When I tell people I’m a Pilates instructor, I get mixed reactions. Some gush about how much they love the practice, and how it’s helped realign their bodies. Others aren’t as familiar with Pilates, and many have misconceptions. Here are 8 of the most common myths—debunked!
1. Pilates is only for women Pilates was created by Joe Pilates while in a British internment camp in Germany during World War I. He developed the practice of using the mind to control muscles, initially calling it “Contrology,” while exercising with fellow inmates. Pilates is for men and women, as the practice focuses on core muscles and building balance throughout the body to provide support for the spine and joints.
2. Pilates goes really slow The speed or pace at which Pilates is practiced can vary based on the intensity of the work. Specificity is lost when certain movements are completed fast—leaving all the work to larger, primary muscle groups. Moving at a slower pace often intensifies the work by pinpointing smaller muscles and perfecting form. Once you perfect your form then you can increase the speed, if needed, to further challenge your body.
3. Pilates is only for ballerinas Dancers took to Joe Pilates when he first arrived in the U.S., as his exercise style became known for improving flexibility, stamina, and strength. While Pilates is still popular in the dance community, other types of athletes have added the practice to their routines as well. Pilates is so versatile, its programs can be tailored to your individual needs. For that reason,Pilates is also a great compliment to physical therapy. It can help accelerate rehabilitation and progress, since the low impact movements can range in difficulty and resistance.
4. Pilates is for old people False! Often someone finds their way to Pilates after an injury, or when the fitness routine that worked in the past no longer fits their abilities. But that doesn’t mean Pilates is just for seniors. Pilates helps with functional movements and moves the body in all planes of motion, allowing you to stay mobile and fit as you age. The younger you are when you start the better off you will be—and you may even be able to continue your favorite activities longer.
5. I’m not flexible—I won’t be any good at it It can be challenging to attempt to do things you aren’t good at—but why not get better? Having a limited range of motion in any joint can be uncomfortable, and it could lead to injury because forcing our other joints to work harder to compensate. With the help of Pilates, your flexibility can only improve.
6. Pilates is easy I’ve had friends and clients tell me the Pilates classes they tried at the gym or on a DVD at home were super easy. Friends, you probably weren’t doing it right. Pilates works to improve the strength of your smaller, stabilizing muscles and when you aren’t in the correct positions those muscles may not be working to their maximum potential—the big muscles you work more often begin to take over. To get the most out of Pilates, it’s important to work with good form, and to work with control and specificity of the movements. Take a one-on-one session or a small group class to get the corrections you need. It won’t be so easy any more and your hard work will pay off!
7. Pilates equipment is expensive You don’t need to buy a reformer to get the most out of your Pilates practice. Pilates can be done without any equipment, and a lot of the smaller tools are very affordable. A magic circle, foam roller, Fletcher Towel, and small weighted balls will challenge your Pilates workouts without breaking the bank.
8. Pilates and Yoga are the same Pilates and Yoga have some similarities, but they are very different. Yoga is an ancient practice with roots in meditation, relaxation, and reflection, and most forms of yoga encourage your body to relax and flow freely through postures. Pilates, on the other had, is relatively new—it was created in the 1920s, and the technique emphasizes structure and attention to detail, ensuring small muscles are engaged. While different, the two practices complement each other nicely. You can use yoga to improve your flexibility to deepen your range of motion for Pilates, and Pilates will improve your core strength to increase your endurance for Yoga.