What is Pilates?

What is Pilates?

We often hear the word ‘Pilates’ bandied about, with the assumption that everyone will know what it is. You may have been told by a doctor or a health professional to ‘try some Pilates’. You may have heard a friend extolling the virtues of their Pilates sessions – or you may have dabbled in it at a class at the gym. But what is it, where did the concept come from, and what are the benefits of Pilates? 

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” – Joseph Pilates 

So says the founder of the movement – profound words indeed! We’re always up for a bit of happiness. I’ve got a foundational intro to Pilates in 6 weeks on my Mama Strength app, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store. and here’s a quick introduction to Pilates… 

Where did Pilates come from? 

Pilates is a type of exercise and body conditioning. It was first developed by a German boxer, Joseph Pilates, whilst he was imprisoned off the coast of England during the First World War. He started developing exercise routines for other inmates who were suffering from war wounds as a way to help them recover, and for those with bouts of inactivity to help them maintain or develop muscular strength.  

The man who uses intelligence with respect to his diet, his sleeping habits and who exercises properly, is beyond any question of doubt taking the very best preventive medicines provided so freely and abundantly by nature.”Joseph Pilates 

He would adapt hospital beds to help them find resistance through moving with, for example, springs and various straps around the hospital bed, hence inspiring the reformer Pilates beds we see in some Pilates studios, and then the concepts were taken to free standing mat Pilates movements that he then developed. After the war, as time went on, he took his methodology to America and worked more with dancers in New York City, who also wanted to recover from injuries and strengthen their bodies. He recreated the resistance that the beds offered using equipment like the resistance bands which we use quite commonly now in our Pilates classes, helping us find more benefit and effectiveness in the muscle strengthening focus with every single movement.  

What’s the difference between yoga and Pilates?  

Yoga emphasises the mind-body connection and offers physical benefits like strength, flexibility and balance, often with a bit more of a spiritual, meditative focus, holding and settling into positions for longer periods.  Pilates focuses on developing core strength through repetitive rhythmic exercises, and slowly gets more challenging as the exercise progresses. There are various forms of yoga whereas Pilates typically follows a strict set of 32 movements which were developed by Joseph Pilates himself, and now the more modern-day Pilates builds on influences from other forms of exercise as well. As a dancer, I take quite a lot of influence from my dance training to incorporate into my Pilates teaching.  

What on earth is the pelvic floor and core control? 

We focus quite often on the pelvic floor, lifting up the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles we squeeze up when we’re desperate for a pee!) before performing the movement and also drawing the tummy muscles through to the spine, and with every movement we focus on this activation of the core. 

So over time, in a very powerful way, you’ll be developing the strength of your core from deep within with every single movement, and you in turn strengthen the rest of the body as well, with all-over body benefits.  

Who does Pilates and why? 

Everyone can! This is why it’s really favoured by so many different ages and groups of the population: pregnant women, new mums, athletes, older people too – and physiotherapists love it!! 

Pilates is a brilliant way to start tuning into your body and my clients find they’re making changes that they may not have initially considered.  As we work together you’ll be helped to gain strength, release tension, improve pelvic floor function, and maybe just reduce aches and pains, if you have them.  

What are the benefits of Pilates? 

“Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. – Joseph Pilates 

There are so many general benefits of Pilates, for example, it could be relief of pain or prevention of injury, improving your core strength, improving your posture, helping both your flexibility, your balance, your coordination and your body awareness. It helps relieve stress, and it really does improve your overall mental wellbeing with the deep breathing that we do regularly throughout the sessions.  

Principles of Pilates 

We achieve all of the above benefits through the six principles of Pilates. These are:   

  1. Concentration: we’re really concentrating through every single movement.  
  1. Control: we’re consciously and deliberately moving ourselves with control, and everything is thought through very mindfully.  
  1. Centre: we’re always activating the core of our body through every single movement. 
  1. Breath: we breathe deeply, and you will be guided through the sessions on how to breathe through every single movement 
  1. Precision: we really focus deeply on technique with every movement. Nothing is done without intent. You’re really taking your time as you move and all movements are done with precision, and that in turn will help you to reduce injury and reduce the risk of injury during the movements – in other higher impact practices it can be common to injure yourself because you’re not giving your body time to really think through what you’re doing.  
  1. Flow of the movement: every move is performed smoothly and continuously – in essence, it flows.  

