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Pilates: a gentle and effective way to stay in shape

What is Pilates?

Pilates was founded by Joseph Pilates, born in 1880. The son of a medal-winning father in gymnastics and a naturopathic mother, Joseph was very interested in the activation of the body. Observing the benefits of movement and training on his own body, he then wanted to benefit others. Joseph wanted to establish a form of physical training that specifically targets muscle control. To do this, he was inspired by Yoga. From the idea of a healthy mind to a healthy body, he envisioned deep muscle strengthening, posture improvement, and muscle balance.

Nowadays, Pilates is often taught in group, semi-private or private courses, in gyms, Pilates centers, but also at Physiothérapie Universelle. These are exercise sessions of about one hour during which several exercises of strengthening, stretching and balance are performed.

Originally, the exercises were taught on the ground but now, they can be done on “Reformers”, depending on the location. It is a quilted base moving on rails. It is equipped with pulleys system and springs with different resistance, allowing us to move it using our muscle strength. We can use several other equipment, such as therabands, hoops, barrels, balloons and more. The main principle of Pilates being muscular control, the equipment mainly used is our own body. Even without any equipment, on the ground, we have all the tools to strengthen the body in control and strength.


Basic principles :

From one school to another, Pilates is taught in different forms. Some teach Pilates in a more rhythmic way, others in a more controlled way. From one school of thought to another, the basic principles remain the same. Beyond muscle building, it is important to consider maintaining alignment, in other words, posture. Throughout the exercises, it is essential to keep control of the movements of your body and not to undergo what your body decides to do, often by compensation.


Here are some important principles that are taught:

Control: As mentioned above, we care about the quality of the movement and not the quantity. Best to do fewer repetitions of the same exercise, as long as the quality of execution is constant. What makes the quality of an exercise is our physical ability to control our own body.

Breathing: This is one of the first things you forget to do when you learn new exercises. It is important to oxygenate our muscles during a muscular effort. Therefore, in Pilates, we will tend to impose a rhythm of breathing that harmonizes with the movements of the body.

Positioning: We spoke above about the importance of posture during exercises. We will see in more detail, during a session, all the essential points to maintain the alignment. We will look more closely at the position of the neck, rib cage and lumbar region. The spine is the center of our body, it must be well muscled. This is the primary goal: to strengthen the deep muscles that stabilize our spine.


These are some general principles we cover in Pilates. Be aware that a good instructor must make sure to respect at least these 3 principles, but especially to teach exercises according to your skill level (beginner-intermediate-advanced). Moreover, what makes the difference Physiothérapie Universelle is that our Pilates instructors are also Physical Rehabilitation Therapists.

As a result, they have more in-depth knowledge of anatomy and pathology but also, establish a program tailored to your needs. If you did physiotherapy in the same clinic, the TRP will have access to your record. He will have in hand all the necessary information to build with you realistic and safe objectives. It will be possible, if you wish, to leave with an exercise sheet at home, from what was seen during the session.


Who is Pilates for?

Being able to adapt to all kinds of conditions, Pilates is really designed for everyone. Whether you just want to get in shape or suffer from one condition in particular, Pilates is a good solution.

Especially for people who have spinal problems; either a herniated disc, minor intervertebral discomfort, osteoarthritis or sprain, as strengthening deep muscles and developing muscle control is the key to a healthy spine.

In addition, simply moving and doing dynamic exercises activates the body and releases endorphin. It is a natural “morphine”, secreted by the body during sustained effort. Another good reason to discover Pilates!

Do not hesitate to contact the Physiothérapie Universelle clinic nearest you for more information. Remember that the key to success is physical activity, but most importantly, when properly supervised, it is safe.


By Karine Degruchy-Lafond, physical rehabilitation therapist at Physiothérapie Universelle Vanier clinic


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