Your body in balance

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Whether your goal is weight loss or muscle strengthening, Fitness Pilates exercises can help. The beauty of this system, which has become extremely popular over the past decade, is that it’s a holistic practice that works on realigning the body from the inside out. Pilates expert, Rocco Sorace, tells us more.

The breath and the spine

The Pilates physical fitness system was developed by Joseph Pilates during 1920s as rehabilitation exercises for war victims. Pilates believed that physical and mental health were interrelated, and that taking the right kind of physical exercise, in the right form, could help keep the body healthy on the inside as well as keeping it fit on the outside. He went about devising a fitness regime that would take care of both. By the middle of the century, The Pilates Method, as it came to be known, was taken up by athletes as diverse as boxers, dancers and martial artists, and these days is a part of many people’s fitness routine.

Pilates is a new concept in fitness, in that it caters for those who want to feel well from within, as well as have a physically attractive body. This is how Pilates can help you.

This method is different from conventional forms of exercise. It creates a natural bridge between the mind and the body. Its main focus is to bring awareness to the breath and the spine’s alignment. Movements are performed with precise control to strengthen posture and improve self-confidence and wellbeing through fluid movements in which the mind controls the body.

Breathing properly, in addition to the physical movements, will come with practice, aiding in the mind-body connection. Guidance through this inner holistic routine can be energizing as well as relaxing and can benefit everyone from athletes to the elderly, though it is not a replacement for one-on-one rehabilitation.


The Results of Pilates

Strengthen your body while relaxing the mind
Pilates is great for gaining physical strength while experiencing relaxation and stress relief at the same time.

Experience exercise without the pain
Through controlled movements and training, you will work on deep muscle groups to minimize the pain, stress or jarring of muscles caused by other exercises.

Lose weight and gain core strength
Pilates concentrates on strengthening the core during weight loss to ensure a strong, lean body.

Improved posture while building back muscles
An important element of Pilates exercises is to help to improve posture by aligning the spine and strengthening the muscles in the back.

Total well-being
When performing Pilates, relaxation, stress-relief and increased focus are added benefits of these exercises.

The trick to performing Pilates exercises correctly is breath and alignment.  Some of the movements may seem similar to workouts you have tried before.  The difference is that each exercise is done in a controlled fashion. For example, the popular Criss-Cross exercise benefits the oblique abdominal muscles. These exercises help to improve posture to some degree, but they are more involved in rotation of the spine. One benefit of working the obliques is that they help define the waist.

Begin this exercise by lying on your back and bending the knees, so that your legs are parallel to the floor. Place your hands behind your head with elbows wide. Follow these steps to get the maximum benefit from this move:

  1. Inhale and lift the shoulders off the floor, sliding your shoulder blades down the back. Scoop the abdominal muscles in and keep the legs in the parallel, or ‘tabletop’ position.
  2. Exhale as you reach your left leg out long, keep the elbows wide and rotate your torso toward the bent right knee, so that your left armpit is reaching toward the knee.
  3. Inhale as you switch legs and bring the trunk of the body through the center.
  4. Exhale and now extend the right leg while rotating your upper body toward the left knee. Keep your chest open and elbows wide the whole time, using your abdominal muscles to control the movements.

As you perform this exercise with control, you begin to become aware of the strength of the abdominal muscles. Avoid rocking back and forth, and concentrate on keeping the pelvis neutral, not tucked. Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe.

These exercises are beneficial to the physical conditioning of both women and men.  They assist you with everyday activities, increase performance in sports, and contribute to the creation of a calm, centered demeanor. It is hard to resist this holistic exercise approach. We have moved beyond a time when physical fitness is purely physical.  We have naturally evolved through mind-body fitness, to a more holistic approach to inner and outer beauty and wellness.

By Rocco Sorace

Rocco Sorace is a personal trainer who offers Pilates and Personal Training in St Kilda.

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