So there we have it – Pilates in a nutshell. If you’d like more information about how I can help you reach your fitness and health goals through Pilates and nutrition coaching, then please do get in touch! 

Why Pilates is often prescribed to mums in pain by health professionals

The Pilates focus on core strength, flexibility, breath and mindful movement is commonly prescribed by health professionals concerned with musculoskeletal problems as one of THE most effective forms of pregnancy rehabilitation and holistic health promotion for mums. It’s the go-to solution to sort out the physical aches, pains and issues relating to issues experienced by mums following childbirth and in the years beyond, as kids get bigger and more physical too. Pilates is the perfect tool recommended by physios, chiropractors and osteopaths in various clinical settings. Here’s why!

I’m talking about remedial movement and rehabilitation following issues caused by for example:

  • repetitive strain injury from functional movement: repetitively picking kids up, slinging them on the hip, putting them down into the cot, sitting for long hours feeding – which can result in hip, shoulder, back joint and muscular pain;
  • distasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles some women experience as a result of pregnancy),
  • SPD (symphis pubic dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain);
  • Leaky bladder
Hands on back pain
Pilates is recommended by health professionals

The list goes on, right?

So how can Pilates help?

  1. Improved Posture: Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, helping to support proper alignment of the spine and improve posture. Better posture = reduced strain on the muscles and joints, reducing issues associated with poor posture.
  2. Enhanced Body Awareness: Pilates emphasises mindful movement – everything is done with a smooth, slow and considered quality. By developing a greater sense of body awareness, individuals can clock and address movement patterns both during and outside of the Pilates class, that may be causing or exacerbating pain. This can lead to more efficient movement, better posture as a habit, and decreased strain on the body.
  3. Increased Flexibility: Pilates incorporates stretching exercises that target muscles throughout the body. Increased flexibility can reduce muscle tension and tightness, which are often contributors to pain and discomfort. Always try to warm up in some way before stretching – e.g. after a walk round the block or a (careful!) dance.
  4. Strengthening Weak Muscles: Pilates targets both large and small muscle groups, including stabilising muscles that are often neglected in traditional forms of exercise – especially focusing on strengthening the core with every movement. Back pain can be caused by weak abdominals for example, and in the UK, mums are unfortunately unlikely to get the support and education they need to rehabilitate the pelvic floor which can lead to issues not just in the immediate future, but into the long term future too.
  5. Injury Prevention: By strengthening weak muscles in the core and the whole body, Pilates can help to improve joint stability and reduce the likelihood of compensatory movements that can lead to future pain and injury.

Pilates is often prescribed as a form of rehabilitation by health experts for individuals recovering from injuries or managing chronic pain conditions. Its low-impact nature and focus on controlled movements make it suitable for people with various physical limitations. Pilates exercises can be adapted and modified to accommodate specific needs and abilities, allowing individuals to safely progress in their recovery journey.

Overall, Pilates offers a holistic approach to pain management by addressing underlying physical imbalances, promoting proper body mechanics, and fostering a mind-body connection that supports overall well-being.

If you have existing musculoskeletal pain it’s best to get checked out by a professional before taking part in group classes – or before switching on Youtube and picking up a recorded class where the instructor won’t see you. A Pilates instructor will assess if clients are fit to participate in physical activity before they work with them. It’s a good idea to see a Pilates instructor on a 121 basis to start with if you do have underlying health conditions, so the instructor can chat to you about your specific pain, and may direct you to a health professional for an assessment before working with you if they consider your symptoms to be severe. Once you’ve got the green light, 121s are a good way to get the foundations under your belt before taking part in a group, online or Youtube class.

Pilates Studio

Announcing the launch of Pilates @ Juniper Lodge!

I’ve finally named my Buckingham Pilates studio! 

Introducing 🌲Pilates @ Juniper Lodge!🌲I loved the idea of giving my studio that mountain lodge vibe, which led me to bring in my love of nature and those alpine views are not complete without fir trees🌲 Coupled with the fact it’s no coincidence that my tipple of choice is…GIN🤪and hey presto the name Juniper kept creeping back in to my contender list! I then started digging more into the name Juniper, particularly as I’m a massive essential oil geek. Love the way scent can transport the mind and elevate health. Lo and behold I discover how the native Americans burn Juniper for various benefits for example…and my favourite discovery of these ancient trees is this: “Juniper trees symbolise the strength and perseverance of human spirit… Even when it seems like we cannot survive, hope is never lost.” If that’s not an analogy for so many facets of my life, my philosophy for how I support my clients and the world at the moment, I don’t know what is.

