So What Is Pilates?

One of the hardest questions that I’ve been asked in my career doesn’t have to do with anatomy or how the human body works.  Believe it or not, the hardest question, the one that I dread most is “So what is Pilates?”  How do your describe something so simple yet so complex?  What words can you use that accurately describe a unique system of movements that help your body move more easily while feeling like it’s challenging your body in unimaginable ways?

My Pilates career started 13 years ago.  My first training session had me challenged and weak in the knees with only a few simple reps. Having already worked in the fitness industry for 12 years, I was shocked at how such small movements could make my body ready to throw in the towel.  I was strong, I was healthy, but Pilates had me humbled. After working both on the mat and the equipment, my body felt lighter and taller.  I found it easier to hold an upright posture with less strain and stress.  I felt muscles working in my body that I had never felt work before.  I was hooked.

The Reformer is a versatile, spring-based piece of equipment that allows clients to move their body in all different planes of movement while connecting with their core muscles  for support and stability.
The Reformer is a versatile, spring-based piece of equipment that allows clients to move their body in all different planes of movement while connecting with their core muscles for support and stability.

The equipment quickly became my favorite.  Helping me to make muscles connections and allowing my body to align itself with less effort.  The smooth flow of the reformer aroused a new level of awareness that had my body humming. I’d never worked my body in so many different planes.  It was exciting and fun to investigate new movements and new ways to encourage my body to move.

After many hours of studying, practicing teaching and personal training, I chose to leave my career in the rehab world and focus on teaching people how Pilates could change their bodies.  Many of my rehab clients decided to pursue Pilates as a part of their treatment program and their results were incredible.  I quickly moved my small home based study into a bigger location and started advertising to the public.

All the training and practice teaching could not prepare me for the ultimate question…so what is Pilates?  Pilates is so complex and does so much, that it’s hard to compress all it’s benefits into a 20 second elevator speech. To me Pilates is a series of movements that engage the core for stability and support, while improving mobility in the body by working through full range of motion with or without the assistance of equipment.  Pilates allows me to have good posture, reduces strain through my joints and makes my body feel lighter.  Pilates is the key to keeping me healthy and strong.  Every session is different in every way, taking into consideration how my body is feeling and how I am moving. I’ve dedicated my life and my career to Pilates.  Please just don’t ask me what it is! 😉

Allison Kares is the owner of Movement Unlimited Inc. a Pilates based movement studio in Fonthill, ON Canada.  To find out more about the programming at Movement Unlimited, visit our website at http://www.movementunlimitedinc.com.

Pelvic Floor Health is a Fitness Issue!

Most women think they know how to do Kegel exercises properly, but effective activation of the pelvic floor is more than just squeezing these often difficult to find muscles.  Now there is a program that can help women gain a better understanding about these muscles and how they work.  PFilates, or Pelvic Floor Pilates, combines medical research with exercise to help women realize that “pelvic floor health is a fitness issue.”

The scientifically researched exercises taught in PFilates were developed by Dr. Bruce Crawford, a urogynecologist from Reno, Nevada, using surface EMG recordings to determine which exercises were the most effective in recruiting the pelvic floor, transversus abdominus, adductor group and gluteals.  These muscles all work together in concert to provide support of the pelvic organs and restore pelvic health.

The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that spread across the bottom of the pelvic cavity like a hammock.

The functions of the pelvic floor include:

  • Support of the pelvic organs, specifically the uterus, the bladder and the rectum.
  • Provide sphincter control for the bladder and bowels.
  • Withstand increases in pressure that occur in the abdomen such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, straining, and lifting.
  • Provide posture and stabilization of the spine and pelvis.

What are the consequences of a weak pelvic floor?

When we age, the pelvic floor muscles may begin to sag and weaken.  Many conditions can stress the pelvic floor including:

  • Pregnancy-related changes in the body.
  • Heavy straining during childbirth.
  • Damage to the pelvic floor sustained during childbirth.
  • Repeated straining during bowel movements while constipated or with chronic coughing.
  • Repetitive heavy lifting.
  • Weakening of pelvic floor muscles (atrophy) due to hormonal changes.

Weak pelvic floor muscles can result in pelvic organ prolapse (POP).  Prolapse can occur to your bladder, urethra, uterus, rectum, intestines, and vagina.  Other consequences of a weak pelvic floor include involuntary leakage of urine or fecal matter.  Risk factors for developing POP include pregnancy, aging, being deconditioned, obesity, chronic constipation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or eating disorders.  Weakness can also result in overactive bladder (OAB), which is defined as urgency, with or without incontinence, usually associated with frequency and nighttime voiding.
The PFilates program consists of ten movements presented in three different levels.  Each of the PFilates movements includes a series of repetitions followed by a hold phase and a pulse phase at the point of peak engagement of the pelvic floor.  As such, these movements encourage the development of the three essential elements of neuromuscular performance: strength, endurance, and coordination.

PFilates is intended to be preventative but also a therapeutic alternative for those already experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.  For patients that have already had surgery, PFilates can help protect and reduce the chance for recurrent symptoms.

Allison Kares is the owner of Movement Unlimited Inc., a Certified Pilates Instructor and an instructor trainer for the PFilates program.  Allison has over 25 years experience teaching fitness and rehabilitation exercise programs for men and women of all ages and abilities.  For more information about therapeutic training, pelvic floor training or to experience a Pilates session at Movement Unlimited Inc, visit our website at http://www.movementunlimitedinc.com.

The PFilates program are 10 scientifically tested exercises developed by urogynecologist Bruce Crawford.
The PFilates program are 10 scientifically tested exercises developed by urogynecologist Bruce Crawford.