Everything there is to know about the Pilates method

The Pilates method is gentle, super effective and perfect for shaping up the figure and combatting stress. So head for your mat!

Gentle gymnastics

The Pilates method is a judicious blend of yoga poses, dance moves and gymnastics. Pilates works deep-down muscles, and specific muscles known as stabiliser muscles (the transversus abdominis, the internal obliques and the pelvic floor). This discipline is essentially floor work, done with or without accessories (balloons or resistance bands), either at home or in classes. At some clubs, not least those where the celebrities go, Pilates is done on special apparatus. The best-known types are the Cadillac (a four-poster bedlike structure with loops fitted), the Reformer (another kind of bedlike structure) and the Wunda chair. In the beginning (in the early 20th century) Joseph Pilates devised muscle recovery exercises, originally for injured soldiers, using resistance devices like pullies, resistance bands or… Mattress springs! So let’s get acquainted with the Pilates method, which will meet the needs of those seeking to embrace Clean Living.

A discipline open to all

You don’t need to be very sporty to get into it. The exercises are particularly gentle and entail breath work. Pilates is advisable after giving birth, for example, as post-surgery rehabilitation or after a long period of time without activity. You don’t sweat much, it’s slow gym!

Posture work 

The inventor, Joseph Pilates, primarily aimed to improve bodily functions. Increased suppleness and strengthened deep-down muscles. Practising it regularly, once a week, makes it possible to gently tone and firm up your body, work on your balance, harmonise your posture and tone up your perineal muscles. The Pilates method, which was originally called “Contrology” by its inventor, is an approach comprising more than 500 muscle-strengthening exercises.

Four basic principles

Joseph Pilates developed four principles which are observed in Pilates classes to this day. 

  • First of all grounding, with each movement rooted at the centre of the body. 
  • Then breathing – that involving the diaphragm, to work the abdominal muscles. 
  • Concentration, not least through the breath movements (inhaling and exhaling) which accompany each pose.
  • And lastly, precision: the body is always perfectly aligned, all in a very free-flowing movement that’s perfectly controlled.

A great deal of positive effects on the body and mind

Session after session the body is reshaped over time, the muscles are lengthened and suppleness is restored to them. The Pilates method makes it possible to get your harmonious slimline look back in your everyday life. As for the breathing technique, it makes it possible to get grounded again, clear your head and take a step back from stress. Pilates gives you a true mind-body-soul connection as powerful as that forged through yoga. 

Prices can vary

Pilates classes often take place in small groups so that poses can be corrected properly. This makes for fairly high prices. Expect to pay between €70 and €100 for a personal training session and around €20 to €30 for a class. Most studios offer prices on a sliding scale and a trial session, so take advantage of that!

Easy exercises to get started

If you want to take the plunge on your own, here are a few book ideas:

  • Pilates 15 minutes chaque jour [15 minutes’ Pilates every day] (published by DK) unpacks the basic positions like the Swan, Rolling like a Ball and Flapping Wings, so that you can correct yourself by following the descriptions. 
  • La Bible du Pilates [The Pilates Bible] (published by Hachette UK) offers various programs to follow, from beginner to the most advanced. 
  • A more recent book, available in French only, Le training Pilates [Pilates Training] (published by Éditions Kiwi) is for men, and allows them to top off their physical training.

Lastly, some specialised YouTube channels may also interest and inspire you, like:

In the words of Joseph Pilates, who created the method: “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body”.

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