by Dee McMath
Pilates Is a system of stretching and toning the muscles of the body to improve posture, streamline the body shape and help the body strengthen some types of illness or surgery.
Invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920's, Pilates is a set of exercises, which build the body's strengths by a series of special stretching moves. Joseph Pilates worked in a hospital after the First World War and improvised stretching apparatus from the springs on the beds of bedridden ex-soldiers with debilitating injuries. More sophisticated versions of the machines are used all over the world today as part of the Pilates programme.
Pilates has surged in popularity over the last decade and about two years ago it arrived in Andalucia. There are now Pilates classes in some of the gyms along the Costa del Sol, especially in the Marbella area. There is also a fully equipped Pilates studio in Marbesa, half way between Fuengirola and Marbella. Marta Sánchez trained with Pilates gurus in Canada. Some other individual trainers give classes on 'matwork' only classes. You may find classes advertised in the local (free) English speaking weekly newspaper - 'SUR in English', which comes out every Friday.
The best way to learn Pilates is on the specially designed machines and with the expert advice of an experienced trainer. Some of the moves are inspired by Yoga and correct breathing and concentration is essential for Pilates to benefit your body. Beware of aerobic teachers who watch a video on the techniques and then add Pilates to their class timetables. A well-trained teacher can give a good group class.
Pilates machines are unlike machines you will find the gym. They have names like Cadillac and the Reformer. The Cadillac has a series of poles, bars, spring and straps hanging from it and the idea is to use more than one muscle group in each move, engaging the whole body in the exercise. Pilates concentrates on centering and uses the main, powerhouse muscles to strengthen the whole body. Full concentration is the key to achieving your goals with Pilates. People who have followed gym and training sessions for years, still find Pilates very challenging. It develops strength that you need to safely carry out other types of exercise. Since it has arrived on the Costa del Sol, it has become popular amongst golfers, who often have problems with body alignment, due to the one sided swing of the golf club.
This is the perfect exercise programme for most people. From those who have never exercised to those who are keen athletes, the build of strength sets you in good stead for other activities.