Although Pilates has been a mainstream form of exercise for over two decades, there still seems to be some confusion about what and whom it is for. More often than not when I say I am a Pilates instructor, I get some odd replies from people who have heard down the grape-vine (or so it would seem) about what it is.
From those replies, I wanted to help clear things up and talk about the top 5 myths about Pilates.
1. Pilates is Just for Women
It’s understandable that an exercise program that has a focus on strengthening the pelvic floor, an obvious advantage for most women, may be mistaken as a form of exercise designed for women. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Pilates was actually created by (and named after) a man, Joseph Pilates. Stemming from a background in boxing and gymnastics, and a keen interest in the Greek ideal of a balanced mind, body, and spirit, Joseph Pilates gained popularity as a trainer with the military and the Scotland Yard. During the development of his exercise system, many of his trainees were men.
Joseph Pilates recognized the importance of balance in the body in order to enhance performance and health, and more importantly, how to achieve this through his practice. That’s why many male sports teams and male athletes incorporate Pilates into their training regimes.
Since it’s boom into mainstream fitness, Pilates has simply become popular for women, most likely due to its more controlled and flowing nature. For this reason, Pilates is suited to a wide range of people and abilities.
2. "Pilates…isn’t that the same as yoga?"
Ah, if I only had a dollar for every time I was asked that question. While the two practices do have their similarities, they are definitely not the same. The exercise systems are set up differently, utilizing different movement patterns and exercises (although a few do overlap), in order to both develop a strong mind-body connection.
Pilates uses different exercises to target specific muscle groups and areas, to develop strength, flexibility for improved posture, and ease of movement. Yoga in contrast, is performed through a series of flowing movements and the sustaining of certain postures.
While they can both be performed on the floor using a mat, unlike yoga, Pilates also uses specifically designed equipment, like the reformer and the wunder chair.
3. Pilates is Too Easy/Too Hard
Pilates can be suited to all levels and abilities, as well as for different needs or restrictions. There are many modifications available to every exercise that will either challenge or aid the movement.
But I think the best thing about Pilates is that even the most experienced "Pilates master" can still benefit from the most basic exercises. You never really 'master' any exercise in Pilates. It’s an ongoing building of strength, stability, power, and movement.
I will admit, it can take time to understand and then eventually actually feel what it is you should be doing when performing Pilates. And until that time, the exercises could seem too easy, or the idea of what how to move seem too complicated. But understanding and applying the techniques used is absolute KEY to getting the most benefits out of your Pilates practice.
Once you can apply the techniques, every exercise will provide just the right amount of difficulty for you, at your level. Then it’s up to you how hard or easy you push yourself.
4. You Have to Be Flexible to Do Pilates
Pilates aims to challenge and improve your flexibility in order to bring balance to the body, and improve posture and functional movement. It's NOT true that you have to already be flexible, otherwise, where would then lie the challenge?
Some people may find some exercises, when done the original way, too demanding on their flexibility. However, as mentioned earlier, there are many modifications that can be made to help people still perform and gain the benefits of the exercise and simultaneously work on improving their flexibility.
Pilates can also be very beneficial to those who are hypermobile. The focus on movement patterns and specific technique helps to increase joint stability bringing about a balance of strength and flexibility.
5. Pilates is Only for Dancers
Pilates is popular among dancers, this is true. But also swimmers, basket ballers, footballers, celebrities, models, elderly, office workers and the list goes on. Dancers were simply one of the first groups of people to discover and promote the benefits of Pilates when Joseph Pilates opened his fitness studio close to the New York City Ballet.
While it is true that there are some parallels between Pilates, ballet, and other forms of dance, there are also quite a few differences, which provide quite the challenge for dancers to adjust too. (Trust me, I know!)
Pilates was designed simply for overall fitness and to keep the body in the best shape it could possibly be in for a healthy life. This is why it's a fitness program that is suitable and beneficial for every body. Young, old, male, female, a professional athlete or not, Pilates is adaptable to suit the needs of each person and has remarkable benefits for the body’s health and physique.