Pilates Yoga’s Cousin

/ April 9th, 2012/ Posted in Fitness / Comments Off on Pilates Yoga’s Cousin

The Pilates Method, an exercise system with roots in yoga, was developed in the 1920s by physical trainer Joseph H. Pilates. It focuses on improving flexibility and strength without building bulk. Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, director of the Pilates Center of Austin and longtime yoga practitioner, has seen Pilates help many arthritis patients over the years.

“The more you can achieve postural integrity, have the bones stack properly and have the body feel muscular support, the more joints can be supported and the muscles more freely move,” she explained. “I’ve seen a decrease in medication, in pain. One lady I worked with was unstable in her balance, as many arthritis patients are. After we had worked together awhile, she went on a sailing trip. Some gusts of wind rocked the boat and everybody fell down except her. She was amazed how good her balance was.”

Like yoga, Pilates encourages strengthening and lengthening. “Pilates is resistant-based exercise. You press against straps and springs, or use your body weight as resistance in the mat work. This strengthens and builds the bones and teaches the joints how to open up and create space. At the same time, it creates a lengthening contraction. The muscle actually elongates while it works. So you stretch and strengthen at the same time,” LeBlanc-Arbuckle said.

Like yoga, Pilates emphasizes breathing. “Breath is the foundation of all movement,” LeBlanc-Arbuckle said. “It doesn’t matter if you have arthritis or are completely healthy. I teach that breath fuels everything.”

She adds that this is especially good for arthritis patients: “Using the breath helps people who are afraid and in pain. It relaxes them.”

Like yoga and tai chi, Pilates is noncompetitive and supportive. “Pilates meets you wherever you are,” LeBlanc-Arbuckle said. “There is no age, weight or ability limit. No matter what shape you’re in, you’re able to get value, to feel your body strengthening on a deep level. You get in touch with your ability to stabilize through the center of your body, your core muscles: the abdominals, inner thighs, low gluts, mid back. In Pilates we use that stability and strength to create mobility and strengthen and free up the joints. That’s why in Pilates we say, “Think from your center.'”

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