The Benefits Of Using A Pilates Reformer
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a type of mind-body exercise. It was developed almost 100 years ago and takes its name from the person who invented it, Joseph Pilates who was a German born immigrant to America. Joseph Pilates devised his new approach to exercise and body conditioning through the use of equipment, which he referred to as apparatus. As he was a sickly child, Pilates was determined to make himself strong and healthy. He researched and practiced every type of exercise he could and became one of the first influential figures to combine Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness.
Pilates is the art of controlled movements, which when properly manifested should look and feel like a workout. Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength, aides in the control and endurance of the whole body and places emphasis on alignment, breathing, core strength, as well as improving overall coordination and balance.
Perhaps the best known piece of equipment, is the 'Pilates Reformer'.
Reformer Pilates vs Mat-Based Pilates - What’s the difference?Reformer Pilates is similar, yet very different to mat based pilates. It is a type of Pilates that uses mat-based pilates techniques but also incorporates a pilates reformer machine.
The Pilates reformer was invented and designed by Joseph Pilates himself, and is a piece of equipment which looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys.
Reformer Pilates works more areas than mat pilates, as mat pilates focuses on mainly the core, reformer pilates works the entire body - particularly the core and peripheral muscles in your arms and legs.
Throughout most of my teen and adult life, I was a ‘gym rat’. I loved the feeling after a gym workout, and strength training made me feel like a warrior. I competed in fitness competitions as a fitness model and most days I would train at the gym both morning and night.
Then, a few years ago I became chronically unwell and I reached ‘burnout’. My body felt worn out and I experienced chronic pain and fatigue daily along with symptoms of what would eventually be diagnosed as an Autoimmune disease. I stopped working out completely and gave my body the rest that it so desperately needed. After a few months of rest, my health professionals and Doctors suggested that I take up yoga or pilates to help with my overall body inflammation, tension and stress, and so I did. After 2-3 weeks of attending yoga and pilates classes at my local studio, I definitely felt more balanced and less inflamed. I also noticed many other improvements and benefits within how my body felt, particularly after pilates.
If you are looking to strengthen your core, maintain good posture, and develop a strong mind/body connection, then Pilates is most likely for you!
Below are just some benefits of using a Pilates Reformer:
Full Body Workout
As Pilates is a method of whole body exercise, it is designed to focus on the whole body to improve daily activities and livelihood.
As we get older, many of us start to lose muscle and naturally gain more body fat in our early thirties. By 50, some of us can have lost at least 10% of our body mass, with the loss only continuing as we get older unless we take measures to slow down the loss or even reverse it.
Reformer Pilates is considered a great form of strength training. In mat pilates, you are using your weight to improve your strength in specially designed exercise, while on the reformer, use exercises as well as the added equipment to build core muscle strength. Any form of exercise that challenges your muscles to work can only make your muscles and bones stronger.
Great For Rehabilitation
The Pilates reformer was initially created for people in rehabilitation programs and hospitals when Joseph Pilates was in the internment camp during World War I. While there, he witnessed many patients in the hospital being bed-bound, so to assist with their movements, Joseph attached springs to a bed so that patients could engage in resistance exercise and movement without having to stand up.
Pilates is a safe and effective method of rehabilitation and exercise that focuses on muscular balance. By doing pilates, your muscles are never worked to exhaustion, as the workout consists of exercise sequences, which are performed in low petitions, so that there is no sweating or straining of muscles, just intense concentration.
You’ll want to work with your Doctor and a certified pilates instructor trained in rehabilitation first before rehabbing an injury.
Strengthens Core And Improves Posture
Reformer Pilates engages your core for stability and balance when using the Reformer machine, and it forces you to use proper form and technique building core strength.
Having a strong core is so important, as it helps to improve our posture as well as reducing injuries.
Joseph Pilates the creator of pilates, said “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Improved Mental Health
It is well known that any form of exercise contributes to and improves mental health. Doing pilates is no different, as it also has a wide range of mental health benefits.
