Though pilates has earned a reputation for sculpting the lean bodies of celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone, it has so much more to offer than weight loss. Sure, a beautifully-toned, strong and flexible body is one of the results of regular pilates, but few know that this was originally designed to be the ultimate rehab workout.
Though pilates has gained worldwide popularity in recent years, it is not a new form of exercise. During World War I, pilates was initially used by its creator, Joseph Pilates, to rehabilitate bedridden soldiers. In fact, in 1918, when a terrible epidemic of influenza swept the world killing three times more people than WW1 itself, it is interesting to know that none of Joseph Pilates’ followers succumbed to the illness — even though the camps were the hardest hit ones!
Designed as a low-impact activity, pilates is a combination of exercises that not only strengthens the muscles and bones through controlled movements, but also adds flexibility and builds immunity. Many people across the world are turning to this exercise — not just to knock off the extra inches but also as a full-blown rehabilitation programme. Here’s why pilates should be a art of your routine.
Strengthens your immune system
Your lymphatic and respiratory systems are crucial to your immune system. As you rhythmically move your body in a pilates class, your blood flow and lymph flow are stimulated. This allows the lymphatic system — our body’s waste disposal system — to flush out toxins and then return the lymph to the bloodstream, all clean and healthy, which contributes towards a healthier body.
Addresses muscle imbalance
A muscle imbalance is when certain muscles in the body are stronger or more developed than others. This can happen as a result of bad posture, inactivity, an unbalanced exercise programme or even exercising with improper form, which can lead to certain injuries. Moving incorrectly puts a lot of pressure on some of our muscles. Pilates is proven to help patients recover from injuries and surgery, by strengthening the deepest muscles, optimising alignment and creating correct movement patterns.
A flexible form of rehab
This is the reason why physical therapists all over the globe are now using pilates as a form of rehabilitation. Vanshita Phulpagar, co-founder, Contrology Pilates Fitness and rehabilitation expert, says, “Pilates is tremendously effective for post-surgery rehab and injuries. I have personally seen dramatic and lasting transformations in my clients. Clients with arthritis, knee replacement, hernia, slip disc, etc., have experienced healing through pilates classes.”
Body and breath awareness
Breathing correctly is a big part of the workout. Many of us breathe far too shallowly, so we’re told during pilates, to take deep breaths as we inhale and exhale. This maximises the lung capacity, helping the respiratory system to work more efficiently.
One of the first things we learn in a pilates session is postural awareness, and this awareness is the key to staying safe in all other types of workouts. A good pilates trainer is able to teach proper body positions, while guiding you on what sensations you should be feeling in each exercise and position.
When the body participates in harmonious mind-body activities, great things happen at a chemical level. New connections develop in the brain, resulting in a sharper mind, improved memory and increased cognition. Pilates has been shown to increase the production of serotonin, a chemical which acts as a mood stabiliser to relieve depression and anxiety.
Pilates benefits your mental health by urging you to stay focused. Every movement is linked to breath and because it takes concentration, it is very hard to zone out during your session.
A growing number of people, of all ages, are resorting to pilates as a form of rehabilitation — for core strength, pain relief and increasingly, for mental strength. Pilates can actually help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, while toning down the hyperactivity of our sympathetic nervous system. Simply put, this exercise can help us relax our mind and control anxiety.