Pilates is a complete exercise method developed by its founder, Joseph Pilates, who dedicated his lifetime to improving physical and mental health.

Today on the show I had the pleasure of talking to Rupy Grewal who is a personal trainer, nutrition specialist and expert at Pilates. She described what Pilates is and also demonstrated a few exercises. She said Pilates is all centred around the core so any movement done in Pilates is based on the breathing. It can help with body imbalances. Originally it was called Contrology and after the founder Joseph Pilates passed away it was called Pilates in his honour.

According to Rupy there are a few similarities in yoga and Pilates namely both concentrate on breathing, stretching and flexibility. The differences are that Pilates is more dynamic so there is movement from one exercise to another followed by release stretches whereas yoga is more spiritual and it has thousands of postures whereas Pilates has 34 fundamental moves. The biggest difference she said is the breathing, with yoga people are breathing into the abdominal cavity but in Pilates you have to breath into the ribcage, expanding to the side and because of this the muscles are always contracted.

She said that the abdomen is made up of 4 muscles namely

  • Rectus abdominus – They are the most superficial of the abdominal muscles
  • Internal oblique
  • External oblique
  • Transverse abdominus (TVA) which holds the organs in and also supports the spine.

So Pilates works that TVA muscle and that’s the main difference between yoga and Pilates.

Rupy also demonstrated some basic Pilates moves that need to be done before starting the Pilates workout for the correct posture and breathing. She said that when you breath in place your hands on the ribcage and feel them expanding but at the same time the belly button has to be pressed against your spine in the lying down setup. She showed the correct posture and breathing pattern while performing sitting exercises too.

Pilates strengthens the core and helps when performing better in other exercises. Rupy spoke about an athlete that Joseph Pilates himself trained and this athlete went on to be a heavy weight champion and Pilates helped him in his performance. So Pilates helps with many other activities and with muscle imbalance too. Pilates needs to be used in conjunction with exercises like weight training and cardiovascular exercise. The body is made up of stabilizers and mobilizers and if one of these is stronger than the other then there is an imbalance and that might cause pain in parts of the body.

Women dream of having a flat tummy and guys of 6 pack abs and Rupy said that performing stomach exercises along with Pilates will help in achieving it. She performed the basic move that will be helpful in achieving a flat tummy. It’s also a good exercise for improving blood circulation.

An injury in Pilates is a muscle imbalance according to Rupy. The most common one would be pain in the lower back and there would be exercises to help with rehabilitation and also to prevent it. And if people have a non-medical lower back pain then the best way would be to work on building the muscle up so that the pain can be relieved. The most common injuries for dancers are to the ankle and feet but to usually prevent injuries they perform Pilates regularly. She also performed a few exercises that are helpful for people with lower back pain and also for people who suffer with sciatica.

According to Rupy because of the nature of the Pilates exercises since you are concentrating on the breathing, the flow of the movements and stretches. It takes the tension away and it can be a contributing factor for reducing stress. Rupy performed 2 exercises with a release stretch in between.

Rupy said that even if someone is suffering from asthma they can do Pilates but it is necessary to build up their cardiovascular strength by walking or cycling or any other cardiovascular exercises. She said Pilates in conjunction with cardio vascular exercise will help someone with asthma or diabetes too. But Rupy also stressed the importance of carrying the inhaler and talking to the GP for any medical conditions.

Depending on the fitness after suffering an injury Rupy said that it’s important to take it slow before starting exercises again so as to avoid any injury to the muscle which is recovering.

As we grow older, bone density decreases and one’s flexibility reduces. For such people there are a few mobility exercises that will ease these problems. Rupy showed us an exercise for entire spinal mobility, for the thoracic spine that’s the upper part of the spine, and finally one for the lumbar spine called the swan dive.

We also spoke of Pilates exercises that can be done during pregnancy and postnatal. Starting with pre-natal she said that during the first trimester all exercises that were done before can be done because there is not too much of weight gain and the person is still mobilizing in the same way. In the second trimester the Pilates exercises that are done on the back are taken out so people are left with exercises on the front, the side and on the ball. In the third trimester people would be seated or on the ball and posture is extremely critical here. Rupy also demonstrated a few exercises that can be helpful post-natal to help strengthen the muscles which weaken after pregnancy.

Rupy said that it’s important to go out and play or do some activity. She said that the best way to do Pilates and do it correctly is to take a couple of lessons with an experienced instructor before trying it at home because the correct posture and correct breathing technique is necessary to get the best results.

I felt so inspired to start getting fit and finding time for exercise after talking to Rupy.