Rebecca is one of our Pilates Instructors at Supersonic, during this blog she shares why she has such a passion for Pilates and the benefits of Pilates.

In Rebecca’s words…Pilates is way more than just a fix, It looks like nothing, but feels like something.

How I started Pilates

Pilates was introduced to me when I was about 17 years old. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was boring and pointless at first but in this blog I am going to explain the benefits of Pilates and why I think Pilates is important for everyone, no matter their age or circumstance.

When I was 16 years old I was wrongly diagnosed and was very ill for 18 months, I was unable to go to school and finish my GCSEs. I was bed-bound, had a disabled badge and was taken out to do shopping in a wheelchair.

Before this I was very active, I danced every night after school for 3-4 hours and also dedicated most of my weekend to dancing. My dream was to become a professional dancer, dance on cruise ships and travel the world.

All this was taken away from me when I became ill, I lost a lot of weight and a lot of strength.  I was so dedicated to dance and without sounding big headed, was always one of the top in the class. This made it difficult for me to return to class when I got my health back as I wasn’t used to being the ‘worst’. Therefore the stubborn me gave up on my dream.

A year later an opportunity came up at the dancing school I used to go to, meaning I could dance 4 times a week for 5-6 hours a day and gain a BTEC Diploma (equivalent of 3 A-Levels). I could go back to basics and regain all of my strength and technique that I had lost. This is where Pilates comes in.

We started every day with 45-60 minutes of Pilates.  We moaned every morning before class because we were tired and cold and the last thing we wanted to do was lie on a mat and do exercises that looked like nothing but actually required a lot of concentration and effort, not forgetting to mention – strength! I gained so much strength from doing Pilates every morning, it helped me with my dancing but also in general life too. My core was stronger than it had ever been before, my mobility and flexibility improved and I began to find all those little muscles that had been forgotten about when I spent all day in bed.

When we had shows or exams we often didn’t have time to do our class every morning, that’s when I realised how important Pilates was to my training.  My core didn’t feel as strong, my technique dropped and injury/aches and pains started to develop. The thing with Pilates is, you start with such small basic movements but if you do it correctly it is actually very difficult. It looks like nothing, but feels like something. The more you practice Pilates you can adapt, modify and progress the exercises, before you know it you’re doing something you would have never been able to do a couple of weeks prior. Saying this, even if you’re at advanced level, it is never a bad idea to re visit the basics.

A small piece of history

Joseph Pilates is the man behind ‘Pilates’ – originally known as Contrology. During the First World War he helped those who were injured in the war to recover from their injuries. He rigged up hospital beds with springs and straps and created exercises using the resistance from the springs to improve the muscular strength, endurance and flexibility of his patients.  In 1926, Joseph moved to the US and opened a studio around the corner from the New York School of Ballet on 8th Avenue. It was in this studio that dancers flocked to him for advice on conditioning exercises and techniques to overcome their injuries. A few of his advocates are Martha Graham, Rudolf Von Laban and George Balanchine, these are very well known names in the dance industry.

The 6 Pilates Principles

1. Breathing

The traditional Pilates method encourages ‘lateral breathing, which involves inhaling into the lower back and lateral area of the ribcage. When breathing laterally the abdominals remain engaged which is an important factor in Pilates. Lateral breathing is also believed to reduce tension in the neck and shoulder region.

“Breathing is the first and last act of life. To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always try 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.”

2. Concentration

All Pilates exercises have a mental and cognitive element to them; concentrating on the movement, bodily position, active and inactive muscles. When the mental components of movement are applied correctly, efficient and quality movement is created.

3. Control

Pilates was originally named ‘Contrology’ because of the level of control required.  Control is about ensuring that the right muscles are used at the right time to create the desired movement.

4. Centring

Core centring. The core is often referred to as the powerhouse of the body and is where all movement originates. In pilates, each exercise begins with concentrating the movement from the core and then allowing it to flow outwards to the limbs to complete the desired exercise.

5. Precision

Just like dancing, all Pilates exercises are performed with great attention to detail. Careful attention is given to the joint and limb alignment at the start, middle and end of each exercise to ensure the right muscles are being used.

6. Flow

All Pilates exercises should be performed smoothly and with fluidity and grace. Each exercise should be executed slowly and with control.

Preventing Injury

Moving on to my final three years of professional training at Dance College. We had a set routine that was 20 minutes long that we had to do every morning before we began our day which involved 6-9 hours of dancing (extremely exhausting). Our head of dance brought this 20 minute routine into the curriculum when the college was experiencing a high number of injuries. Doing Pilates before we began our intense day actually decreased the rate of injury by 90% – says it all really!

My Advice

The one tip I would give to anyone is that Pilates isn’t just for someone with back problems or an injury.

Doctors and physios send people to Pilates to fix their problems – which I agree with, but Pilates is way more than just a fix! Add it into your workout routine once or twice a week and if you commit and do it properly I guarantee it will help you in everything that you do, whether it is just daily life or part of your exercise routine.

I have clients tell me all the time they can’t believe how much stronger they feel, how much it helps them in the gym and other classes and how much their posture has improved. Not to mention that they have less aches and pains.And this is why I chose to teach Pilates.

Image taken from Pixabay