Pilates: Improving the Deskbound Posture

Posted on March 1, 2011

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By Emma Cunningham

“Pilates, that’s like yoga, right?”

I hear this question almost every day of my career. The answer? Well, sure it’s like yoga, in the way that a tree and an ocean are both part of nature. In actuality, they don’t really have too much in common.

Pilates is a series of controlled exercises performed on both a mat and a series of machines. We have the Reformer, which is a sliding platform hooked up to springs, pulleys, and straps; the Cadillac, which doesn’t resemble a car but does resemble a medieval torture device; the Chair (or sometimes multiple chairs), which has an attached pedal that goes up and down in a smooth arc motion; and a series of barrels of different heights.

If you want muscles that are sleek and toned, with a flat belly, and you’re happy to get your cardio elsewhere, you’ve found the perfect exercise. If you’re looking to re-balance a joint after injury, or improve your gait, or your functionality, well hey, we’ve got that too. And if you’re looking for a kick-butt workout that will make you sweat? Don’t rule us out before you give us a try. Yes, Pilates does help with flexibility, but it helps as a result of building healthy muscles. It’s not a stretching routine. And if you’re looking for a little Zen with your exercise, go back to yoga. Pilates makes your brain work because you have to keep track of multiple limbs doing multiple things.

The best part about Pilates? Improved posture. If you’re working nine to five at a desk and are slouched forward examining your computer all day, it’s time to get into a class and start strengthening those neglected postural alignment muscles.

How did Pilates come about? It’s the brainchild of Joseph Pilates. After escaping the German army, he moved to New York where he and his wife Clara set up a studio for his “Contrology” exercise regime. Although Joe, as he is fondly remembered, passed away, five of his students, known as the Pilates Elders, still teach today, including his protégé, Romana Kryzanowska. Each Elder teaches a slightly different method, and their students have branched out even further, separating the “Classical” Pilates teachers from the “Contemporary” Pilates teachers (like Moira Merrithew of STOTT PILATES and Ken Endelman of Balanced Body). When looking for a studio to start taking Pilates, it gets a bit tricky. The key is to make sure your teacher has gone through several hundred hours of training, including an apprenticeship, has a good knowledge of anatomy and has studied injuries and special populations.

I teach Pilates at The Performance Health Centre in Toronto. And I love it. My clients benefit from the well-rounded approach to healthcare and fitness. And what do my clients have to say about it? “Together, Pilates and Emma Cunningham changed my life,” says Lisa Lewis. “I am stronger than I have been in years and have been told that I look better than I did 10 years ago.”

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