AND IT JUST GETS BETTER! I’ve organised a giveaway!

Giveaway Competition – win a month of Mama Strength Pilates Programme and more…

Celebrating the launch of my studio, Pilates @ Juniper Lodge, I’m giving away a month of my ‘Pure’ Mama Strength online Pilates Programme and a few goodies in a competition! This is an opportunity to see how, by giving yourself the spotlight for a change in daily manageable ways, you might start to rediscover a glimmer of the energy, strength and muscle tone of the pre-child woman you know still lies within. With this insane prize, you’ll get Pure Mama Strength (a 121 with me plus one month unlimited weekly access to group sessions) and some other goodies…including gin! (no coincidence that I named my studio after a key ingredient of gin…ahem. There were other influences for the name (honest!), which you can read about through my announcement post on my Facebook/IG pages 😉 ).  Enter the competition through my social media pages below – hint: you can apply on both Facebook and Instagram!

Mama Strength is aimed at women with younger children who had their kids later in life.  The body can take up to 5 years to recover from childbirth, plus a ‘later in life mum’ body can also take a little more dedicated work to bounce back into pre-child strength, tone and energy, and well, it’s just so worth starting sooner rather than later.

Us parents have got to take time out to prioritise ourselves for a change on a regular basis, separate from that ‘mum’ identity occasionally, and understand that a personal fitness programme can be for you too. Let’s not use the excuse that there ‘isn’t time’ – and see how Mama Strength Pilates programme helps you to getting into daily healthy habits, in manageable ways, with the support of me – a dedicated Pilates coach.

Honestly – getting to grips with my strength and energy through Pilates was a massive game changer for me. I gained the post-childbirth additional curves that tells me my body did an amazing thing, giving birth to my child, but through regularly practising Pilates I feel the muscle and core strength is there underneath helping me to prep for more physical, high impact fitness types like running or dancing – the powerful calorie burners. Work gotta be done on diet and a mix of fitness types to see a total change in body shape, and it’s got to be fun right?  Pilates is a great place to start to lay the strength foundations and build the confidence to move on to the higher impact stuff. Start feeling the results in one month – ready in time for Christmas, and then make a smooth move on to ramp up the NY health goals.  The only way change can happen is by prioritising YOU!

School’s out – but the workouts continue

School holiday workouts: A workout attempted will be way more beneficial than no workout at all. 😉

Here’s a thought of the week for you: Sometimes matters are out of our control – including when the kids are at home on school holidays and we have a small person with us who needs entertaining – it’s easy to knock the idea of a work out on the head. 

I try to keep momentum for my Pilates clients in school hols though. This week on our group Mama Strength Pilates Programme session we worked out with the little ones in the room – the kids dipped in and out – an hour is a long session for the young ones of course. We don’t expect them to engage in anything longer than 20 minutes – and for the moments they’re climbing all over us we just go with it.

I keep some structure of the usual Pilates session going – but yeah – it’s nigh on impossible to get through the whole hour without the little saboteurs getting involved. So Plan B: when the kids start trying to copy or show their own moves we re-engage them in and try something structured (we use team work style exercises/stretches in my holiday sessions – the moves can be tried with kids of all ages).

Obviously a bit of play rolling around with them is great fun – just be mindful of your own safety and of the kids. The little ones love jumping all over us – in Pilates we draw the belly button through to the spine to avoid back injury and protect the lower, inner organs etc.

We just have to re-wire/re-focus the brain and, dare I say, ‘manage’ our expectations of how much structured workout will get done! Keep moving during your workout, know the kids will be in and out of the room…before you know it you’ll have burned more calories than you realise! A workout attempted will be way more beneficial than no workout at all.

I quickly sussed out these family home workout hacks in my lockdown home teaching life…and turned the things I discovered with my Baby-O (my social media name for my little girl) into my parents and kids Pilates session I now teach at music festivals. Photos from lock down Pilates with the family, and my sidekick and I teaching at a festival 🥰😜

Parents & Kids’ Pilates at Music Festivals