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Why Pilates Should Be Your New Best Friend

Pilates, though not as popular and old as Yoga, is often considered its forgotten cousin. With similar poses, some may struggle to spot the differences between the two. Though both take a holistic approach to health through an altered lifestyle, this is pretty much where the similarities end. With Yoga, the aim is to have good physical and mental health and hygiene. It also aims to improve emotional stability, integrate moral values and attain a higher level of consciousness through the practice of Yoga exercise and lifestyle. Pilates on the their hand, has eight principles that are to be applied to both life as well as exercise.

1. Relaxation. The body and mind must both be relaxed before starting any movements. This will help you to hold your poses more effectively and easily.

2. Concentration. This helps create mindfulness on your movements and posture.

3. Alignment. Through mindfulness, the body should be in a neutral alignment at all times. Not only will this improve posture, but it will also help to remove undue stress from the muscle and joints too.

4. Centring. This is the focus of developing good core stability. This area is often referred to as the girdle of strength. This is done by the drawing in of the lower abdominals to support the spine.

5. Breathing. This helps to relax the body and help strength in more strenuous poses.

6. Co-Ordination. This is the balance of mental and physical strength to attain one's goals.

7. Flowing Movements. All movements must be controlled, graceful and flowing. They lengthen outwards from a strong centre of strength and stability. With this, it decreases the risk of injury by using concentric, eccentric and isometric exercises which result in longer and leaner muscles with greater strength and control across their whole range of movement.

8. Stamina. Though Pilates is not considered an aerobic or anaerobic exercise, it will improve your endurance in both life and exercise as a result of the stabilising work you have done. These principles aren't just for the practice of physical Pilates. These can be applied to the daily ins and outs of life. Also, many sports stars use Pilates as cross-training to increase the longevity of their careers in their sports:

A growing number of top footballers and rugby players do Pilates as a way of improving co-ordination, mobility, flexibility and technique, as well as for prevention and recovery from injuries. The All Blacks and the Welsh Rugby Union is among the high-profile advocates of Pilates. Football and rugby both demand rapid directional changes, often at near-maximum pace, and an inflexible physique hamper the movement required to do this. The players are also required to deliver controlled power from unbalanced body positions for tackles and scrums – all Pilates movements are initiated from a strong core to provide stability, and targeting these requirements can aid injury prevention and enhance performance by developing stamina, co-ordination and strength. Hamstring tears are common in both sports - focusing on the stabiliser muscles of the pelvis (the buttocks and groin muscles), will help prevent them. Football managers have long preached the crucial importance of stretching, suppleness and flexibility - the very things that Pilates does best.

In golf, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorrenstam and Rocco Mediate have all incorporated Pilates into their training regimen and the results are clear! The golf swing is a little one-sided, which can create imbalance in the body. Pilates helps you to swing from your core, not from your limbs, and to balance out the body against the forces of the swing. If you strengthen the core, increase your flexibility, build stability in the pelvis and shoulder girdles and balance both sides of the body, it will allow you to hit it farther, straighter and more accurately.

A strong number of runners also advocate Pilates because it builds long, strong muscles, improves flexibility and lessens the risk of injury. Runners often suffer from back, knee and hip problems from the constant impact involved in running. Pilates concentrates on posture and alignment – it opens up the hips, the vertebrae in the lower back and focuses on joint mobility.

Finally, world reknowned dancer Darcey Bussell is a keen Pilates devotee. Dancers incorporate the Pilates techniques into their training regime, paying particular attention to re-balancing symmetry in the body upset by repetitive movement patterns and overuse injuries. The body becomes evenly balanced and conditioned, and so is less prone to injury.

Now a challenge for you... We named a few sports which can benefit from pilates that can benefit from a pilates integration. Now can you name a sport which isn't improved by have a set of strong core muscles?


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