'Tid-Bits' of Health

Sylvia Harral, left, and Michele Stewart

I am often asked this question when people hear that I am a Pilates master trainer. The answer is layered and so is the work. It is both simplistic and complicated, but worthy to explore its benefits.

Due to the fast-paced, technological modern day world we live in, we’ve become disconnected. Our bodies no longer understand proper movement. We slave over computers and slump into soft sofas. We lack the energy reserves to complete our day’s work, with something left over at the end of the day. We are exhausted! We are in pain! And the worst of it is — we accept this as “normal.” When the truth is…this should not be the case.

Pilates exercises (when done correctly), creates balance within the body. It corrects muscular imbalances caused by poor postures, restores function and vitality, rejuvenates the mind, and elevates the spirit. When the body understands how to “move” the outcome is a flow of energy felt within the entire body, channels are opened to healing and freed of pain and fatigue.

It’s about synergy — about teaching the body a new language (or somehow forgotten). Brain cells are revitalized, the body learns to move effortlessly through renewed muscular connections, and energy is restored. It produces an ease and economy of movement, where all parts uniformly do their job of design (stabilizers stabilizers and movers move).

The Pilates method is often confused with practices such as yoga. Although there are similarities, the basic foundation is different. They both focus on breath, controlled movement, and mind-body effort. However, Pilates is unique in its total-body design.

The evolution of Pilates began in 1934 by a man named Joseph Pilates (originally from Germany) and wife Clara. His technique is still practiced today by those considered “purists” in “Classical Pilates,” staying “true” to the “original” work, and others considered more “Contemporary/Modern, who embrace the “enhancements” to the work and apparatus. Nonetheless, Pilates’ method of training has stood the test of time.

At the core of Pilates, Joe founded the term “Contrology.” This is the intent of movement and complete coordination of the mind, body, and spirit. It develops strength and suppleness of the body, enhances function of the vital organs and endocrine glands, circulates the blood, and clarifies the mind. The goal is to achieve total wellness and balance. Correct execution and mastery of the exercises is of utmost importance. He said, “Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sports, recreation, emergencies.”

There are six fundamental principles to the Pilates method: Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow, and Precision.

The first principle “Breath” Joe Pilates taught, “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing” Although all the principles are important — breath indeed tops the list.

The Pilates fitness techniques are done both on the mat (matwork) using only the body and with apparatus. One characteristic that provides the framework of Pilates being so unique is the “apparatus” (which is inherently unstable) and should not to be confused with “machines or equipment.” One of Pilates’ early master teachers is quoted regarding Pilates’ “machines” “A machine does something to you, whereas with Pilates’ “apparatus” you are yourself guided to do the work and train the body.” If done correctly, you don’t need the apparatus. With that said, there are apparatus pieces that provide specific benefit and “targeted purposes” to those practicing the work.

Who’s it for? Everyone! From the frail and dysfunctional, pre and post rehab, to the elite athlete and dancer. It’s for women, men, children…there is no one excluded from the list! And, it has been my privilege to see this work, reduce pain, sculpt muscles, and bring bodies back to life.

With patience and persistence (and qualified trainer) Pilates can “get into” your mind, body, and spirit. The results are balanced mind-body wholeness and a lifetime of renewed energy.

Move more, move better. Take charge of your life — do Pilates.

Sylvia J. Harral is a digestive health specialist and Michele Stewart is a pilates master trainer. They each have more than 15 years experience. Send your questions by e-mail to familyhelm@hotmail.com; by mail to Family HELM Health Center, 379 N. Hockett St., Porterville, CA, 93257; or by phone at 202-9105.

Recommended for you