If you like the mind-body connection aspect of yoga but are looking for something a bit more intensive, Pilates might be for you.
Pilates, named for its developer Joseph Pilates, is designed to improve flexibility, build strength, especially in the abdomen and pelvis (referred to as the core) and improve coordination and balance. Pilates is said to be good for helping people improve their posture and can sometimes help alleviate lower back pain.
With an emphasis on precision movements and breathing techniques, it’s not an aerobic workout. Since Pilates concentrates on the core muscles, it’s also not going to be the best choice for someone looking for a full-body strength training.
Pilates is almost always done indoors, either with an instructor or by following a DVD. A mat is must-have equipment. The instructor is critical when you’re first learning, so ask around for recommendations before you take your first class.
A good instructor can adapt Pilates moves for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, it’s very important to let your instructor know because there are certain moves that you may need to avoid. Also, if you continue with Pilates and build additional muscle mass, your body may become more efficient in using glucose, which may necessitate a change in your medication.
Pilates can be very helpful for those with arthritis. Especially in combination with cardio, you can benefit from increased flexibility and better balance. Those with lower back pain may benefit the most since Pilates works on strengthening core muscles. If this is your situation, ask a prospective instructor about their experience with working with low back pain.
There are also Pilates adaptations for those with larger bodies. Not every instructor is going to be familiar with them, or comfortable with working with clients who have need for such adaptations, so again, ask around to see which instructors have experience.
Pilates isn’t intended as a weight loss exercise strategy, although it does offer benefits to those who want to lose weight. Heightened body awareness is one such benefit. The ability to listen to one’s body can help people make better, healthier decisions at mealtime. Pregnant women do Pilates all the time, so having a bigger belly is not a deal-breaker.
If you think you can’t do Pilates with a larger body, you’ll want to read this story of one plus size woman’s experience, in which she concludes, “I’m suddenly aware of my body as a functional object.”
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Author: Rebeca Espinoza
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.