In North America around 50 different versions of Pilates have sprung up since Joseph Pilates' death in 1967. All claim to be modelled either exactly or very closely on the Pilates method, and give the same results.
Although developed to help bedridden injured soldiers, Pilates was embraced early on by dancers and ballerinas who found it useful for correcting and perfecting their posture while relieving back and knee injuries.
Pilates is more than about getting a svelte, toned body. It is being used to treat those suffering from osteoporosis, stroke patients, as well as those with spine and head injuries. Used as a rehabilitative tool, the Pilates regimen strengthens muscles and works one vertebra at a time so that each disc in your spine stays healthy and lubricated.
"I'm living my life with less pain ever since I started Pilates after my bicycle accident two years ago. I move around a lot easier. Pilates is not just a one-hour exercise routine anymore. It has become a way of life for me now," says one proponent. The objective of Pilates is to take over where physiotherapy stops and rehabilitate a person into functional movement.
The Pilates exercises designed here are to help ease lower back pain and increase mobility in your spine while lenghthening and strengthening the muscles in your lower back. You will need to keep your shoulders blades down and square, your chest open and your stomach muscles contracted throughout the movements. Please also prepare a towel or a small cushion and a low stool before you begin your workout.
Sit on the edge of a folded towel or cushion so that your weight rolls forward slightly into your pelvis, your legs stretched out in front of you, your knees bent, your feet as wide as the ends of the mat, your hands reaching out between your legs. Sit up tall and lengthen your spine creating distance between your ribs and hips. Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears as you allow your chest muscles to open. As you exhale, draw in your abdominal muscles and roll forward with a gentle rounding of the back until your fingertips reach beyond your feet. On your inhale, slowly rewind as you uncurl your spine until you are sitting upright again. Keep your hips still throughout and always in contact with the towel. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with a low stool positioned in front of you. The stool should be of a height that allows your hips and knees to be at right angles while your lower legs are resting on the stool. Support your head with a folded towel if this is more comfortable for you. Place your hands on your lower abdomen just above the hip bones and relax your shoulder blades into the floor. As you exhale, contract your stomach muscles and slide your left heel towards you. Keep your pelvis square and still and your back as close to the mat as possible. On your inhale, slight your left heel back to starting position. Begin again by exhaling as you slide your right heel towards you this time. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
By strengthening and stabilizing the muscles surrounding the spine, your posture is improved. Good posture is important in maintaining the equilibrium of the body resulting in improved mobility and stability, increased breathing capacity, proper joint and muscle alignment, overall balance and symmetry. The benefits are immediate. Instantly you will stand taller, become more flexible, develop strength and length in each muscle, feel a diminished strain from everyday stresses and tension. If you choose to workout twice a week, you will experience a more incredible you from the 4th week.
Slouching, incorrect breathing, abdominal obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have all contributed to our back issues. The body is made for movement. Pilates with its low-impact but highly-focused strengthening and lengthening exercises will ensure a heightened level of well-being and no more annoying aches and pains.