Joseph H. Pilates was a German-born fitness expert, who, in the early 1900s, designed a system of exercises that combined stretching and strengthening using apparatus with spring resistance and mat exercises. He described it as 'contrology', or the art of control, which encompassed six principles: concentration, control, centering, precision, breathing and flow.
Pilates focuses on the central zone, or core of the body, the area between the hips and sternum, including the back muscles and the abdominal muscles. These muscles are the body’s main source of power, control, movement, and balance. Weakness here can result in poor posture, lower back pain, and neck and shoulder fatigue. Improving strength and flexibility in this area can provide postural support, refine overall balance and stability, and tighten the midsection.
Two of the most effective ways to develop your core muscles are Yoga and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates share many common traits and benefits: both are total mind-body exercise programs that focus on correct alignment and core strength. The end result is a calm, relaxed body with long, lean muscles, good posture and core stability.
What are the benefits of Pilates?
Today, the Pilates Method of body conditioning has become world renowned and has a successful record of creating healthy, balanced bodies along with additional benefits, which include:
preventing and healing injuries
having fun while working out
enhanced energy and rejuvenation
What kind of Pilates equipment is available and what can it do for me?
Pilates focuses on flexibility, balance, and strengthening core muscles. Several pieces of specialized equipment helps practitioners target these core muscles quickly and efficiently.
The Reformer has a sliding platform attached with springs at one end and it can be moved by pulling on ropes or pushing off from a stationary bar. The springs used in the Reformer are adjustable, allowing for increased resistance as you build your core. You can perform a wide variety of exercises in different positions: standing, sitting, kneeling or lying down.
PILATES CADILLAC Also known as a trapeze table, the Cadillac was intially created by Joseph Pilates to help patients that were bedridden to rehabilitate their bodies. The Cadillac basically consists of a long bed upon which four bars are extended from each of the "bed posts", spanning the length of the bed. Upon these bars, numerous pieces of additional exercise equipment are attached, allowing for many different motions to be performed.
LADDER BARREL The Barrel consists of a short ladder with four to seven adjustable rungs attached to a contraption that most closely resembles a barrel turned on its side and raised. In many exercises you'll find yourself lying across the barrel, stretching and reaching the ladder's rungs. The barrel will help you to sit with the spine extended and reaching for the rungs is used to increase flexibility.
PILATES CHAIR The "Wunda Chair", also known as a Stability chair incorporates the use of adjustable spring resistance so that you can hone your level of flexibility and stability. Over 75 different types of pilates exercises can be done on the chair.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a classical Indian science or system dealing with well being in mind, body and spirit. The most common definition of yoga in the western world is the union of the body, mind and spirit into one to create a sense of balance and inner peace. Yoga is a practical philosophy, a science involving every aspect of a person’s being. Hatha Yoga is the practice of physical yoga. Hatha yoga literally means “the union of opposites”. Through a series of physical poses, called asanas, hatha yoga teaches us how to quiet the mind by placing attention on the breath and on the movement ( and stillness ) of the body. The practice of hatha yoga focuses not only on flexibility but also on strength, balance and endurance. Yoga is about finding the balance in the asanas ( poses ) and in life.
What makes Iyengar yoga different?
Iyengar Yoga is an approach to the practice of Hatha yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar-style yoga emphasizes precision and alignment, and develops flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. It emphasizes the importance of regulated breathing; the use of blocks, chairs, and other props; and the therapeutic value of adapting the poses to the needs and limitations of the individual students.
This system of yoga is unsurpassed in grace, subtlety, and precision. A variety of asanas or poses are practiced in order to achieve the goal of improving the body structure and lubricating the joints, creating freedom of movement in the joints. The asanas also strengthen and lengthen the ligaments and muscles. They tone the internal organs and strengthen the nerves. Regular practice of the asanas improve the functional performance of the organic body. It brings a progressive activation of the internal body so that one penetrates through the outer body to the inner one, and again, through the body and the mind to find the hidden energy of one’s very existence, to reach the source of being, the Soul.
Mr. Iyengar will soon celebrate his 90th birthday. He practices and teaches yoga with his son, Prashant, and daughter, Geeta, at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India.
How does a yoga teacher become Iyengar-certified?
The Iyengar Certification process is very rigorous, assuring you of a teacher well trained in the art of teaching yoga.
After years as a student of yoga and with significant early teaching experience, candidates for assessment apply to take the exam. Given over the course of a weekend, prospective teachers must show proficiency in performance of the asanas or postures at their level and take a written exam on philosophy, anatomy, and practical knowledge of teaching. In the third and most important part of the test, the candidate is observed and assessed while teaching a sample class.
This process is repeated in a year or two with a different set of poses and only then is the full certification granted at the introductory level. There are six levels currently available for assessment, from introductory to intermediate senior. Higher levels have been granted directly from BKS Iyengar.
After successful completion of this exam, the teacher is considered certified and may denote that with the official Certification Mark.
What are the benefits of doing yoga?
