There seem to be two camps regarding Pilates. The first is filled with people who write it off as some ridiculous celebrity trend. The second is filled with devotees who think that Joseph Pilates was on to something. I fall into the latter camp.
Developed by boxer Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, Pilates exercises build a strong “core” — the abs and back — to improve posture and body awareness. The exercises incorporate both stretching and strength to help achieve this goal. Pilates has long been popular with dancers and gymnasts for building strength and posture without bulky muscles.
There are two types of Pilates exercises. “Matwork” is typically performed at home or in large classes using mats similar to those that you would find in a yoga class. These were the original exercises developed by Pilates. The second kind, using a machine called a reformer, was Pilates’ modification of the original exercises for rehabilitation of injured soldiers during WWI.
Which method is right for you? Each has its own benefits. I find that matwork is more challenging because it forces me to keep my own body in alignment. Reformer work, on the other hand, keeps my body in line, but enables me to stretch further, giving me a different kind of challenge. I try to do reformer Pilates every Saturday morning at Apex Pilates in Milpitas, but I also incorporate matwork exercises into my weekday cross-training.
To learn more, check out this article from WebMD about the benefits of Pilates.