Pilates Myths

 13/11/2013

Joseph PilatesOf all the fitness systems we’ve ever seen, nothing comes close to matching the power and benefits of Pilates. But while this unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises promises to make you feel great and condition your body fast, there are some myths and half-truths about Pilates that only serve to confuse matters… So here’s our Pilates Myth, Half-Truth & Fact Sheet!
In a nutshell, Pilates is the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas and the dog’s unmentionables when you want to:

  • Rehabilitate after an accident, illness or injury
  • Build your core stability & strength
  • Improve your fitness, posture or appearance
  • Correct muscular imbalances
  • Manage/reduce pain from musculoskeletal disorders
  • Increase your range of movement
  • Maintain fitness as a pre or postnatal mother
  • Condition yourself for surgery
  • Enhance fitness as a pro, amateur or beginner!
  • Realign the body

And here are some popular beliefs that people have, some of which are true, some of which are partly true and some of which are just silly!

Pilates can cure my injuries:
This is the first of our “Pilates half-truths!” Pilates doesn’t cure injuries, but a good Pilates instructor often works closely with a physical therapist to help functional rehabilitation! Doing Pilates also helps reduce scar tissue, prevents overworking and avoids improper healing by working in ‘neutral alignment’, which is a posh way of saying “Having your spine in an ideal position”… In our opinion, it’s the best way to minimize muscle group imbalances and keep your body mobile, flexible and evenly strong.

Pilates is the same as going to the gym, but with different equipment:
Well, no! Pilates heightens mind/body awareness much more effectively than almost anything that happens down the gym. Rather than mindlessly plodding through exercises while watching TV, you focus on Pilates principles including better breathing, pelvic placement, sequential movement, alignment, etc.
Often, this positively affects other areas in your life: it offers better posture, reduces lower-back pain and works on everything from flexion, extension and rotation to balance, coordination and resistance. In contrast, a lot of gym equipment tends to be just weight-orientated.

Pilates enhances athletic performance:
This is true! Even the mighty Tiger Woods says Pilates is his secret weapon – although he did seem to have a lot of other secrets! But many golfers, dancers, cyclists and other athletes use Pilates as a type of conditioning, because sports often cause imbalances, pain and inefficiency in the body by overworking certain muscles. Pilates helps all of your muscles work evenly, even if it seems just one area needs more strength, mobility or flexibility.

Pilates is the same as Yoga:
A lot of folk think that Yoga and Pilates are identical or interchangeable. But while the man that created Pilates – Joseph Pilates – studied a whole load of body/mind disciplines, there’s no evidence that he seriously studied Yoga! We’ll go into more detail on the similarities and differences next month but, in a broad nutshell, Pilates could be described as more ‘physical’ while yoga can be thought of as more ‘spiritual’… In any case, the two different practices complement each other beautifully… But they’re not the same!

Pilates is only a quick fix for flabby abs:
Because Pilates focuses on working from the core – especially the deeper abdominal muscles – it absolutely does help flatten tummies! It’s not only about abs, though… The Pilates principles – control, centering, concentration, breath, flow, and precision all help create a flexible, strong body that moves freely and efficiently as a harmonious whole.

Pilates can help me lose weight:
It can help you lose weight… But the amount of weight you lose will probably depend on how fit and active you already are. Pilates doesn’t involve much cardiovascular work, so only the less fit are likely to benefit in this specific area… If your sole focus is weight loss, then there are other avenues to investigate first, such as consulting a dietitian, looking at the stress you have in your life and what type of exercise you’re getting, etc.

Pilates is just for women and wimps!
Most dedicated practitioners and teachers find this notion that ridiculous! The idea may be due to the versatility of Pilates, a certain amount of sexism, the suitability of some exercises for pregnant women and the fact that there are beginners’ classes in practically every gym and studio in the country! That means a lot of people see some of the easier exercises being done, but not the intermediate or advanced levels…
Still, the accessibility, effectiveness and versatility of the Pilates method do make it a popular fitness choice for women. It certainly attracts a large number of female dancers, many of whom later choose teaching Pilates as a follow up career… And, of course, a great many women prefer a woman teacher, so this cycle helps maintain the “Women and Wimps” myth! As the benefits of the Pilates system become increasingly known, though, more men are catching on and showing up, both in studios and in training programs.

Anyone can teach Pilates:
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing – and the proliferation of ‘Do-it-yourself’ books, DVDs and workshops creates a bit of a mess here… A mess that’s not helped by the fact that Pilates instruction is unregulated! So yes, just about anybody can set themselves up as a Pilates teacher! But, as you may well know, Pilates is a sophisticated method of exercise, and a properly qualified instructor’s education often encompasses time spent as a student, a number of courses, and even an apprenticeship… Any serious Pilates teacher will have also studied anatomy, special populations, teaching skills and the full range of Pilates equipment and mat exercises.

You only go on the machines as you progress:
Absolutely not! In fact, it’s the complete opposite. The equipment offers assistance in the performance of the mat-based exercises… At Back in Shape, Karen calls the machines “the walking stick” of Pilates! Unlike a gym, where a large number of different machines are needed to give a ‘whole body’ workout, Pilates equipment is used in a variety of ways to provide a thorough, safe and effective workout.

Pilates gives you longer, leaner muscles… And makes you taller!
Alas, no! But the combination of resistance training and stretching certainly creates less bulky muscles! It’s the difference between a body builder’s muscle type and a figure-skater’s. That said, some people really do believe Pilates makes them look or feel taller; that’s probably down to one of two things… First, Pilates sometimes creates a tiny bit more space between the vertebrae in your spine and second – and this is more likely – Pilates dramatically improves your posture!

Pilates will cure all my aches and pains:
Of course this isn’t true! Nothing gets rid of all your aches and pains… However, Pilates focuses on strengthening your muscles and giving awareness to ‘neutral alignment’, as we said earlier.  This ideal positioning of the spine is made more easily achievable with Pilates… As a result, it’s hugely helpful for treating and managing back pain in particular, and greatly complements osteopathic & chiropractic adjustments and massage. That’s because the stability work done in Pilates reinforces the correction done by your practitioner!

So there you have it! As always, we’re on hand to give you more advice on Pilates whenever you come in to see us here at Back in Shape! You can also drop us a line via the usual addresses and numbers: help@backinshape.co.uk and 020 8655 1664. See you soon!