Pilates lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. It improves flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness and is a challenging workout that caters for everyone, from beginner to advanced.

The health benefits of Pilates include:
– improved flexibility
– increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
– balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
– enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs
– improved stabilisation of your spine
– improved posture
– rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
– improved physical coordination and balance
– relaxation of your shoulders, neck and upper back
– safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
– prevention of musculoskeletal injuries
– increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
– improved concentration
– increased body awareness
– stress management and relaxation.
Quality is key. Pilates consists of moving through a slow, sustained series of exercises using abdominal control and proper breathing. The quality of each posture is more important than the number of repetitions or how energetically you can move.

The terms neutral pelvis and neutral spine are frequently heard in a Pilates studio. But what exactly is this position and why do many exercises work in this neutral zone?

Neutral Pelvis is defined as a position in which the anterior superior iliac spines (hip bones) and pubic symphysis are in a horizontal plane. The term neutral spine indicates that the natural curves of the spine are present. When in a neutral spine position there should be a little bit of space between you lower back and the mat. We often refer to this neutral position as a reference point during a Pilates workout.

There are lots of benefits for performing exercises in this neutral position.
1. Encourages balanced muscular development of the pelvis and correct muscle recruitment
2. Reinforces correct posture and alignment
3. Alleviates unwanted stresses in pelvis
4. Strengthens muscles that help stabilise and support lower back and pelvis.

Not all Pilates exercises work in a neutral position. The pelvis is extremely dynamic and at times exercises may be performed with a posterior tilt (lower back imprinted in the mat). A neutral pelvis is ideal, however this position will differ from person to person. At times it may be necessary to work in more of a posterior tilts to help relax the muscles of the lower back and access more abdominal muscles.

In order to achieve good alignment and correct movement mechanics, the body must be equipped to do so. Certain muscles play a crucial role in providing a stable and flexible core. These are the deep muscles of the pelvis and trunk. The superficial muscles are sometimes overdeveloped and overused in relation to deep muscles which means our core muscles are not working at their full potential. We must differentiate between the two groups because it’s the deeper muscles that provide the support to stand upright and the flexibility to bend.

Think about the abdominals and the back muscles, together with the diaphragm and pelvic floor, creating a cylinder of muscular support in the centre of the body – The Core – also referred to by Joseph Pilates as the Powerhouse. With a strong, powerful and functional core it means we also find balance and stability. I can’t think of any physical activity that doesn’t require one of those factors…

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