What is Pilates?
Pilates is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates, a former gymnast and physical trainer. Pilates was a sickly child and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. He was introduced by his father to gymnastics, body-building and to martial arts like jiu jitsu and boxing.
Pilates came to believe that the "modern" lifestyle, posture and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods.
Pilates exercises often look simple, but they require you to think about your muscles and breathing in what is, for most people, a whole new way. Consider a Pilates move called rolling like a ball as an example. In this move you balance on your backside, roll backwards, and then roll back up into the balanced position again. Whilst it looks simple, this move requires a good balance of abdominal and lower-back strength and is deceptively tough.
Posture and Body Mechanics
As much of the focus in Pilates is on good posture and body mechanics, you learn to stand and sit taller, walk more gracefully, and generally use your muscles in a more healthy and efficient manner. Most importantly, you learn to actively think about how you use your muscles during your Pilates workout and then apply these lessons to how you use your muscles in everyday life. This, from our perspective, is the biggest benefit.
Pilates thoracic mobilization exercise. This is a variation of the "Mermaid". On a hard floor, use a furniture slider (with both hands) to “scrub the floor.” Move with a combination of fluidity and gentle bouncing; stretch and articulate the spine in a way that feels good. Move to the front and sides, breathing and working through the areas that feel stuck.
Emphasising the Core
Pilates emphasises your body’s core — the abdomen, obliques, lower back, inner and outer thigh, and so on. In this way, Pilates develops much of what exercisers need — strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, coordination, balance, and good posture — but with a much lower chance of injury than with many other forms of exercise. The discipline emphasises correct form instead of going for the burn, but is not a replacement for cardio work (which you'll still need to do to maintain a healthy workout regime).
Pilates is demanding. It’s all about concentration and breathing and you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise. Basically Pilates is designed for you to engage your muscles in a strong but gentle way.
Pilates and Trigger Points
We regularly recommend stretching, Yoga, and Pilates to our clients, both as a means to help avoid the development of trigger points, and often as part of a treatment or rehabilitation protocol.
We like Pilates because so many trigger point issues are postural and clients who take up Pilates generally seem to quickly start to improve core strength, stability and improved posture.
Most manual therapists have at least a good basic understanding of Pilates, and many are increasingly working with Pilates instructors within their clinics to provide Pilates classes to their clients.
Trigger Point Pilates
In recent years, many Pilates instructors have also begun to integrate trigger point work into their classes. "Trigger Point Pilates" is essentially a combination of Pilates based exercises combined with some trigger point release exercises and techniques.
Some Trigger Point Pilates classes will use exercises restricted to using your own body weight, movement, and controlled breathing to help release trigger points, whilst others will integrate the use of foam rollers, balls, and pressure tools to apply more targeted pressure.
Many athletes use a form of Trigger Point Pilates as a warm-up and cool-down for high intensity training, although it should not be considered as a replacement to hands on therapy when it comes to releasing tightness in overworked and overloaded muscles.
There are many activities and maladaptive postures that serve as trigger point activators, either promoting ‘new’ trigger points to develop or causing latent ones to become active.
So many of the common trigger point related injuries and pain disorders that we treat are related to poor posture - especially as the result of sitting for long periods.
We often recommend specific Pilates exercises to our clients as an integral part of the trigger point treatment protocol, and we also recommend Pilates as a regular activity for general good health, improved posture, core stability, and potentially as an effective method of helping to dissipate latent trigger points.
This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell.
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