me lose weight?

My Thoughts:

Weight loss is always going to be a topic of interest so I have been looking at this issue. I think it is good to read this article that I stumbled upon which feels that Pilates can help you lose weight. I would like to add that Pilates can greatly enhance a weight loss program! It is the principle of getting the most out of each exercise, stretching to your fullest length at every opportunity, going for the extra scoop of the abs, breathing deeply, being precise, moving with control and grace that gives you that catalyst for a successful weight loss program. To be fully engaged is the exact attitude that results in a successful weight loss program and in line with what Joseph Pilates taught. If you want to lose weight you really got to increase your exertion level tremendously. That mindset is developed by body-mind focused fitness program and Pilates represents that.


One of the most frequently asked questions about Pilates is: Will Pilates help me lose weight? The short answer is yes, Pilates is supportive of weight loss. In many cases just beginning Pilates class, or a home routine, is enough to jump start weight loss. However, as time goes by you may find that your body becomes accustomed to your workout level. Then, you will need to increase the intensity of your workout enough to help you continue to burn extra calories. Here are some ideas to help you amp up your workout:

Do a Faster Paced Routine

Pilates is sometimes done slowly, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels. This gives a student a chance to establish inner-attention, good alignment, and familiarity with the exercises. But if you want to burn calories and lose weight, you might want to create opportunities to do your Pilates with more zest. One of the best ways to do that is to get the Pilates principles of breath and flow working for you and pick up the pace.

If you take a Pilates class regularly, talk to your instructor and find out if it is possible to move the class along a little more quickly. Sometimes a class needs to take that step. On the other hand, it may be that some members of your class are not ready to increase the pace of their workouts and you will have to graduate yourself to a more advanced class.

If you workout at home, it is a good idea to have a routine or two that you know quite well. That way you can focus on the breath and flow of the workout and not have to pause to review the exercise instructions or sequence. Get to know the many Pilates mat exercises that are available here at pilates.about.com and put a routine together for yourself. Then, you can mix in new, more challenging exercises as you progress. Also, Pilates routines like quick workout 1 and level 2 strength and stretch will work very well as sets that you can memorize and flow through rapidly.

Another great way to get a weight loss workout at home is to expand your Pilates DVD collection. Look for workouts that push your current level or add a new challenge like the magic circle, fitness band, or exercise ball. There are also a number of Pilates based DVDs specifically oriented toward weight loss.

Fully Commit to Each Exercise

Even if you can’t move through a routine rapidly, do make sure that you get the most out of each exercise. Stretch to your fullest length at every opportunity, go for the extra scoop of the abs, breathe deeply, be precise, move with control and grace. This kind of fully engaged attitude is very much in keeping with what Joseph Pilates taught, and increases the exertion level (read weight loss potential) of your workout tremendously.

Add Equipment

Adding equipment, or different equipment, to your workout will help build muscle and strength by giving your body new challenges. Remember, muscle burns a lot of fat. If you go to a studio to workout, you could move from the mat to the reformer. If you have been using the reformer, take a chance and sign up for a class that includes a new piece of equipment, like the wunda chair or ladder barrel.

At home, smaller types of Pilates equipment such as magic circles, exercise balls and fitness bands can add the extra challenge. They also help keep your workouts interesting.

Use Less Resistance

Now here is a Pilates trick that is not used by many other fitness systems: If you are working out with Pilates resistance equipment, decrease the resistance level. This seems counter intuitive, but the instability that less resistance creates provides a significant challenge to the muscles as they attempt to maintain control and balance, especially the core muscles. This technique works very well on the reformer where you can use lighter springs, but you can apply the same principle to a lighter resistance magic circle or fitness band. You may be surprised at the level of intensity that instability can add to your workout, especially as you work to maintain precision and control during both the exertion and the release phase of an exercise, as we do in Pilates.

Workout More Frequently

Working out more often is an obvious choice for weight loss and it can work like a charm. After all, the more opportunity you take to increase your respiration, build strength, and tone your muscles, the more weight you can lose and the trimmer you will appear.

Make an Exercise Log

Keeping an exercise log helps you stay motivated, track progress, and plan improvements. This becomes even more relevant when you have a goal like weight loss.

Article Source: http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesforeverybody/a/weightLossIdeas.htm


Pilates for Beginners – Spine Stretch

I always love this piece. It is easy to practise yet so beneficial for our spine. Remember to urcurl one vertebrae at a time. It is very easy to just fling our body back and forth and if we do that, we will not get the benefits of having an articulate and flexible spine. Enjoy this piece and practise EVERYDAY!


Pilates Mats

Having a good Pilates mat is very important and I have 2 mats which I would like to recommend to you. These 2 mats have a thickness which is ideal for Pilates mat exercises and provide adequate cushioning for your spine/back. Please click on their pictures if you want more details. You can also find them in our STORE.

GoFit GF-PMAT Exercise Mat (72″ x 24″)

This Mat is a professional-grade mat just like the ones used in Pilates studios. It is an absolute must for performing all the various forms, exercises and methods pertaining to Pilates in total comfort and style. The GoFit mat is a full ½ inch thick with closed cell air pockets to provide a soft, yet durable design. It also has a ribbed surface for a better feel during use and to provide a non-slip performance surface. This mat is Blue and can be rolled for easy storage. Clean with a damp cloth.

Airex Fitline 180 Exercise Mat (72″ x 23″)

This Mat is great for abdominal or fitness workouts. It is narrow and features a non-slip surface with 4/10” thick padding to protect you from hard floors. It has good cushion support for your back/spine. The Fitline is lightweight and portable and the closed cell structure repels moisture. Great for use both indoors and outdoors thanks to the easy to clean surface.


Pilates for Beginners – Criss Cross

I highly recommend this exercise if you really want to shape up your waist. Please practise the earlier abdominal exercises first so that this one is more manageable. I would think one common mistake people make for this exercise is trying to twist their neck more than their chest. Rotate in a smaller range first and make sure you feel it in your waist, then aim for more when you have gotten the hang of it.

These 5 abdominal exercises are what I practised everyday for 6 months when I started doing Pilates mat and in that 6 months I lost 2.5 inches around my waist. I wish you luck and have fun!