Pilates Mythbusters: Pilates Is for Wimps

We’re almost halfway through dispelling some of the most common misconceptions about the Pilates method. Now that we’re clear on the fact that Pilates works out more than just the abdominal core, and that it’s not just a women’s workout, let’s get another thing straight:

Myth #3: The Pilates method is not a challenging workout.

Pilates provides a workout in which anyone can participate. It’s accessible by people in physical rehabilitation, by mothers-to-be and by the widest spectrum of age groups. This does not mean, however, that Pilates can’t challenge, for instance, a marathon runner or a bodybuilder as well.

Many practitioners of the Pilates method feel they get a meditative experience while working out. That comes from the focus placed on conscious breath control and fluid movement. The method embraces moving with flow and an outwardly dynamic energy while performing the exercises.

At times the qualities characteristic of the Pilates method may appear relaxed on the surface, but they are actually rooted in rigorous principles of muscular control and precision of motion. With intense mental concentration, each exercise activates every fiber of the muscles down to the deepest tissues, working in synergy to produce a perfectly engineered and highly effective workout.

Seemingly simple modifications-for instance, placing a hand behind your head during side leg kicks, or hovering the legs close to the floor in mat exercises on your back-use your own body for leverage and make your muscles work harder. If you like a challenge, our trainers understand how to deepen your workout to push you to new levels of strength, endurance and flexibility.

Let’s remember that in the big picture, Pilates is a complete method of body conditioning.

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Pilates Mythbusters: It's a Girl Thing In the last article, we properly dispatched the misconception that the Pilates method is all about-and only about-flattening and sculpting the abdominals. Granted, Pilates emphasizes a strong core, and longtime practitioners of the method often possess some enviably flat stomachs. It's a physical feature that both men and women seek through any diet and/or fitness regimen. That said, it seems that so many people entertain a certain notion about Pilates that forms the basis of this next myth.Myth #2: Pilates is a women's workout.Teachers of Pilates continue to point out that the founder of the fitness system, Joseph Pilates, was a man, and some of the Elders (the very first generation of Pilates students, who went on to teach the technique as they learned it directly from the master) were also men. Nevertheless, today's classes and client bases are dominated by females. Why is this? It's a question that Pilates instructors grapple with a great deal. Perhaps it's because Pilates doesn't aim to help students "bulk up," or build mass in the "vanity muscles" of the arms and chest. Maybe it's because of the flowing and graceful character of the movements, or the way the method attracts professional dancers and expecting mothers. Whatever the reasoning, any perception that Pilates is "too girly" to work to a man's benefit is simply and patently false.Have you ever seen a picture of Joseph Pilates? (If not, just check out our "About" page.) Even at the age of 82, Joe sported a barrel chest and looked like he could pulverize a watermelon with his thighs. This was obviously a powerful man at the pinnacle of physical health for an adult male, to say nothing of being an octogenarian.  In a recent article, we discussed the ways in which the Pilates method develops and strengthens muscles that are vital to the male physique, not just in performance, but in protection from injury as well. We've been seeing an encouraging influx of men in our studio lately, and we hope that's a sign that this myth is being put to rest for good.Pilates Mythbusters: It's Just Another Yoga Conscious breathing. Mental focus. Centering. Controlled movement. Energy flow. What are we talking about here -- Pilates or yoga? Apart from the name, time and place of origin, is there even a difference between these exercise disciplines? The answer is yes, certainly!  Myth #4: The Pilates method is a Westernized, more modern form of yoga.A short rebuff to this myth could be, "No. Pilates is Pilates." Yoga is a school of Hindu philosophy that has been around for thousands of years. Hatha yoga -- the poses, stretches and breathing exercises that have become popular in the Western world over the last several decades -- are actually only one part of the spiritual discipline that is yoga. Hatha yoga and Pilates can look very similar on the surface. While Joseph Pilates studied many different disciplines of physical, mental and spiritual wellness as he developed his fitness system, there is no evidence to confirm that Joe was a student of yoga or actively incorporated hatha yoga into his own methodology. One basic difference between yoga and Pilates is that yoga emphasizes stretching poses that improve flexibility, and Pilates focuses on muscle exercises that build core strength and a strong, flexible body. The movements appear graceful and flowing in both fitness methods, but in reality the exercises themselves are very different. However, many people who practice both Pilates and yoga report that the progress they make in once discipline often complements their training in the other!Breath is important to Pilates and yoga alike. In Pilates, the breath serves to connect the mind with the body as you concentrate on precise muscle control. The same can be said of yoga, but traditionally speaking, the yogic breath is a channel for physical and mental purification that prepares the practitioner for more advanced meditation techniques. As mentioned earlier, yoga exercises are just one aspect of a full mode of spirituality, and meditations on the breath alone also exist within the scope of yoga. Ultimately, Pilates and yoga offer many of the same physical and mental benefits, but they are complex and unique systems that require experienced teachers and commitment to regular practice in order to reap those benefits. You can definitely practice both, but you should not make the mistake of assuming yoga and Pilates are one in the same.