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Get Bent: Pilates In Depth

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

By Alannah Miller

Alannah Miller and her friend Bear

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a low-impact form of resistance exercise that was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Joseph Pilates originally called his method ‘Contrology’ which he described as “the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.” Pilates can be done on a mat or on specialised equipment (i.e., Reformer) that use a system of pulleys, springs, and straps to provide support and resistance.

How is Pilates going to help you?

Pilates improves muscle strength, muscle flexibility and joint range of motion, reduces aches and pains, and my personal favourite, the challenge it provides to improve your stability, balance, and coordination. Further, the mental health benefits include increased mood and self-confidence.

Why should you choose Pilates? The awesome thing about Pilates is that there are many different styles of Pilates to choose from (see below). Based on your goals, priorities, injuries and time, Pilates can be used as a stand-alone activity, or as an addition to your current exercise program. The best thing about Pilates is that it can leave you feeling good, physically resilient and healthy.

Pilates Class Styles

Mat Pilates

All you need is your body and a mat. Often Pilates studios will have different class types on their schedules (i.e., cardio vs stretching) so look out for your preference. Great for beginners to advanced. If getting up and down off the floor and/or joint mobility is a challenge for you right now, I would suggest trying some equipment-based Pilates for more support.

Reformer Pilates

Without a doubt the most popular style of Pilates classes we see nowadays. The reformer is an amazing piece of equipment that supports your movement capabilities. It can assist greater range of movement that otherwise might be harder to achieve in a standard gym setting, and it’s very effective in working you hard. Studios will often have a beginner type class available, so if you're new to reformer or any structured type of exercise, jump into one of those first.

Clinical Pilates

Ok, here we are… my favourite. I’m a little biased because this is what I do. Clinical Pilates is all about YOU. It’s client-centred care that offers a much more in-depth approach around movement and exercise to improve every-day function, enhance performance and address painful problems. Clinical Pilates is generally offered in a private or small group setting (i.e., 2-4 people per class), with more equipment to play with (i.e. Cadillac, Wunda Chair etc). This is for anyone that wants a more tailored approach to their movement practice and health goals, particularly if you have any complex health issues, pain or injury.

What is Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates?

You may have heard these terms thrown around before. Classical and Contemporary Pilates refer to certain moments in time of how the Pilates method has evolved. Classical Pilates is closely based to the original exercises Joseph Pilates created, whereas Contemporary Pilates includes the addition of physiotherapy and exercise science literature. Current best practice nowadays for any exercise modality is to always take a holistic approach towards physical health when it comes to prescribing exercise and providing movement opportunities. Pilates will always look like its original format but morphed with alternative movement and evidence-informed exercise and training principles. Human first, movement second.

Alannah Miller studied Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University. She operates her own private Clinical Pilates studio in Hawthorn and runs the Clinical Pilates sector out of musculoskeletal rehabilitation facility, The Orthosport Victoria Institute in Richmond. Alannah provides evidence-based and performance enhancing training for the general population, as well as professional and amateur athletes, while also assisting medical and allied health progressions in the rehabilitation of injury, pre- and post-surgery, and health and wellness management for chronic illness.

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