Pilates master trainer and founder of Sydney-based Bodylove Pilates studios and on-demand platform Bodylove Mamas, Ali Handley shares her take on the biggest Pilates misconceptions.
Even though the spotlight is on Pilates like never before, I still feel there are so many misconceptions circulating out there about the practice of Pilates – the who, why, when and how; creating barriers for people, and stopping them getting into what is a truly accessible form of daily movement that nourishes all the systems of the body.
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Myth 1: Yoga and Pilates are the same thing, right?
I have owned a studio in Sydney now for nearly three years, been teaching for 10, but my Dad, bless him, still asks me how my yoga studio is going?
It’s not uncommon for people to bunch Pilates and yoga into the same group. Whilst they can be incredibly complementary and we offer yoga at Bodylove, the two practices have very different backgrounds and rules of movement.
Yoga is centuries old and its origins can be traced back to northern India over 50,00 years ago. Pilates was founded by a man called Joseph Pilates in 1920’s following World War 1 and was originally called Contrology.
Yoga is steeped in spirituality and deeply connected to yogic philosophy, that guides practices and poses. Whilst I like to refer to Pilates class as going to church, there is no spiritual history connected to the practice. That’s not say a Pilates class doesn’t have soul, at Bodylove we have weaved breath work into the beginning and end of all our classes and through our verbiage encourage our clients to look inward for self-enquiry, to feel rather than do, and to think of the body as a whole.
Myth 2: You have to be super flexible to do Pilates
We should always be moving toward the goal of having supple muscles, and by that I mean muscles that can not only fully engage but also fully release.
In Pilates, we place equal attention on the contraction of muscles, as in a bicep curl, and also on the eccentric release, which is the controlled lengthening of the muscles, as in slowly unhinging the elbow from the bicep curl. It’s this dual focus that creates the unique long, lean muscles that you developed when you practice Pilates.
In general, Pilates moves away from focusing on the big global movers of the body, instead targeting the smaller, stabilisers of the body to create change, shape shifting as you practice more. Do you need to be flexible to take a Pilates class? No. Will the shape, length and activation of your muscles change the more you practice? Without a doubt!
Myth 3: It’s a chick thing
I want to take a bomb, put it under this myth and blow it sky high! Pilates is not a chick thing.
Pilates is about creating balance throughout the muscles of the body, focusing on better posture and a deep connection to your core, or powerhouse. How is that girly? Is it girly to globally tone the body, to challenge your balance, your proprioception and move the spine in every direction?
Too often men focus on the big muscles of the body, ignoring the important smaller stabilisers, creating imbalances. Every body is a Pilates body, it doesn’t discriminate. As an FYI it’s also one of the best things you can do to improve your golf swing, perfect your backhand and get you down the slopes quicker and more pain-free than ever!
Myth 4: You can’t do Pilates when you’re pregnant
One of my favourite things about Pilates is that there are not only endless combinations of exercises so it should never get boring, but almost every exercise can be modified to suit an individual’s needs. This makes Pilates one of the best ways to prepare your body for each stage of pregnancy and eventually childbirth. With uses of a variety of props we can modify and transform exercises for the specific physical needs of pregnancy.
Prenatal workouts are designed to prepare you for each stage of pregnancy, labor and ensure a speedy postpartum recovery. Grounded in anatomy, Pilates is able to address the extensive changes that happen to a woman’s body over the nine-plus months of pregnancy and classes should leave them feeling energised and strong, with a focus on finding deep core connection and space in the changing pregnant body.
Baby Mama’s are my passion which is why I built my online platform Bodylove Mamas dedicated providing mothers with the support sling they deserve during this important time in their lives.
Ali Handley is a pre and postnatal Pilates specialist, mum of three and founder of Bodylove Mamas an on-demand digital Pilates studio built for each phase of pregnancy, postnatal recovery and life as a strong mama.
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