Pilates is still quite a new form of exercise in the UK. Just to give you some background, Joseph Pilates, a German-born gymnast, circus-performer, boxer and anatomical-chart model, developed his training method during the 1920s, so it’s been around for quite a while. He named his method “Contrology”, initially to rehabilitate soldiers during the war. Later, it became popular in the ballet circuit, then went mainstream, where now it’s suitable for just about everyone.
You’ll hear Pilates Instructors mention your “core” muscles quite a lot during class. The “core” is made up of several muscles which wrap around your spine – a bit like a cylinder. There are muscles at the front of your body (transverses abdominus/hip flexors), side (obliques), back (multifidis), top (diaphragm) and base (pelvic floor).
To find your core muscles, you just need to tighten/pull/draw your abdominal muscles in slightly. Start by breathing into your ribs first, then as you breath out, drawing your tummy muscles in towards your spine and keeping that light tension switched on. These muscles are slow to contract and slow to fatigue, so it means you should be able to hold your tummy muscles inwards with a low level of contraction, for a minute or two, then simply move an arm or a leg, or the spine, to create an unstable environment and therefore provide a challenge for the muscles. Pilates is quite simple in design.
Pilates is particularly beneficial for postnatal women, because, put simply, it targets the very muscles which get weakened by pregnancy itself the pelvic floor and core, for example. It also helps you breathe better, puts your body in an optimal postural position and relieves tension in your neck, shoulders, hips and lower back from constant lifting, carrying, feeding and changing your baby.