When we can feel stressed or anxious, one of the main tools that we can use, is through breathing. Breathing in and out slowly is one of the most powerful tools for both calming the mind and body. Breathing is one of Joseph Pilates '8 Principles of Pilates' and is an essential component to all Pilates classes.
Reduces Pressure On Joints
Joint pain was one of the main reasons that I had to stop other forms of exercise such as strength training and lifting weights in the gym.
With Reformer Pilates, many of the exercises are done while lying down on your back on the Reformer carriage. This helps to isolate muscle groups while having no impact on your joints.
Also, the ‘post workout’ pain you experience after a Pilates Reformer exercise is not the same muscle and joint pain that you may experience from traditional workouts.
In Pilates, there is a particular breathing pattern involved which not only helps keep us calm and balanced but it also aides in the effectiveness of the exercise. Breathing properly during Pilates helps in the supply of oxygen to the muscles, as well as removing any waste or toxins from our bodies, and preventing us from holding our breath during the work out, as regular and slow breathing is important to the exercise.
Using the breathing technique during Pilates should not be something that we focus on and the more that we do Pilates or any form of gentle and mindful exercise, then we become more attuned to way that we breathe, as well as focusing on and being in the present and listening to our bodies through the duration of the exercise.
Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, realised that most people usually breathe shallowly, meaning that they only bring air into the top portion of the lungs. This shallow breathing can increase stress and leads to fatigue. This is why it's important to take deep, full breaths in to oxygenate the blood. Joseph explained why we need to breathe deeply and why it's important: “Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs.”
Long-term benefits of regular Pilates include improvement in breathing and increased lung capacity.
Flexibility is the amount of passive stretch in a muscle, whereas mobility is the range of motion in a joint. If we want to maintain good mobility, it requires not only flexibility, but strength.
We all want to be as mobile as we can be, and we all need a balance of strength and flexibility in order for mobility to be at its optimum.
Pilates keeps the body moving with smooth transitions between slow and controlled movements, which are a combination of stretching and strengthening to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Relaxing and Reduces Anxiety
When I went to my first Pilates class, I remember how relaxed I felt afterwards. It was a lot different to my loud, pumping, sweaty gym workout that would sometimes leave me feeling shaky and anxious afterwards. This is because pilates as mentioned above incorporates deep breathing into the workout which can help reduce feelings of anxiety, helping to relax the body.
Reformer Pilates is a low impact workout which means it can be perfect for anyone whether that be someone pre or post-natal, recovering from an injury, or looking for a more gentle approach to exercise and working out.
The adjustable springs on our Reformer machine each offers a different level of tensions (these are 2 x light, 2 x medium and 1 x strong), meaning that it can be adjusted to best suit the individual.
For example, if you have difficulty with squats, you can do them whilst lying on your back on the reformer carriage and putting your feet against the end of the Pilates reformer. By doing this, it puts less stress and tension on your knees.
Aids In Weight Loss
Compared to traditional mat-based Pilates, calories burn faster with the use of a Pilates Reformer. Regularly using a Pilates Reformer paired with a healthy diet and other forms of cardio or exercise could aid in weight loss and a more toned waist.
Safe Exercise For Pregnant Women
As Pilates is a whole body exercise system, it is great for the ever changing pregnant body. As Pilates places a deep emphasis on your breath, it helps in preparing both your mind and body for labour through a gentle routine and exercise and assists also with pelvic strengthening after labour.
As the body changes during pregnancy, pilates also aides further in strengthening your body and muscles and helping you become more flexible.
Any form of exercise is great during pregnancy, as long as it is gentle and the right form of exercise for you. As every pregnancy is a unique experience, it may not be suitable for every woman, so even if you are a beginner or more experienced when it comes to exercise, it is always advisable to speak to your Doctor before beginning or changing any exercise routine when pregnant.
Overall Positive WellbeingReformer Pilates will overall, leave you feeling more strong, energised and empowered.
Love Your Health now have our own Kiva Wellness Studio Pilates Reformers. The reformer is perfect for both the studio and your own home.
Shop our Kiva Wellness Studio Pilates Reformer online today.
Have you ever tried reformer pilates? How has it benefited you? We’d love to know!
Feel free to leave a comment below.