Pilates is ideal for those wanting total body conditioning; this includes building muscle mass and long, lean muscles similar to those of celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Pippa Middleton, Jennifer Lopez and Hugh Grant, who all insist on including Pilates into their regular fitness regime. Here are some answers to help you get started on your very own Pilates regime.
1) What is the Pilates machine? In particular, the Pilates Reformer, a sleek Pilates equipment that resembles a single bed; attached to it you will find springs of varying resistance with adjustable bars and straps to aid in redefining your body and adding extra challenge to give your Pilates workout the extra oomph.
2) How does it tone one's body? The stretching and contracting of the springs attached to the Pilates Reformer give you added resistance, and teach you to use your muscles with control. Instead of powering along only to finish completing the repetitions indicated as necessary, Pilates exercises are executed with precision, focus and control. Every Pilates exercise requires you to focus on the detail of each movement, for it is in perfecting the details that will help make the difference in your every move. Along with precision and control used, your Pilates Reformer workout will give you all the stretching benefits of yoga plus the great muscle tone of a nautilus workout.
3) What are possible mistakes people make that will decrease the efficacy of the workout? Moving too rapidly throughout the exercises, pushing the belly outward during the exercises and creating tension in the neck and shoulders without meaning to.
4) What are a couple of common injuries during workout and how to avoid them? Heavy imprinting of the spine can cause compression of spinal discs (better to keep spine at neutral), lower back injuries can develop with weak core muscles as a beginner (use the help of towel to support your back) and extending both arms and legs in opposite directions can cause your back to hyperextend (work only one pair at a time).
5) What can one do to get the most of their workout? In Pilates, it is best to start with the fundamentals. Begin learning the foundations of the Pilates method on the mat or the reformer, do your classes regularly, take classes that are right for your level and ensure that classes are small so that your instructor is giving you plenty of attention and making sure you are doing your exercises correctly.
6) What is one extra move that one can do during the workout to tone up their bodies that bit more? On every exhale, contract your abdominals and bring them in toward your spine.
7) What special tip should one be aware of so that one can get the best of each workout? Remember to begin with the breath and never hold your breath during your workouts.
8) Which beginner stretching exercises can one do at home with limited supervision?
Sit on the floor, both knees bent, with your left leg in front and your right leg behind you. Lengthen your spine and place your fingertips on the floor at your sides. Lift your left arm up in line with the shoulder as your bend laterally towards the right side as if bringing your right shoulder towards your right hip. Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
Side Leg Lift
Lie on your side and line up your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Prop your head up on your arm, making sure to lift the ribs away from the mat so that the back and neck stay in alignment. The front hand rests firmly, palm down on the mat in front of your chest. Use this hand to help stabilize. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and up. Inhale to extend the top leg up towards the ceiling smoothly. Do not rock your hips. On the exhale, pull your abdominals in, as you control the lowering of the lifted leg back to starting position. Do this for 6 times and repeat on the opposite side.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Sit on the floor and straighten your legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and bend both your knees in so they are in front of your chest. Place your hands in front of you and lower your legs out toward the floor while placing the soles of your feet together. Grab your feet and lean forward until you feel the stretch in your inner thigh muscles. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Claudel Kuek, Pilates Director of PowerMoves Pilates in the Park at Bishan Park, Rochester Park and Dempsey Hill in Singapore; click here to find out if Pilates is what you really need to create the makeover in you!