What is Pilates and is it for me?

Pilates is an exercise form designed to bring balance back to our bodies. Often we have areas of tightness, weakness, pain and stiffness. Our balance may not be what it was and we can no longer perform movements or lift the weight it used to.

Our body is a bio-mechanical marvel. It is like an intricate and finely balanced machine involving levers & pulleys which all have to work perfectly together to perform a wide variety of movements and functions.

Our levers are bones, muscles and tendons act as pulleys. Some muscles are powerful but lack endurance, while others work at low levels of strength but can work almost tirelessly. 

Pilates is all about making sure each muscle is performing it's task correctly, working at the right time and not working when it doesn't have to.

Our movements in Pilates can seem slow and gentle, but they are very deliberate and we are retraining the body to achieve great alignment, balance, control strength and posture.

How our bodies let us down

Trauma and injury - Our bodies can suffer trauma through falls, impact, repetitive movement or activity. When we experience pain, the body is very clever in adapting and moving differently to limit the pain. For example if you twist your ankle, you will automatically bear more weight on the opposite side. This is great in the short term and often when the pain and weakness subsides, the body will return to normal. However, most tissue in the body will not replicate exactly and some element of scarring and therefore weakness will be present. This is true of skin, muscle, bone, ligament, tendon and blood vessels. 

Compensation - If our altered body movement continues into the long term, either from habit or continued pain, we can start to develop stress on our "good" side. The body will then try to offload this new area of pain or weakness creating further compensation and this can continue throughout the body. 

Laziness - In this day and age, our daily lives are made increasingly more convenient. We sit on sofas where all the muscles in our body can just switch off as we sink into our joints and ligaments. We drive when we could walk and take short cuts in other areas to limit our physical effore. This can make our muscles lazy and cause stretch and weakness in our joints and ligaments. When our muscles are required to work for us, they are then not fit and healthy enough so we can build up strain. 

Pregnancy and child-birth - While a natural and wonderful phenomenon, pregnancy and childbirth can alter our bodies in a radical way. During pregnancy we gain weight, our abdominal muscles stretch and hormones can cause laxity in ligaments to prepare the body for childbirth. It can take a long time for the body to recover from the trauma of childbirth and often our shape is never quite the same. This means the body has to work really hard to regain it's strength and to adapt to the new forces acting on the body. Our core muscles and pelvic floor muscles, backs, knees and wrists are particularly effected.

Day to day activity - We all have different stresses put on the body through daily life. Many of us these days have desk based jobs, use a computer or tablet frequently, carry heavy bags or do a lot of lifting. All of these things have a direct impact on our bodies. Spending long periods in one position i.e. sitting at a desk can cause stiffness and tightness in our backs, necks and

We spend time doing many repetitive activities or movements and we develop "cheats" and bad habits which in the short term can make our movement easier, but in the long term cause disruption in the body.

Weight gain - I don't think much needs to be mentioned here, we all know weight gain is bad for our joints and muscles. Did you know that for every extra pound (lb) of weight we carry 3-5lb through each knee when you walk and up to 30lb when you run. 

For more information on Esther's method of training or about Pilates see Australian Pilates Physiotherapy Institute (APPI)

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