You want to get in shape this winter. You’ve heard of Pilates. And you’re intrigued. But what is it really? And is it for you?

Commonly known for working out your core, Pilates is a full-body workout, says Grand Traverse Bay YMCA certified Pilates and fitness instructor, Holli Harvey. “You will hear people say it is good for your core. While this is true, it is incomplete. The body moves as a whole and exercises are designed with all of the planes of motion in mind. Pilates trains the body in a functional and uniform manneremphasizing strength, flexibility, balance, proprioception, and learning proper biomechanics.”

Originally called Contrology by its founders, Joseph Pilates and wife Clara, the exercise method has a holistic approach integrating mind, body, and spirit.

Holli says Pilates is comprised of mat exercises and exercises developed specifically for Pilates principles, which include a focus on awareness, breath, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, efficiency, precision, flow, and harmony. “If you are looking for this type of approach to exercise, Pilates is for you,” she says. 

A perk of movement-based Pilates workouts is they can be modified for people at any age or fitness level—even those with injury-caused limitations.

“Pilates is beneficial for the elite athlete, general fitness seeker, as well as for those with limitations,” Holli explains. “It’s even used by Pilates-trained physical therapists for therapeutic purposes or by an instructor for the post-therapy client.”

According to the Pilates Method Alliance, benefits are both perceived and measurable. Citing increased lung capacity, improved coordination, posture and joint health, there are many muscular benefits. Holli has found the mental benefits to be true as well. “Mental and spiritual rejuvenation; self-awareness and self-confidence; integration of mind, body, and spirit; a sense of well-being; and enhanced quality of life” are some additional advantages she notes.

In Holli’s “Mat Pilates for Beginners” class she teaches at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA, students exercise with a yoga mat. Practicing controlled breathing, they build core strength during body-weight-resisted movement.

Pilates can not only tone muscles but help lose fat with adjustments to the pace and variety of your workout Holli says. “This method can be performed in a manner that elevates the heart rate to a fat burning zone, especially when you get to the high intermediate, advanced, and master level exercises.”

However, if you are not at those level of exercises, the beginner to intermediate exercises can be done at a more rigorous pace, Holli says, though it’s important to keep in mind that proper form and precision of performance are never to be sacrificed for pace.

Are you ready to try Pilates? Classes are included in a Grand Traverse Bay YMCA membership. If you are not a member, you may purchase a day pass to the Traverse City location for $10.

Written by Courtney Jerome.

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