When it comes to Pilates, most women either are die-hard enthusiasts or have never stepped foot in a Pilates studio. Are you in the latter group? Tons of research on the benefits of Pilates would suggest you switch camps. Here are some reasons why women should try Pilates.
It's Ah-Mazing for your Abs
Pilates hits your core (or, in Pilates speak, your "powerhouse") unlike any other workout. In fact, after completing 36 weeks of Pilates training, women strengthened their rectus abdominis (the muscle responsible for six-packs) by an average of 21 percent, while eliminating muscle imbalances between the right and left sides of their cores, according to a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study.
Pilates can ease back pain
A stronger core equals a better back, says Tracy Zindell, Flex Pilates Chicago founder and master instructor. That's why those with chronic lower back pain who practiced Pilates for just four weeks experienced more relief than those who visited a physician and other specialists, says a Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy study. What's more, their pain stayed away for a full year post-Pilates. Researchers believe that by stabilizing the core's lumbar-pelvic (lower-back) region, Pilates alleviates stress on the area and ups mobility.
It is easy on your joints
Pilates' slow and controlled movements puts minimal impact on your joints. Bonus if you're using the Pilates reformer: "The padding on a Pilates reformer is as thick as 10 yoga mats," says Zindell. "It takes the pressure off of your back and knees."
Pilates hones your focus
Pilates urges you to focus on 1) your breath, 2) your body, and 3) how they move together. It takes a lot of concentration, says Zindell. "You can't zone out." That means you're forced to forget about work, bills, boyfriends, and other drama for a full hour. Ahh.
It Improves Sports Performance
"When you start focusing on your core, you realize that all of your muscles are connected through your core. Try doing lunges without your abdominals. You'll crumble over," says Zindel, who has trained everyday athletes and professional ones including Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah. "With a stronger core, you can run faster, your yoga is on point, and overall, the rest of your workouts improve," she says. Plus, by working in small groups or one-on-one with a Pilates instructor, you can learn moves that mimic and improve performance in your sport of choice.
It makes you more flexible
"I always hear people saying, 'I've never been flexible, I can't do Pilates.' But that's why they should be doing it," Zindell says. In one Brazilian study, when young women (without any prior Pilates experience) performed 20 Pilates sessions, they became 19.1 percent more flexible. When you're tight, you shorten your muscle and limit your body's range of motion, she says. At best, that can hurt your exercise performance. At worst, it can cause injury.
It Boosts your Brainpower
Joseph Pilates called his workout method "the thinking man's exercise." It could very well be. When Chinese researchers measured changes in women's brain activity after 10 weeks of Pilates training, they found an increase in the brain's alpha peak power, which is related to neural network activity, memory performance, and other cognitive functions. Researchers believe Pilates may even hold potential as a treatment option for people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions.
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Yoga VS Pilates
As a yoga and pilates instructor, it is common for me to hear this question from my students: "is yoga or pilates better for me?". Well, answering this question is not as simple as choosing whether to play football or go swimming.
Both Yoga and Pilates practice can make you feel better, but there are also some differences that may affect your choice. The best way to make the right choice is to ask the right questions.
Here are some questions for you and please, be completely honest with yourself. These little questions are going to help you find the right answers and to make your choice easier than you think.
What benefits are you looking for?
What do you want to get from the practice?
If what you want to get is just a toned body, the better choice would be pilates, which is considered more strenuous than most yoga classes.
If, in addition to physically practicing, you are looking for a mental balance and wanting to improve your life even in other aspects (nutrition, ethics, tranquility, discipline, ego, etc ...) most likely the best choice you can do is to orient yourself towards yoga. You will be surprised how, what is apparently a purely physical practice can affect many other aspects of life.
How would you like to practice?
This is another way to understand what is best for you. If you prefer to practice without any tools, you will probably love yoga more as what you need is just your body and your mat; except for some particular yoga styles.
If you like doing a practice that is closer to a workout where you use medicine balls, machines and rollers you are up to something more similar to pilates, for sure!
Where do you want to practice?
Sure, you can easily practice both disciplines at home (or at least the most traditional style of these disciplines), you have to taken into consideration that in order to take things to the next level in pilates, you might have to use specialized equipment at the gym.
Yoga is different.
Yes, you may need a couple of props to deepen your practice but we are talking about buying yoga blocks or yoga mats; so it is easier to keep things at home. So, if you are willing to go to a gym for more advanced sessions, go with pilates; if you want to keep things easy and you want to keep practicing at home you have to rely on yoga.
Do you want to relax or you want to tone your body up?
Both yoga and pilates involve some stretching. Is pilates or yoga better for toning?
If you're looking for a type of physical exercise that focuses on body toning, perhaps pilates is the perfect choice for you. If you are looking for a type of physical activity that focuses on body and mind relaxation, yoga is the way.
You want to correct posture problems?
Should you go for yoga or pilates for posture improvements?
If you have some posture problems you want to solve in a dynamic but gentle way you should rely more on pilates as it’s the perfect discipline to help you have a better posture and even recover from injuries.
Instead, if you suffer from back pain’s episodes, neck stress and so on, you could rely on yoga as a gentle stretch and a way to relax all the muscles and all the tension of our every day’s life and bad posture habits.
Give them a try
The advice I can give you is to follow your own instinct and to really listen to your body and soul during the practice. After having tried both yoga and pilates, try to understand what you really need and what is best for you.
Whatever you need at this particular moment in time try to consider it as a moment of personal care, a moment to challenge yourself to get better in both your body and spirit. This is the main key to find what suits you most and to find your perfect path for a healthier and happier relationship with yourself…as, at the end of the day, this is what this kind of fitness journeys are all about
Feel free to tell us what are your goals, and we can recommend what is best for you too!