If a long, lean physique is what you hope to accomplish with your exercise routine, look no further, because Pilates may be your answer.
Famous for firming up Hollywood’s hottest actors, Pilates is a total body-conditioning routine that seeks to build flexibility, strength, endurance and coordination without adding bulky muscles.
Founded by Joseph H. Pilates, this exercise method improves mental and physical well-being, increases flexibility and strengthens muscles through controlled movements done as mat exercises or with equipment, such as the reformer, which uses spring resistance and your own body weight to tone and strengthen the body. With its sophisticated system of springs, straps and pulleys, more than 100 exercises can be performed on this surprisingly versatile apparatus.
In addition, Pilates is a safe form of exercise for almost anyone. It increases circulation, helps to sculpt the body and strengthen the body's "core" or "powerhouse" (the torso region of the body), teaches body awareness, good posture and graceful movement. Don’t we all want to look and feel as graceful as professional ballet dancers?
Those who do Pilates regularly feel they are in control of their bodies, are less prone to injury and experience overall improved health. Pilates works the whole body in synergy, which is how we should be moving on a daily basis.
Through its series of exercises, dedicated Pilates enthusiasts almost always develop flat tummies, ridding themselves of the dreaded lower belly “pooch.” This sounds good to me! After having three children of my own, I can use all the help I can get.
The discipline was developed by Joseph H. Pilates a century ago. A German immigrant who grew up as sickly child, riddled with asthma and rickets, he was obsessed with human anatomy and the perfect body. He created a discipline to combine the physique of the ancient Greeks with the meditative strength of the East, known today as Pilates.
Pilates taught his method to wounded English soldiers during World War I. Using springs he removed from hospital beds, he developed techniques and exercises to increase the soldiers’ range of motion. It was with this idea that he created the equipment still used today, such as the reformer.
Depending on where you plan to practice Pilates, you will find many options available to you. Some gyms offer group classes (many participants and no Pilates-specific equipment), semi-private classes (usually two, three or four people in a Pilates studio with the use of reformers, etc.) or private lessons (one-on-one attention in a private Pilates studio).
In Cupertino, you can find Pilates classes at the following locations:
In the surrounding area, you can find studios specifically dedicated to the practice of Pilates:
Center of Balance (Mountain View).
Miki Bousso Pilates (Los Altos and Sunnyvale)
Or, if you would like to save money, there are plenty of great DVDs you can do in your own home. My favorite is the Classical Pilates Technique (The Complete Mat Workout Series), by Classical Pilates Inc. There are several workouts to choose from on this DVD, depending on your level of fitness and how much time you have. I often combine a few workouts. Or if I’m pressed for time, I do one short workout but still feel great, because I did something rather than nothing!