There are many benefits of yoga, which include:
encourages proper functioning of organs, nerves, and glands
improves circulation and respiration which are both essential ingredients for cardiovascular fitness
aids in digestion
strengthens the immune system
strengthens the bones due to the weight bearing nature of many of the poses
aids the endocrine system in maintaining hormonal balance
What is a typical yoga class like?
A yoga class is 75 to 90 minutes in length. It will most likely included a combination of physical poses, such as:
Standing poses for flexibility, strength and stamina
Seated poses for a healthy back, poise and reflection
Forward bends for calming and nurturing the body and mind
Back bends for maintaining flexibility of the spine and for energizing the body
Inverted poses for circulation and stress reduction
Breathing awareness and deep relaxation for energy and renewal
Relaxation pose of conscious rest to give the mind and body time to incorporate the benefits of the practice There are typically several levels of classes available, and classes are for all ages. In Iyengar yoga, in particular, props such as blankets, mats, bolsters, blocks and belts may be used to modify or prepare for some yoga poses. In yoga class you are encouraged to breathe in and out of the nostrils and to focus on your breath.
At the end of yoga class, the teacher may bring the hands together in prayer position and say to the students – “Namaste”. Namaste is a traditional Indian greeting and salutation not unlike Aloha in Hawaiian. Namaste is a greeting of respect and reminds us that we are all on the same path.
Are there guidelines for classes?
Arrive to class at least five minutes early (ten minutes for new students).
Turn off cell phones and pagers prior to entering the building.
Leave shoes outside of the yoga room and bring clean bare feet to class.
Hydrate before and after class but leave water bottles outside the yoga room.
Come to class with an empty stomach and an open mind.
Refrain from wearing perfume or cologne.
Inform your teacher of health issues or limitations before each class.
Wear comfortable yet fitted clothes such as footless tights or shorts, t-shirts, tanks, jog bras and leotards. Avoid sweatpants, baggy pants or oversized t-shirts.
What is Pranayama?
Woman practicing Pranayama
Pranayama, or Yoga breathing, is the science of breath control. It consists of a series of exercises especially intended to meet the body's needs and keep it in vibrant health. Pranayama comes from the following words:
Prana - "life force" or "life energy" Yama - "discipline" or "control" Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"
Taken together, the word Pranayama means "breathing techniques" or "breath control". Ideally, this practice of opening up the inner life force is not merely to take healthy deep breaths. It is intended for yoga practitioners to help and prepare them in their Meditation process.
How does improper breathing affect our body?
In our respiration process, we breathe in or inhale oxygen into our body, which supplies energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and take away all toxic wastes from our body. Through the practice of Pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Absorbing prana through breath control links our body, mind, and spirit.
But life is full of stress. Because of daily work, family, or financial pressures, we tend to ignore our breathing. Thus, it tends to be fast and shallow. The use of only a fraction of your lungs results in oxygen deficiency and may lead to different complications. Heart diseases, sleep disorders and fatigue are some of the effects of oxygen starvation. By practicing deep and systematic breathing through Pranayama, we reenergize our body.
Pranayama should not be forced, however, or done without proper preparation, or it may lead to nervous conditions. It is part of a process in yoga. Breath control is a spiritual practice of cleansing the mind and body which should be done appropriately and with proper guidance and preparation.
What are the benefits of Pranayama?
Breathing is a normal part of our life, though we rarely pay attention to it. It is an autonomic function of the body that we perform approximately 15 times a minute, 21,600 times each day -- usually without concentrating on it. Why then do we have to learn yoga breathing? Here are some reasons why Pranayama is important:
Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. Most of us have became used to breathing from our chest, using only a fraction of our lungs, not knowing that this unhealthy and unnatural way of inhaling and exhaling may lead to several complications. With yoga breathing, we increase the capacity of our lungs, bringing more oxygen supply to the body.
Pranayama reduces the toxins and body wastes from within our body, thereby avoiding disease.
Pranayama helps in digestion.
Pranayama develops our concentration and focus. It relieves stress and relaxes the body. Controlling your breathing also results in serenity and peace of mind.
Pranayama improves your self-control. Breathing slowly and deeply may help you manage your temper and "gut" reactions. When your mind functions more clearly, you'll be able to avoid arguments and wrong decisions. Moreover, self-control also involves control over your physical body.
Pranayama leads to a spiritual journey through a relaxed body and mind.
What do all those Sanskrit terms mean?
ADHO: downward AKARNA: near to the ear ANGA: the body, a limb or part of the body ANGULA: a finger, the thumb ANGUSTHA: big toe ASANA: pose BHUJA: arm or the shoulder DAKSINA: right side DHANURA: bow DWI-HASTA: two hands
DWI-PADA: two feet or legs EKA-PADA: one leg HASTA: the hand JANU: the knee JATHARA: abdomen, stomach KAMA: ear KAYA: body LALATA: forehead LOMA: hair MERU-DANDA: spinal column MUKHA: face
PADA: foot or leg PADANGUSTHA: big toe PADMA: lotus, symbol of creation PINCH: chin PRANA: breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy, strength. It also connotes the soul. SUPTA: supine SVANA: dog URDHVA: upward USTRA: camel VIRA: hero