Benefits & Principles of Pilates

How can we incorporate the benefits and principles of Pilates into modern day life and daily living?

Pilates is a method/system of body conditioning designed to create balance in the body, improve posture, strengthen and lengthen the body’s muscles with emphasis on catering to individual needs.

It is a gentle practice that anyone can engage in, benefiting individuals ranging from triathletes to ballet dancers, from new mothers to those who suffer from lower back discomfort (Purely Pilates, Web. 2011). In general the regular practice of Pilates is relevant to all walks of life; as we all seek harmony, better balance, the ability to maintain proper posture, stronger core muscles (deep) and assistance conditioning the body with strength without bulking up.

Furthermore, the foundations of Pilates method are very relevant to how we go about our everyday lives. These principles include; breathing, alignment, balance, concentration, control, flow, precision and centering.

Take an average office worker for example, who spends a minimum of forty to fifty hours a week in the office doing their job. This individual is required to undertake a routine whereby the basic principles of Pilates would allow for a more effective execution of operational tasks and increased efficiency in what they do providing greater productivity overall.

The way we breathe on a daily basis is greatly affected by the amount of stress we endure. Learning and adapting the Pilates Breathe would allow the individual to better handle stress, more oxygen to the blood, encourage concentration and help calm the mind and body whilst working. Joseph Pilates quotes; “To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to “squeeze” every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.” (Pilates Trends, Web. 2011). The Pilates breath is a simple breathing technique that can be used whilst sitting at the desk working or driving to and from work in the car.

The office environment presents many ways in which the individual can over time become misaligned and to add to it the stress of the job would make them unaware to the affect on their body alignment. Pilates would assist in bringing awareness to their body and highlight the intricacies of movement setting a foundation for change (Pilates for Real Bodies Teacher Manual, p.21). Providing an ergonomic work station would assist this misalignment; although the worker can become aware of their postural differences and self correct from just a few Pilates sessions.

Given the demands of an office job, one would be required to have precision, control, hold focus or concentration and balance both mentally and physically to adapt and respond whilst working. The result of precision on the job would be the same as working on such precise movement in the Pilates method. Precision is ‘the focus on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many half-hearted ones. This would not only increase productivity, reduce stress but also save the company money. ‘The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement’ (Pilates Act, Web 2011). This same goal would be applicable to the office workers situation.

Increasing control or “Contrology” as Joseph Pilates preferred it is based on the idea of muscle control (Pilates Act.com, Web. 2011); this would allow this particular office worker a more efficient process of movement on the job. ‘Pilates demands intense focus. For instance, the inner thighs and pelvic floor may be assessed when doing a standing exercise that tones the triceps (Pilates Act, Web. 2011). With regular practice concentrating on the body; muscles, movement, breath and mind-body connection one would be able to apply to daily life. Creating overall harmony and balance which are key to any individual’s way of being.

Depending on the nature of the individual working in an office, aspects such as working from within your centre (Centering) or allowing your passion to shine and trusting in the flow of life, may not come easily. Using the ‘Smooth, continuous motion rather than jarring repetitions and moving with grace and elegance (Pilates Insight, Web. 2011) as practiced in the Pilates method, would allow natural progression to one’s lifestyle. Centering is “a mental focus within the body calms the spirit. A particular focus on the torso (abs, pelvic girdle, lower back, glutes), as develops a strong core and enables the rest of the body to function efficiently. All action initiates from the trunk and flows outwards to the extremities” (Pilates Insight, Web. 2011). Thus, describes what would happen when this office worker were to embrace the method. Having strength in one’s body, would promote a strong mind.

Overall, the foundation principles of Pilates are very real and adaptable to our daily life for which embracing the Pilates method would provide the many benefits mentioned herein.

Written by Beck Morrow , Pilates For Real Bodies Teacher Training ,graduate WA 2011

She can be contacted via www.mbshealthandfitness.com.au

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