Pilates is a practice that is almost 100 years old, and has origins rooted in healing and rehabilitation.
Invented by Joseph Pilates to help fellow inmates develop muscle strength at an internment camp on the Isle of Man, it is now practiced in gyms and boutique studios around the world.
Like yoga, it is a mind-body practice, matching breath to movement, but it is also incredibly functional – using the breath to focus the mind on the present moment and connect with your body.
The great thing about Pilates is that it is low intensity, low impact and inclusive. It is also focused on spinal alignment and the tiny muscles that support your musculoskeletal system.
The exercises focus on strengthening the deep postural muscles, raising awareness of how you stand, and the alignment of the hips, spine and head. This awareness alone can go a long way to improving posture, but the strength built with highly targeted, specific exercises will support the spinal column, in effect future-proofing your body.
The experts at boutique studio East of Eden, in Walthamstow, East London, have shared an ‘anti-ageing’ Pilates workout that you can try at home.
Pilates exercises can be done very simply in a chair, on a mat, or using a range of equipment – from the wunda chair and barrel, through to a reformer machine or a cadillac.
Anyone can do the exercises and benefit from them, whatever age or level of physical fitness, although if you have any injuries or postural issues, or you are pregnant or postnatal, always seek advice from a qualified Pilates teacher.
Anti-ageing Pilates workout
The glute bridge
This strengthens your bum and stretches your lower spine all at once.
Think of your spine as a pearl necklace, you must pick your spine up, bone by bone, by curling your pelvis and pressing up with your bum until your body is in a straight line at the top.
Then melt back down, ribcage first, still squeezing your glutes until you have landed your pelvis.
These are great to do just after waking up, when your spine is still relaxed and malleable.
The hip twist
Lie flat on the floor with your arms out wide, palms down.
Stabilise your core and bring your legs into table top.
Keep your back as flat as you can and twist your hips up and over to one side, then up and over to the other side, keeping your knees together.
There are good for building upper and middle back strength and go a long way to reversing the damage modern life extols.
Lie on the floor face down, with one hand on top of the other and your forehead on your hands. With your feet together, stretch your head away from your feet and come into a low hover as you inhale. Exhale to lower back down.
Try to slide your shoulder blades down to your back pockets and open your collarbones as you lift to engage as many muscles as you can and support your lumbar spine.
Many women will have heard about the importance of keeping their pelvic floor strong but perhaps questioned why.
It is normal as part of the ageing process for the pelvic floor muscles to ‘relax’, but as these muscles are responsible for the stabilisation of the pelvis and its organs it’s important to keep the area strong in order to maintain control over the bladder, bowels and, in women, uterus.
Reduced pelvic floor strength can lead to a number of different issues including incontinence, lower back pain and reduced sexual pleasure. There are many fantastic pelvic specialists so if you would like to know more or think you may have any issues do consult a physio first.
There are a number of different ways to engage your pelvic floor. A simple yet effective way is a Pilates exercise known as toe taps.
Lying on your back, take a deep inhale breath and on the exhale gently draw one leg at a time to a table top position (90 degree angle) focusing on engaging your pelvic floor and puling your belly button towards your spine.
Repeat 10X each leg.
Bone density and low-impact exercise
We all know exercise is good for us, but it can be hard to motivate yourself to do a gruelling HIIT workout at the end of a long day at work.
Regular low-impact workouts such as barre and Pilates have been proven to be very effective in the improvement of cardiovascular health and therefore help maintain a healthy metabolism.
Low-impact workouts allow the joints to remain safe and stable (which is incredibly important as the body ages) whilst still working on muscular and endurance and increasing the heart rate.
Low-impact workouts are especially beneficial for increasing bone density which is vital in preventing osteoporosis.
Static lunges are a fantastic way to get a quick fix workout in; lunges require you to focus on the alignment of the shoulders, engaging your abdominal wall and strengthening your quadriceps and glutes.
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