Everyone's doing yoga these days, and there's good reason: It's not only really good for you, but it's a low-intensity exercise that has incredible benefits for strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. Yoga has been practiced for centuries for its therapeutic effects on a number of ailments. Proven health benefits of yoga include improved cardiovascular function, fewer digestive problems, better joint health, and improved blood circulation. Mental health benefits include reduced stress and anxiety and increased feelings of wellbeing and calm.
Pilates is a yoga method influenced by yoga, calisthenics, and ballet that combines postures and stretches with controlled breathing and mindful awareness of the body. It's been around since the 1920s, when trainer Joseph Pilates developed it as a way to help injured dancers and athletes maintain fitness during recovery. Whether you're injured or not, Pilates has distinctive benefits for your overall health. Here are seven of them.
- It improves flexibility and range of motion. Pilates involves stretches and postures that lengthen and stretch all the major muscle groups in a balanced way. This promotes optimal flexibility and range of motion for better mobility and reduced pain.
- It improves muscle strength. The Pilates method utilizes body weight for strength training. From planks, squats, and abdominal-strengthening postures to mat work with resistance equipment, Pilates works all your muscles during a single 45- to 90-minute session.
- It increases your body awareness. Pilates requires intense focus and concentration as you move through the various postures and stretches. During Pilates, your attention is on each pose and how it feels throughout the body. You're focused on your breath and how it helps you transition to new poses and exert the strength and balance you need to hold it. This increases your awareness of your body, which can positively impact your life in a variety of ways.
- It improves your posture. With better body awareness comes better posture. You begin to be aware when your shoulders are sagging or when your core isn't engaged. Good posture requires core strength, and greater strength and flexibility in your back, abs, and other major muscle groups helps you hold your body in healthier ways.
- It improves coordination and balance. Pilates requires a great deal of balancing and properly coordinating each movement. This improves your overall balance and coordination, which plays a role in your posture and helps prevent falls and injuries.
- It helps you manage stress. Pilates puts an important focus on breathing and being aware of your body and mind in the present moment. This is a form of meditation that has been shown to help reduce stress. It can even help improve the way your body responds to stress in the future. A regular Pilates practice can help you stay mindful of your breathing throughout the day, which helps reduce stress hormones and promote feelings of calmness and wellbeing.
- It's suitable for everyone. Anyone can do Pilates. Like other yoga practices, Pilates is highly individualized. Classes are suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, and each movement has numerous variations to account for injuries, range of motion issues, mobility problems, and other limitations.
If you're ready to get fit, give Pilates a try. It's a workout that leaves your mind and body feeling flexible and energized.