How often should I practice?
Pilates is safe enough to do every day. These exercises do not fatique isolated muscle groups, rather the entire body as an integrated unit. To acheive optimal benefit, two or more times a week is recommended.
What should I wear?
Pilates tends to turn you upside down more than traditional cardio or weighlifting regimes, so dress accordingly. You will want to wear something comfortable and highly movable, but not so loose that your shirt flies up over your head should you invert your body.
When should I eat?
Most people have no problem eating something light(fruit juice or a piece of fruit) 20-30 minutes before class. Ultimately, you will have to use your judgement and learn what works best for your individual needs.
Who is Joseph Pilates and why should we listen to him?
At our studio, we have come to think of Joseph Pilates as a mad scientist of the human body. As a young boy he suffered from a host of ailments, from asthma to rickets. Driven by a deep desire to restore his physical health and conversely, emotional well being, he studied yoga, gymnastics, diving, skiing, and even boxing. His experimentations with and improvisations on all of the various movements he studied became the basis for what is today known as Pilates.
In truth, there is very little firsthand or autobiographical evidence of Joe's research put forth in print. Most of what is known about his teachings and techniques have been passed down through the cadre of teachers who worked directly with him in his 1940's Manhattan studio. While countless writings on Pilates have come out in recent years, only two books were ever penned by Joe himself. One of the two books he set in print, Return to Life through Contrology, is brimming over with his zeal and passion for the movements he invented.
Joe's own musings reflect his utter astonishment at the power of his method: "I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing these exercises. They'd be happier." - Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86. Joe observed the dramatic transformations in his and his clients bodies, even though he did not have the scientific terminology for what he was achieving. In a sense, for Joe and his students, the "proof was in the pudding".
With recent developments in physiological knowledge, Joe's true genius is understood. The movements recruit larger, more superficial muscles alongside their supporting cast of smaller deeper muscles that are more difficult to access. Essentially you will become a long and lean machine, teaching your muscles to work in concert, whether you are salsa dancing or carrying groceries on one hip and an infant on the other.
What are these machines about?
During the years of WWI, Joe was interned as hospital "Nurse-Physiotherapist". There he taught wrestling, self-defense,and a rudimentary form of what would later become his mat exercises. It was here that he began refining and teaching all of his methods to injured patients. Bed rest was the norm in those days, so he was told, "you can do anything you like with them, as long as they stay in bed".
So Joseph took the springs from the beds and rigged them up to the bed posts as exercise apparatus for the bedridden! Thus was born the Trapezium table ("Trap Table"). He was astonished by the rehabilitative capacity of these exercises performed using springs as resistance. Essentially, the springs supported the patients' bodies just enough to eliminate joint strain, but not so much that the muscles were not doing any work.
Therein lies the beauty of the Pilates equipment. Clients were able to execute seemingly impossible movements with finesse and control, accessing muscles that are often overshadowed by the larger, more superficial muscle groups. He was training the patients' bodies to recruit both the large and the small muscles that create movement in the body. One muscle group could not become proportionately larger as his machines forced all muscles to work together harmoniously.
What are the differences between the machines?
The reformer (aka the 'universal reformer) is the most user friendly and comprehensive piece of equipment. It assists the beginner, yet maintains a challenge for the advanced. The machine gives the practitioner tangible reminders of posture and alignment that can often be difficult to access on the mat. This machine most comprehensively addresses full body conditioning.
The springboard takes the principles learned on the reformer and challenges them on a vertical, rather than horizontal, plane of movement. The springboard varies from the reformer in one very distinct way: the arm springs and leg springs are separate rather than guided by a pulley system. This not only requires a greater degree of stability, but also prevents right or left muscular dominance-facilitating asymmetrical movements that deeply challenge postural muscles. If that's too jargony, we're talking bout yall's bellies and backs. The springboard is an adaptation of the classical Trap table. Essentially, it saves space and allows for group instruction.
The Wunda chair was originally intended to mask itself as a chair for the living room that could turn into a comprehensive piece of exercise equipment (a veritable Clark Kent into Superman if you will). It was Joseph Pilates' vision that every living room in America would have one. The Wunda Chair is much less stable or supported than either the reformer or springboard, thus requiring a more developed sense of balance, strength, and agility. This piece of equipment addresses the needs of the client that is growing in strength. While the reformer is extremely stable and supportive, the chair flips you to vertical and does not offer the same level of balance guidance.
Whether you are brand new or advanced and strong, the genius of the Pilates system is that there is a machine that meets you where you are. There is always a delicate balance of feeling supported enough that your muscles are not straining to maintain form, yet remaining muscularly challenged. This will remain a continuing dialougue between you and your instructor whatever level of progression you are in.
What brand of equipment do you use?
Balanced Body. There is no comparison. It is simply the best.